Procedure : 2017/2654(RSP)
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Document selected : B8-0338/2017

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PV 18/05/2017 - 11.11
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See also joint motion for a resolution RC-B8-0331/2017

to wind up the debate on the statement by the Vice-President of the Commission/High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy

pursuant to Rule 123(2) of the Rules of Procedure

on the EU Strategy on Syria (2017/2654(RSP))

Marietje Schaake, Petras Auštrevičius, Beatriz Becerra Basterrechea, Izaskun Bilbao Barandica, Dita Charanzová, Marielle de Sarnez, Martina Dlabajová, Marian Harkin, Ivan Jakovčić, Petr Ježek, Ilhan Kyuchyuk, Louis Michel, Javier Nart, Urmas Paet, Jozo Radoš, Jasenko Selimovic, Hannu Takkula, Pavel Telička, Ramon Tremosa i Balcells, Johannes Cornelis van Baalen, Hilde Vautmans, Cecilia Wikström, Valentinas Mazuronis on behalf of the ALDE Group

European Parliament resolution on the EU Strategy on Syria (2017/2654(RSP))  

The European Parliament,

–  having regard to its previous resolutions on Syria,

–  having regard to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948,

–  having regard to the Geneva Conventions of 1949 and the additional protocols thereto,

–  having regard to international treaties and conventions, including the convention against torture, the genocide convention and the OPCW treaty,

–  having regard to the Rome Statute and the ICJ founding documents,

–  having regard to ad hoc tribunals, including the ICTY, ICTR and STL,

–  having regard to the Geneva Communiqué of 2012,

–  having regard to the UNSC resolutions on ISIL / Da’esh and the Al-Nusra Front and to relevant UNSC resolutions on the conflict in the Syrian Arab Republic, in particular resolutions 2218 (2013), 2139 (2014), 2165 (2014), 2191 (2014), 2199 (2015), 2254 (2015), 2258 (2015), 2268 (2016), 2328 (2016), 2332 (2016), and 2336 (2016),

–  having regard to UNGA resolution A/71/L.48 setting up an International, Impartial and Independent Mechanism to Assist in the Investigation and Prosecution of Those Responsible for the Most Serious Crimes under International Law Committed in the Syrian Arab Republic since March 2011,

–  having regard to the Council conclusions of 17 October 2016 and the European Council conclusions on external relations of 18 and 19 February 2016, of 20-21 and of 27 October 2016, of 14 November 2016 and of 15 December 2016,

–  having regard to the Statements by the Vice-President of the Commission / High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy of 30 December 2016 on the announcement of a cessation of hostilities in Syria and of 23 March 2017 on Syria, and to the Declarations by the VP/HR on behalf of the EU of 9 December 2016 on the situation in Aleppo, of 6 April 2017 on the alleged chemical attack in Idlib, Syria, and of 7 April 2017 on the US strike in Syria,

–  having regard to the Co-Chairs Declaration of 5 April 2017 on the Conference on ‘Supporting the future of Syria and the region’,

–  having regard to the reports of the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic, established by the United Nations Human Rights Council, of 6 September, 16 June and 22 February 2016, to the conference room paper of the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic on ‘human rights abuses and international humanitarian law violations in the Syrian Arab Republic, 21 July 2016 - 28 February 2017’ of 13 March 2017, and to the UN Human Rights Council resolutions on the Syrian Arab Republic of 27 September and 21 October 2016,

–  having regard to Rule 123(2) of its Rules of Procedure,

A.  whereas the war in Syria has become one of the worst humanitarian crises the world has faced since World War II and continues to have devastating and tragic consequences for its people;

B.  whereas the crisis in Syria has an increasingly destabilising impact on the wider region;

C.  whereas the conflict has been ongoing for seven years and had, by the end of 2016, already led to the unnecessary deaths of more than 400 000 people; whereas 13.5 million people, almost three quarters of the remaining population, are in dire need of humanitarian assistance and 6.6 million Syrians are internally displaced; whereas the conflict has reversed the economic and human development of Syria by 40 years and forced 4.8 million people to seek refuge abroad;

D.  whereas international humanitarian law establishes an obligation on the international community to take all necessary measures to ensure the protection of civilians and civilian objects from both state and non-state actors;

E.  whereas children have paid the heaviest price in the conflict; whereas nearly 6 million children now depend on humanitarian assistance; whereas almost half of them have been forced to flee their homes;

F.  whereas serious human rights and humanitarian law violations, including crimes against humanity, war crimes and genocide, have been committed by all sides in the conflict and in particular by the Assad regime and its allies, Russia and Iran;

G.  whereas accountability, justice, the rule of law and the fight against impunity constitute essential elements underpinning peace and conflict resolution, reconciliation and reconstruction efforts;

