Procedure : 2018/2626(RSP)
Document stages in plenary
Document selected : B8-0139/2018

Texts tabled :


Debates :

Votes :

PV 15/03/2018 - 10.12
Explanations of votes

Texts adopted :


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See also joint motion for a resolution RC-B8-0139/2018

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 situation in Syria (2018/2626(RSP))

Victor Boştinaru, Elena Valenciano on behalf of the S&D Group

European Parliament resolution on the situation in Syria (2018/2626(RSP))  

The European Parliament,

–  having regard to its previous resolutions on Syria, in particular its most recent one of 18 May 2017 on the EU strategy on Syria(1),

–  having regard to UN Security Council Resolution 2401 (2018) of 24 February 2018 on cessation of hostilities in Syria, as well as to previous relevant UN Security Council resolutions on the conflict in the Syrian Arab Republic, in particular Resolutions 2118 (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 the statement of 20 February 2018 by the Vice-President of the Commission / High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy (VP/HR), Federica Mogherini, and the Commissioner for Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Management, Christos Stylianides, on the humanitarian situation in Eastern Ghouta and Idlib, Syria,

–  having regard to UN Security Council Resolution 2393 (2017) of 19 December 2017 on authorisation for cross-border and cross-line aid delivery in Syria,

–  having regard to the statement of 25 November 2017 by the VP/HR on the Conference of the Syrian Opposition in Riyadh,

–  having regard to the statements of 9 July 2017 by the VP/HR on ceasefire 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 Joint Communication to the European Parliament and the Council of 14 March 2017 entitled ‘Elements for an EU Strategy for Syria’ (JOIN(2017)0011) and to the Council conclusions on Syria of 3 April 2017, which together make up the new EU strategy on Syria,

–  having regard to the Council decisions on EU restrictive measures against those responsible for violent repression in Syria, including the most recent one of 26 February 2018(2),

–  having regard to the reports of the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic, established by the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC), and to the UNHRC resolutions on the Syrian Arab Republic,

–  having regard to the Charter of the United Nations and to all the UN conventions to which Syria is a State Party,

–  having regard to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other UN human rights treaties and instruments, including the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child,

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

A.  whereas Syria’s seven-year civil conflict continues, despite several international efforts to achieve a ceasefire and lay the basis for a negotiated solution; whereas, consequently, the humanitarian situation in the country remains devastating; whereas around 5.6 million people in 1 244 communities are in acute need, including 2.9 million in hard-to-reach and besieged locations;

B.  whereas the UN reported that nearly 100 000 civilians had been forced to flee many communities in the southern and south-eastern parts of the province of Idlib, due to heavy attack by government forces with the support of Russian forces and Iran-backed militias; whereas this de-escalation zone is on the brink of collapsing and a regime attack might be imminent, with the risk of another humanitarian catastrophe;

C.  whereas areas and cities such as Eastern Ghouta, Yarmouk, Foua and Kefraya have long suffered blockades with serious consequences for the civilian population and no possibility to deliver humanitarian aid in a sustainable way; whereas, in the past few weeks, and despite being considered a de-escalation zone, Eastern Ghouta and its estimated population of 400 000 people have been subjected to heavy and indiscriminate bombardment by the Syrian regime and its allies, with damage to schools and medical facilities, and even alleged use of chemical weapons; whereas the situation in Eastern Ghouta is so critical that the UN Secretary-General, António Guterres, has described it as ‘hell on earth’;

D.  whereas depriving civilians of essential food and medicine is an unacceptable method of combat that is prohibited by international humanitarian law; whereas obstructing evacuation efforts and the delivery of humanitarian aid and medical care constitute blatant violations of international humanitarian law and of several UN Security Council resolutions;

E.  whereas it has been estimated that, in the first two months of 2018 alone, 1 000 children have been killed or injured across Syria; whereas civilians are being used as human shields in IS-held areas and children are being recruited and used in terrorist activities;

F.  whereas the report published by the UN Population Fund in 2017 entitled ‘Voices from Syria 2018 – Assessment Findings of the Humanitarian Needs Overview’ found that significant numbers of Syrian women and girls are routinely forced to submit to sexual exploitation, forced marriage and other unacceptable acts of abuse in return for aid; whereas such acts of abuse have been known to UN circles since at least 2015; whereas such practices are particularly widespread in areas where aid organisations’ access is obstructed by the Syrian regime and where they are forced to rely on third parties and local actors to deliver aid;

