Procedure : 2021/2576(RSP)
Document stages in plenary
Document selected : B9-0181/2021

Texts tabled :


Debates :

PV 09/03/2021 - 23
CRE 09/03/2021 - 23

Votes :

Texts adopted :


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<TitreSuite>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</TitreSuite>

<TitreRecueil>pursuant to Rule 132(2) of the Rules of Procedure</TitreRecueil>

<Titre>on the Syrian conflict – 10 years after the uprising</Titre>


<RepeatBlock-By><Depute>Michael Gahler, Lukas Mandl, Antonio López‑Istúriz White, Isabel Wiseler‑Lima, Tom Vandenkendelaere, David Lega, Janina Ochojska, Adam Jarubas</Depute>

<Commission>{PPE}on behalf of the PPE Group</Commission>


See also joint motion for a resolution RC-B9-0177/2021


European Parliament resolution on the Syrian conflict – 10 years after the uprising


The European Parliament,

 having regard to its previous resolutions on Syria,

 having regard to the 2021 Report of the UN Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic of the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) of 18 February 2021,

 having regard to the report of the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic of 1 March 2021,

 having regard to the two UN Independent Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic reports of 2 and 28 March 2020,

 having regard to the declaration of 16 February 2021 by the Vice-President of the Commission / High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy (VP/HR) on behalf of the EU on the alignment of certain third countries concerning restrictive measures against Syria,

 having regard to the report of the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic of 7 July 2020 on the situation of human rights in the Syrian Arab Republic,

 having regard to the joint declaration by the UN and the European Union, as co-chairs of the Brussels IV Conference held on 30 June 2020, on ‘Supporting the future of Syria and the region’,

 having regard to Commissioner Olivér Várhelyi’s speech of 30 June 2020 at the afternoon plenary session of the Brussels IV Conference on the future of Syria and the region, recalling that the European Union’s overall objectives in Syria remains unchanged,

 having regard to the declaration of 9 April 2020 of the VP/HR on behalf of the EU on the release of the first report of the OPCW Investigation and Identification Team,

 having regard to the Human Rights Watch report of 15 October 2020 entitled ‘Targeting Life in Idlib: Syrian and Russian Strikes on Civilian Infrastructure’,

 having regard to UN Security Council resolutions 2533 (2020) of 11 July 2020 and 2504 (2020) of 10 January 2020, both concerning the border crossings of Bab al-Salam and Bab al-Hawa and the provision of humanitarian aid,

 having regard to the Joint position of the Committee on Foreign Affairs and the Committee on Budgets as the competent committees consulted in line with Article 234 of the Financial Regulation (2018/1046) on the extension of the European Union Regional Trust Fund in Response of the Syrian Crisis (Madad Trust Fund),

 having regard to the 1290th plenary meeting of the Permanent Council of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) of 19 November 2020,

 having regard to the statement of the Foreign Affairs Council of 6 March 2020,

 having regard to the statements of 1 and 18 February 2020 attributable to the Spokesman for the UN Secretary-General on Syria,

 having regard to the joint statement of 13 January 2020 by the VP/HR and Commissioner for Crisis Management Janez Lenarčič on the situation in Syria,

 having regard to the Council conclusions of 14 October 2019 on North East Syria,

 having regard to Rule 132(2) of its Rules of Procedure,

A. whereas after a decade of war, the crisis in Syria is marked by unparalleled suffering and needs, with over 13 million people, including 6 million women and children, in need of humanitarian assistance; whereas more than 500 000 people have lost their lives and more than one million have been injured; whereas since 1 December 2019, escalating hostilities in north-west Syria have displaced more than 950 000 people, around 7 million people have been internally displaced (including 2.7 million in north-west Syria) and over 5.6 million have been forced to take refuge in neighbouring countries;

B. whereas humanitarian advocates and practitioners continue to raise concerns about the security and protection of returnees and displaced individuals in the light of the conditions in many areas of the country and the questions about the Syrian Government’s approach to political reconciliation;

C. whereas the situation in Al-Hol camp remains dire; whereas more than 90 % of the people in the camp are women and children; whereas it is critical that humanitarian agencies remain focused on ensuring that all camp residents have access to humanitarian assistance, including clean water, food and healthcare, until the relevant authorities find a solution to their displacement;

D. whereas Syria is facing growing economic instability, with the value of the Syrian pound having dropped to record lows and the cost of basic staples having increased by over 100 % since 2019; whereas the Syrian people are having to navigate around a regime that has repeatedly committed war crimes, is responsible for attacks on identified medical facilities and has shown minimal concern in relation to addressing the population’s needs;

E. whereas the UN estimates that 83 % of the population is living below the poverty line, with many Syrians now eking out an existence in conditions that are even worse than those that existed during the years of conflict;

F. whereas the World Food Programme estimates that 12.4 million Syrians are suffering from food insecurity, representing nearly 60 % of the population, with an increase of 4.5 million in just one year;