H.  whereas Syria acceded to the Genocide Convention in 1955 and to the Torture Convention in 2004;

I.  whereas government and allied forces have caused hundreds of thousands of civilian casualties, especially in and around Aleppo during a relentless siege, and have destroyed large areas of the city through aerial and artillery attacks directed at civilians; whereas government authorities and allied forces have reportedly entered civilian homes and committed summary killings during their advance in East Aleppo; whereas civilian infrastructure is deliberately targeted in attacks, resulting in the destruction of water distribution systems, medical facilities and schools; whereas these attacks have led to severe shortages of essential services and are tantamount to starvation tactics;

J.  whereas the Assad regime is blocking the delivery and administration of vital medical, food and humanitarian supplies from the UN, EU, NGOs and local actors; whereas such humanitarian convoys have been targeted and bombed deliberately; whereas the Syrian Government has also wilfully cut civilians off from essential goods and services, including food and water supply as well as medical assistance; whereas the attacks, and the starvation of civilians through the besiegement of populated areas as a war tactic, constitute clear breaches of international humanitarian law;

K.  whereas several investigations have found that Assad’s forces have used chemical agents intended to harm and kill civilians; whereas the latest chemical attack against civilians took place on 4 April 2017 in Khan Sheikhoun in Idlib province where at least 70 civilians, many of them children, were killed and hundreds more injured; whereas the US has informed the EU that based on their assessment the Syrian regime has used chemical weapons and responded militarily on 7 April by launching an air strike into the Shayrat airbase in Syria;

L.  whereas in March 2017 the EU added four high-ranking Syrian military officials to the sanctions list for their role in the use of chemical weapons against the civilian population, in line with the EU’s policy to fight the proliferation and use of chemical weapons;

M.  whereas on 12 April 2017 Russia, together with Bolivia, voted against a UNSC resolution that would have condemned the reported use of chemical weapons in Syria and called on the regime of Assad to cooperate with an investigation into the incident;

N.  whereas on 15 April 2017 some 5 000 evacuees were attacked in Rasheedin, Western Aleppo, Syria, while traveling from the besieged towns of Foah and Kefraya to government-controlled areas; whereas dozens of people, including children, were killed and many more injured;

O.  whereas there are reports that the Assad regime is continuing to manufacture chemical weapons under the guise of the Scientific Studies and Research Centre; whereas in compliance with the 2013 agreement on the removal of chemical weapons Assad is obliged to immediately halt these practices and to hand over all remaining chemical agents and weapons to the OPC;

P.  whereas thousands of civilians are being arbitrarily arrested by the authorities and detained under inhumane detention conditions, facing extreme forms of ill-treatment that are often intended to cause death during detention; whereas such forms of abuse include torture, the systematic deprivation of food, water, medicine and medical care, and sadistic and dehumanising practices; whereas reports document mass hangings and extrajudicial killings in detention facilities run by the Assad government; whereas many civilians are subject to enforced disappearance, prolonged detention and unfair trial; whereas the Syrian Government has a systematic campaign to silence any form of dissent by carrying out mass hangings; whereas sources report that 13 000 cases of such extrajudicial executions have occurred in Saydnaya prison in five years;

Q.  whereas the Assad regime uses tactics of forced displacement in order to alter the sectarian make-up of cities, towns and regions and bring about demographic change; whereas such tactics have been used in cities, including Darayya and Muadamiyat al-Sham outside of Damascus, and the neighbourhood of al-Waer in the city of Homs;

R.  whereas it is the obligation of the international community and individual states to hold those responsible for violations of international human rights and humanitarian law committed during the Syrian conflict to account; whereas this can be done either under existing national and international remedies, including national courts and international tribunes, or under ad hoc international criminal tribunals yet to be established; whereas in addition to such personal criminal accountability, states can, under certain conditions, also be prosecuted for breaches of obligations under international treaties and conventions over which the International Court of Justice has jurisdiction, including the 1984 Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment and the 1948 Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide;

S.  whereas the international community should have more actively supported the democratic and secular opposition to the barbarous Syrian regime; whereas in the current situation the secular opposition is extremely weak and civilians are trapped between either jihadist terrorists, Islamic fundamentalists and Kurdish separatists or supporters of the Assad regime, rendering national reconciliation and the reconstruction of a consensus that could bring peace in Syria extremely difficult;

T.  whereas the intra-Syrian negotiation process started in Geneva on 23 February 2017, guided by Security Council Resolution 2254 (2015) which focuses on governance matters, including a new constitution for Syria, the holding of elections and the principles laid down in the 2012 Geneva Communiqué; whereas the Geneva-based negotiations have not so far led to concrete advances in finding a peaceful solution to the crisis in Syria;