G.  whereas Turkey’s Operation Olive Branch in the Kurdish-controlled province of Afrin has added a new dimension to the conflict in Syria, raising additional humanitarian concerns and worries about the negative impacts on the delicate internal balances in Syria and/or the efforts towards a negotiated solution; stresses that a high number of civilian casualties has already been reported and that hundreds more civilian lives are at risk; whereas the EU has clearly voiced these concerns, calling on Ankara to stop its offensive and highlighting the need to focus on defeating the UN-listed terrorist organisations;

H.  whereas the EU remains committed to the success of the negotiations conducted under the auspices of the UN Special Envoy for Syria, known as the Geneva process; whereas the EU continues to support this process, including through the organisation of the second Brussels Conference on Supporting the Future of Syria and the Region, due to take place on 24 and 25 April 2018;

I.  whereas the EU-Jordan and EU-Lebanon compacts are a potentially game-changing model to address refugee displacement as a development opportunity and encourage policy reforms to increase the protection space for refugees in their host countries; whereas, however, their implementation is lagging behind;

J.  whereas the war has shattered Syria’s physical and social infrastructure, including houses, schools, hospitals and water systems; whereas explosive hazards – such as mines or unexploded bombs – litter much of the country and whereas gender-based violence continues to pervade the life of women and girls; whereas, therefore, the conditions for Syrian refugees to return in safety and dignity do not currently exist;

K.  whereas the situation in Syria and the lack of a comprehensive, genuine and inclusive political transition continues to impede the full implementation of the EU strategy on Syria, and in particular the substantial assistance that the Union can provide for the reconstruction of the country;

1.  Deeply deplores the unspeakable horrors that continue to unfold in Syria after seven years of civil war; urges full implementation of the Geneva Communiqué and UNSC Resolution 2254 of 18 December 2015, which laid the foundations for a future peaceful resolution of the conflict; strongly defends the Geneva process as the internationally agreed and inclusive forum to discuss the main political aspects of the Syrian crisis and achieve sustainable peace, based on a new constitution and the conduct of democratic elections, under UN supervision;

2.  Strongly condemns the heavy and indiscriminate offensive against Eastern Ghouta and the suspected use of chlorine gas in this attack; calls for the immediate end to all hostilities and urges full respect for UNSC Resolution 2401 (2018), which was unanimously adopted, demanding that all parties, and in particular the Syrian regime and its allies, cease all hostilities without delay for at least 30 consecutive days, in order to ensure a durable humanitarian pause and enable life-saving humanitarian aid deliveries and medical evacuations of the sick and wounded;

3.  Calls on Russia, Iran and Turkey, as guarantors of the de-escalation agreements (Astana Process), to use their influence on the Syrian regime to alleviate the situation in Eastern Ghouta, and to ensure respect for the ceasefire in all de-escalation zones, including Idlib, as already requested by the Vice-President of the Commission / High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy (VP/HR), Federica Mogherini, in a letter sent to the ministries of foreign affairs of those 3 countries, following the meeting of the Foreign Affairs Council of 26 February 2018; notes the decision by Russia, Iran and Turkey to hold a new summit in April to discuss Syria and potential steps in the region; stresses that these steps should in no way contradict or undermine the UN-sponsored talks / Geneva process;

4.  Continues to be seriously worried about the situation in Afrin, including the possible confrontation between Turkish forces and Assad or Russian forces and rising tensions with the United States; echoes the position of the VP/HR that the opening of new fronts in Syria is not in the interest of Turkey’s security and warns against further deterioration of the country’s humanitarian crisis;

5.  Urges an immediate end to Operation Olive Branch, which is showing itself to be a disproportionate measure, having been initially justified by security concerns and announced as limited in scope and range; demands full respect for humanitarian law, including the protection of civilians; stresses that military operations should focus on the fight against the UN-listed terrorist organisations, and recalls that the most recent UN Security Council resolution – 2401 (2018) – calls for a ceasefire throughout Syria, therefore including Afrin; stresses, furthermore, that this same resolution did not include the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) among the terrorist organisations that constitute a legitimate target and that the YPG forces in Afrin have already stated their readiness to accept the ceasefire;