G. whereas the COVID-19 virus is further exacerbating the plight of the most vulnerable communities and the extent of the virus’s spread in the country is thought to exceed the official Health Ministry count; whereas Syria’s healthcare system has also been significantly degraded since the start of the conflict in 2011 as a result of attacks by pro-regime forces on healthcare workers and infrastructure;

H. whereas the Syrian Government has continued to impose severe restrictions on the delivery of humanitarian aid in government-held areas of Syria and elsewhere in the country, and has allegedly required humanitarian groups to partner with security-vetted local actors to deliver aid;

I. whereas public education is under pressure across the region, with over one third of Syrian children of school age (nearly three million pupils) not attending any form of education, and whereas the lack of adaptation to distance learning owing to the risks from COVID-19 has exacerbated the problem, resulting in many children suffering from the psycho-social impacts of prolonged conflict and displacement;

J. whereas the Government of President Bashar al-Assad – backed by Russia, Iran and Hezbollah – has recaptured most of the areas formerly held by opposition forces, but is facing persistent challenges from fighters linked to so-called Islamic State (Daesh/ISIS), as well as new protests stemming from the deteriorating economic conditions; whereas US-backed local forces have recovered most of the territory formerly held by Islamic State, but the group continues to maintain a low-level insurgency;

K. whereas a range of foreign states have intervened in Syria in support of the Assad Government or Syrian opposition forces, as well in pursuit of their own security goals; whereas the pro-Assad forces operating in Syria include the Lebanese Hezbollah, Iran and Russia;

L. whereas Turkey is involved in numerous conflicts, including in Syria, which constitute grave violations of international law; whereas the unilateral Turkish military intervention in north-east Syria constitutes a grave violation of international law and has undermined the stability and security of the region as a whole; whereas this unilateral Turkish military operation has no legal basis and is only aggravating the 10-year-long conflict in Syria; whereas Turkey should end its illegal occupation of northern Syria and withdraw its military and paramilitary proxy forces;

M. whereas according to the OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chair countries, Turkey has transferred foreign fighters from Syria and elsewhere to Nagorno-Karabakh;

N. whereas 4.6 % of Syria’s population of 18.5 million are Christians, and whereas before the war they comprised about 10 %, showing that a disproportionately high number of them have fled; whereas since 2014, Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), formerly linked to Al-Qaeda, has been replacing governmental courts with sharia councils in the areas it has controlled, authorising discrimination against members of religious minorities, seizing the homes and agricultural lands of thousands of Christians, attacking places of worship and preventing them from practicing their religion outside their homes;

O. whereas over the past decade, no warring party in Syria has respected the rights of detained persons in line with international legal obligations, and the use of arbitrary detention, torture and ill-treatment, including through sexual violence, involuntary or enforced disappearance and summary executions, have been hallmarks of this conflict; whereas according to the UN, these violations and abuses have been carried out with consistency, particularly by the government;

P. whereas officials in the Kurdish-led autonomous administration in the region have said that they recently released more than 300 Syrian nationals from Al-Hol Camp which is also home to thousands of families of Islamic State (IS) foreign fighters;

Q. whereas on 9 April 2020, the VP/HR issued a declaration on behalf of the EU on the release of the first report of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons Investigation and Identification Team, expressing full support for the report’s findings and strongly condemning the use of chemical weapons by the Syrian Arab Air Force, as had been concluded by the report;

R. whereas the Council has put in place a series of restrictive measures in view of the situation in Syria targeting individuals responsible for the repression of the civilian population in Syria and individuals and entities associated with them;

S. whereas since 2011 the EU and its Member States have mobilised EUR 20 billion for humanitarian, stabilisation and resilience assistance to Syrians inside the country and in neighbouring countries; whereas the EU has been the driving force behind the Syria pledging conferences which took place in Brussels over four consecutive years (2017-2020), and the fifth Brussels conference which will take place on 29 and 30 March 2021;

1. Strongly condemns all atrocities and violations of human rights and international humanitarian law, in particular by the Assad regime, but also by Russian, Iranian and Turkish actors, and calls on Russia, Turkey and Iran to withdraw all forces and proxies under their command, except for those participating in international peacekeeping or stabilisation forces under the mandate of the UN Security Council;

2. Calls on all parties to refrain from further violence, and underlines the importance of finding a political solution to the conflict in line with UN Security Council resolution 2254, stressing the fact that Bashar al-Assad has lost all legitimacy and must step aside to facilitate a peaceful political transition;

3. Expresses support for the UN Special Envoy for Syria, Geir O. Pedersen, and calls on the VP/HR to undertake every possible effort to halt the violence inside Syria and to support an inclusive Syrian-led political settlement that would unlock reconstruction funds using the EU’s financial capacity and willingness to commit significant resources to Syria’s reconstruction, as well as the potential resumption of trade and investment as leverage, and recalls that there can be no EU funding for reconstruction without some form of transitional justice ensuring the fair employment of the funds;

4. Calls for further support for peaceful and democratic Syrian civil society organisations;

5. Condemns the Assad regime’s reluctance to engage in meaningful negotiations in the Constitutional Committee; criticises the holding of presidential elections before the adoption of a new constitution, and condemns all efforts by the regime and its allies to try to normalise this situation;