U.  whereas on 5 April 2017 the EU co-chaired a conference on supporting the future of Syria and the region which brought together representatives from over 70 countries and international organisations and international and Syrian civil society; whereas this conference built on the previous conferences in Kuwait and London and agreed on a comprehensive approach to the Syrian crisis, including financial pledges; whereas the support and commitment of the international community remains essential to achieving a peaceful future in Syria and the region;

V.  whereas on 4 May 2017 Russia, Iran and Turkey reached a deal in Kazakhstan to establish four de-escalation zones; whereas the deal has no safeguards or enforcement and compliance mechanisms, and UN oversight is rejected by the Assad regime; whereas the Syrian opposition cannot support the agreement in its current form backed by Iran; whereas this agreement has yet to be approved by the UN Security Council;

W.  whereas the EU Strategy for Syria is a review of the EU Regional Strategy for Syria and Iraq as well as the Da’esh threat, last reviewed and updated by the Council on 23 May 2016;

X.  whereas the EU’s efforts in providing humanitarian support and planning for the future of Syria are commendable; whereas the EU should be careful not to provide unconditional assistance to the reconstruction of a Syria led and controlled by Assad and its allies, Russia and Iran; whereas Assad, Putin’s Russia and Iran cannot be allowed to walk away from the economic consequences of their military interventions; whereas a credible and inclusive political solution to the armed conflict agreed by all parties, with the exclusion of terrorist groups, must therefore be put in place;

Y.  whereas the reconstruction of Syria should be founded on a bottom-up approach and the successful empowerment of local actors, thereby excluding known terrorist groups;

1.  Calls on the Syrian regime and its allies, Russia and Iran, to immediately stop the indiscriminate bombings, killings and violence against the Syrian people and to allow for immediate unhindered access to humanitarian convoys and supplies; reminds those within the regimes of Syria, Russia and Iran that they are accountable under international criminal law for the heinous crimes they continue to commit in Syria;

2.  Condemns in the strongest terms the continued systematic, widespread and gross violations and abuses of human rights and all violations of international humanitarian law by Assad forces with the support of Russia and Iran, as well as those committed by non-State, armed terrorist groups, in particular ISIL/ Da’esh, Janhat Fateh el-Sham/ Al-Nusra Front and other jihadist groups;

3.  Calls on Russia, Iran and other external parties to the conflict to halt their devastating interventions in the Syrian conflict and to use their influence over Assad to ensure a full cessation of hostilities, and the lifting of sieges;

4.  Reiterates to all parties that a nationwide inclusive ceasefire and peaceful mutually acceptable solution to the Syrian crisis can be achieved under UN auspices and, as provided for in the 2012 Geneva Communiqué and UNSC resolution 2254 (2015), with the support of the Special Envoy of the Secretary-General for Syria, Staffan de Mistura, and key international and regional actors; takes note of the talks in Astana with a view to reaching an agreement;

5.  Takes note of the recent Memorandum creating de-escalation zones in Syria, signed by Russia, Iran and Turkey as guarantors of four ‘no-fly’ zones; calls on the signatories of the Memorandum and on the Syrian regime to enforce the agreement effectively and to cease all hostilities which have a direct impact on the Syrian people; regrets the fact that the Syrian regime has refused UN monitoring of the implementation of the Memorandum;

6.  Deplores the fact that the G7 meeting in Italy did not manage to reach agreement on the introduction of sanctions against the Russian regime as a result of its bombing of the Syrian population and its continued support for the Assad regime;

7.  Welcomes the efforts undertaken by representatives of over 70 countries at the conference on supporting the future of Syria and the region on 4 and 5 April 2017 in Brussels and the financial pledges made; welcomes the fact that participants pledged EUR 5.6 billion for 2017, and made multiannual pledges of EUR 3.47 billion for 2018-2020; recalls that the costs of rebuilding Syria are estimated to be around USD 200 billion; calls on the international community to fulfil outstanding pledges for humanitarian support in Syria and its neighbouring countries;

8.  Notes that the majority of refugees from Syria have fled to neighbouring countries, including Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey; welcomes in this regard the new partnership priorities concluded by the EU with Jordan and Lebanon, as well as the easing of EU rules of origin for exports from Jordan; regrets that large numbers of refugees in Jordan and Lebanon still live in precarious social and economic conditions and are often unable to find (legal) employment; calls on the authorities in Jordan and Lebanon to work towards removing the remaining (informal) barriers, to support expanded opportunities for self-employment, and to deliver commitments on job creation for women and youth;

9.  Welcomes the hospitality of Turkey in hosting close to 3 million refugees; encourages the Turkish Government to grant work permits to all Syrian refugees; notes the EU-Turkey Statement; deplores the fact that at the end of February 2017, only 3565 Syrian refugees had been settled in Europe under the 1:1 deal concluded with Turkey; calls on EU Member States to do more to fulfil their pledges on resettling Syrian refugees from Turkey;