6.  Urges, once again, safe, timely and unhindered humanitarian access throughout the whole territory of Syria and welcomes UNSC Resolution 2393 (2017), which renewed the authorisation for cross-border and cross-conflict-line humanitarian access to Syria for a further 12 months (until 10 January 2019);

7.  Highlights that the resolution called on the Syrian authorities and all parties to comply with their obligations under international humanitarian law, warning that denying aid access could amount to a war crime or crime against humanity; regrets the fact that Russia and China abstained from the vote instead of voting in favour of the resolution and that reservations have been voiced by the Syrian regime and the Russian Government with respect to future renewals; encourages the UN and its implementing partners to continue to take steps to scale up humanitarian deliveries to hard‑to‑reach and besieged areas, including by using, as effectively as possible, border crossings under UNSC Resolution 2165;

8.  Strongly regrets the repeated Russian vetoes in the Security Council and the fact that no agreement was reached on renewing the mandate of the OPCW-UN Joint Investigative Mechanism (JIM) before it expired on 17 November 2017; considers this attitude by a permanent member of the Security Council with a special responsibility for maintaining international peace and security to be shameful; stresses that, in the eyes of the world, the obstruction of international investigations is more a sign of guilt than anything else;

9.  Stresses that there should be no tolerance or impunity for the horrific crimes committed in Syria; reiterates its call for independent, impartial, thorough and credible investigations and prosecutions of those responsible and supports the work of the International, Impartial and Independent Mechanism (IIIM) on international crimes committed in the Syrian Arab Republic since March 2012; notes with satisfaction the EU’s decision to provide EUR 1.5 million in financial support to the mechanism through its Instrument contributing to Stability and Peace (IcSP); stresses, however, that support will be needed beyond the 18-month duration of the programme; underlines the importance of Member States meeting their pledges, and expects the issue of IIIM funding to be raised and settled at the second Brussels Conference on Supporting the Future of Syria and the Region; calls, furthermore, for support for civil society organisations and NGOs, which are collecting and helping to preserve evidence of human rights abuses and violations of humanitarian law;

10.  Reiterates its support for the principle of universal jurisdiction in tackling impunity and welcomes the steps taken by a number of EU Member States to this effect; reiterates its call for the EU and its Member States to explore, in close cooperation with like-minded countries, the possibility of creating a Syrian war crimes tribunal, pending a successful referral to the ICC;

11.  Welcomes the addition on 26 February 2018 of two Syrian ministers to the list of those targeted by EU restrictive measures against the Syria regime, who were appointed in January 2018 and bear responsibility for repressive action against the Syrian people; stresses the importance of all Member States fully respecting Council Decision 2011/273/CFSP and enforcing the sanctions;

12.  Is appalled by the reports of women and girls being blackmailed and sexually abused by aid distributors, third actors and local officials channelling aid on behalf of humanitarian organisations and agencies; strongly declares that there should be no tolerance for such acts; urges a thorough investigation and stresses that all those responsible must be punished;

13.  Acknowledges the impressive solidarity demonstrated by Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey towards refugees, and backs the EU financial support aimed at addressing the urgent needs of refugees and their host communities; stresses the importance of ensuring that Member States step up their financial support to host countries and welcomes the fact that the second Brussels Conference on Supporting the Future of Syria and the Region will be aimed at channelling more support from the international community to refugee host countries;

14.  Expresses concern at the reported return of 66 000 refugees to Syria in 2017 and underlines the need to fully respect the principle of non-refoulement; stresses that Syria is not safe for refugee returns and that the EU must not support such returns; reiterates its call on the Member States to honour their own commitments, including those laid down in the New York Declaration, and ensure responsibility-sharing, allowing refugees fleeing Syrian war zones to find protection beyond the immediate neighbouring region, including through resettlement and humanitarian admission schemes;

15.  Calls for maximum support to the most vulnerable in Syria and in its neighbouring countries, in particular women, children, people with disabilities, the elderly, minorities and LGBTI people; stresses that the EU should ensure that Syrian children and young people are guaranteed good education and professional training, so that they can be smoothly reintegrated into society;

16.  Strongly condemns the use of children in combat or terrorist attacks; stresses that there is no justification for attacks against schools, playgrounds, hospitals or other medical facilities and densely populated areas;

17.  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, with a translation of this text into Arabic.


Texts adopted, P8_TA(2017)0227.


OJ L 54I, 26.2.2018, p. 8.

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