6. Stresses that there should be no tolerance or impunity for the crimes committed in Syria and calls for independent, impartial, thorough and credible investigations into and prosecutions of those responsible;

7. Reaffirms its support for the efforts of the Global Coalition against Daesh, and underlines the important contribution made by the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) as an ally in the fight against Daesh/ISIS;

8. Is extremely concerned about the detention facilities in north-east Syria, which remain breeding grounds for radicalisation, and about the recent reports that hundreds of Daesh/ISIS prisoners, including many foreign fighters, are being released, which increases the risk of a resurgence of Daesh/ISIS; expresses its utmost concern about the humanitarian situation of the children of foreign fighters held in north-east Syria, and calls on the Member States to actively contribute to finding solutions for children in camp Al-Hol, who have the nationality of a Member State or States;

9. Commends the US engagement in Syria, and stresses the need for close cooperation with our transatlantic partners and Israel on fighting terrorist groups in Syria and beyond; underlines its full support for Israel’s defensive actions in Syria, including against Iran’s supplies of missiles to Hezbollah and Tehran’s attempt to establish a military front on Israel’s border;

10. In this context, calls on the Council to put an end to the false distinction between Hezbollah’s ‘military’ and ‘political’ wings, to designate Hezbollah in its entirety as a terrorist organisation and to sanction the group and its sponsor Iran for the war crimes committed in Syria, as well as in Lebanon, Iraq or other countries in the region;

11. Deplores the fact that the Turkish Government is facilitating the opportunity for Syrian mercenaries to interfere in conflicts in other parts of the region, such as in Libya or Nagorno-Karabakh, and urges the Turkish Government to stop such engaging in such destabilising activities;

12. Welcomes the fifth Brussels conference on ‘Supporting the future of Syria and the region’ on 29 and 30 March 2021, and recalls that the EU and its Member States remain by far the largest donors, mobilising EUR 20 billion since the start of the crisis;

13. Calls for assistance to be provided to the families of the missing and the detained, and for support for the prosecution of persons responsible for crimes under international law, and for those seeking to promote better access to justice for Syrians, and stresses the need to put an immediate end to the rampant abuses and torture in detention facilities, as a fundamental part of any transition process towards a sustainable resolution of the Syrian conflict; welcomes, in this regard, the successful efforts to pursue justice through the principle of universal jurisdiction, as invoked by Koblenz court in Germany, which has sentenced a former Syrian intelligence officer to four years and six months in prison;

14. Urges the EU and its Member States to expand the list of those subject to targeted sanctions under the new EU human rights sanction mechanism, the so-called EU Magnitsky Act, including the Syrian and Russian civilian and military commanders who have been credibly implicated in war crimes, crimes against humanity and other serious violations committed in north-west Syria, including those falling within command responsibility;

15. Expresses its concerns over the worsening humanitarian situation; recalls that 11 million Syrians are in need of humanitarian assistance inside Syria, that nearly 60 % are suffering from food insecurity owing to the sharp increase in food prices and that 89 % of Syrian refugees in Lebanon are similarly trapped in extreme poverty;

16. Demands unhindered humanitarian access throughout Syria and recalls that there is only one humanitarian crossing point left, situated in Bab al-Hawa; insists on the extension of the authorisation to use this crossing point, which is due to expire in July, for a further 12 months and calls for the broadening of the authorisation to include other crossing points; condemns all efforts to obstruct cross-border humanitarian access, which might lead to widespread famine among more than three million Syrians, most of them women and children;

17. Underlines the importance of ensuring that humanitarian aid is directed to those most in need and that aid supplies are not sold on the black market; calls for support to be given to all Syrian refugee children in host countries and for their access not only to primary, but also to secondary education to be ensured, and urges all host countries to adopt all necessary measures and to remove any administrative or legislative obstacles thereto;

18. Notes that according to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, 267 170 refugees have voluntarily returned to Syria and support is needed to meet their basic needs; calls on the stakeholders to try to improve the conditions for safe, dignified and sustainable returns;

19. Strongly condemns all forms of religious discrimination and insists on respect by all for the rights of ethnic and religious groups and minorities in Syria, including Christians and anyone who has been displaced, to continue to live in or return to their historical and traditional homelands in dignity, equality and safety, and to fully and freely practise their religion and beliefs without being subjected to any kind of coercion, violence or discrimination; supports interreligious dialogue in order to promote mutual understanding and counter violent extremism or any attempt to suppress freedom of speech or of religion;

20. Notes that the Madad Trust Fund will expire at the end of 2021, and calls on the Commission to ensure that the financial needs of the EU’s humanitarian response to the crises in Syria under the Neighbourhood, Development and International Cooperation Instrument and the continuous operation of projects financed under the Madad Trust Fund are covered;

21. Instructs its President to forward this resolution to the Council, the Commission, the Vice-President of the Commission / High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, the governments and parliaments of the Member States, the Secretary-General of the United Nations and all the parties involved in the conflict in Syria.


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