10.  Calls on the VP/HR to make every effort to reinvigorate the UN-mediated peace talks and to demand a more active role in these negotiations, making use of the EU’s financial capacity and willingness to commit significant resources to Syria’s reconstruction; urges the VP/HR to actively back Syrian civil society and those who want a democratic, pluralistic and inclusive Syria and closely involve them in her endeavours for the future of the Syrian people; encourages the VP/HR to work with the Syrian people to develop localised reconstruction strategies for the various parts and regions of Syria;

11.  Condemns in the strongest terms the horrific chemical air strike on the town of Khan Sheikhoun in Idlib province on 4 April 2017 which caused the death of at least 70 civilians, including children and relief workers, with many victims displaying symptoms of gas poisoning; notes that the allegation of the use of chemical weapons is credible according to the preliminary assessment conducted by the OPCW’s fact-finding mission; stresses that those responsible for such attacks will be held accountable in a court of law; reiterates that, as a party to the Chemical Weapons Convention, the Syrian regime has explicitly obligated itself to refrain from the use of chemical weapons; deplores Russia’s veto to the last UNSC resolution condemning the attack and calling for an investigation;

12.  Deplores the continuous use of disinformation and lies emanating from the Russian and Assad regimes, including the vilification of the White Helmets and the false information spread regarding the perpetrators of the latest chemical attack of 4 April 2017;

13.  Reiterates its call that those guilty of committing war crimes, genocide and crimes against humanity be held accountable and face the consequences; stresses that those responsible will be brought to justice; remains convinced that there can be neither effective conflict solution nor sustainable peace in Syria without accountability for the crimes committed; stresses that war crimes perpetrated by both the regime and opposition forces, though on a smaller scale in the case of the latter, are eligible for international prosecution;

14.  Calls on all EU Member States to ensure that crimes against humanity, genocide and war crimes are regarded as crimes under national law, and calls on all EU Member States to prosecute such crimes committed in Syria by nationals and third-state nationals under their national jurisdictions; welcomes in this regard the decision by Spain to hear a criminal complaint against nine Syrian intelligence officials for torture and human rights violations;

15.  Recalls the principle of universal jurisdiction; reiterates its support for the referral of the Syrian case to the ICC; deplores the fact that this option remains blocked in the Security Council;

16.  Considers that states, including EU Member States, can individually bring proceedings against other states to the International Court of Justice over state breaches of obligations arising from international treaties and conventions, including the 1984 Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment and the 1948 Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide; calls on all EU Member States in this regard to bring the Syrian state before the ICJ in order to establish state accountability and to send a clear signal of their willingness to bring about accountability for the horrendous crimes committed in Syria;

17.  Calls for the international community, the EU and its Member States to work with the UN on the establishment of an international criminal tribunal to bring to justice and to hold to account non-state actors and individuals responsible for war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide committed in Syria;

18.  Welcomes the creation of an International, Impartial and Independent Mechanism to Assist in the Investigation and Prosecution of Those Responsible for the Most Serious Crimes under International Law Committed in the Syrian Arab Republic since March 2011; deplores the fact that this mechanism is still not fully funded; calls on all Member States to fulfil their pledges in this regard;

19.  Underlines the critical importance of the work of local and international civil society organisations and NGOs in documenting evidence of war crimes, crimes against humanity and other violations, including the destruction of cultural heritage; calls for the EU and its Member States to provide further and complete assistance to these actors; calls for the EU and its Member States to adequately fund organisations that work on open source investigation and digital collection of evidence of war crimes and crimes against humanity, in order to ensure accountability and bring the perpetrators to justice;

20.  Praises the efforts of humanitarian aid workers in seeking to bring much-needed relief, food, water and medicines to those trapped by the conflict, and again urges all sides involved in the conflict to ensure safe, unfettered access for humanitarian agencies to civilians affected by the war; strongly condemns deliberately excessive, disproportionate and indiscriminate attacks against civilians, including children, convoys with evacuated people, aid and healthcare personnel, and civilian infrastructure such as schools and hospitals;

21.  Welcomes the latest review of the EU restrictive measures against Syria with the addition of individuals who share responsibility for the use of chemical weapons and the repression of the civilian population in the country; underlines that the EU should consider all available options in working with its international partners, including aid drops and the establishment of no-fly zones;

22.  Calls for this resolution to be translated into Arabic;

23.  Instructs its President to forward this resolution to the Vice-President of the Commission / High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, the Council, the Commission, the governments and parliaments of the EU member states, the United Nations, the members of the International Syria Support Group and all the parties involved in the conflict.

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