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Tuesday, 9 March 2021 - Brussels Revised edition

19. The Syrian conflict – 10 years after the uprising (debate)
Video of the speeches
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  President. – The next item is the debate on the statement by the Vice—President of the Commission / High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy on the Syrian conflict – 10 years after the uprising (2021/2576(RSP)).

I would like to remind Members that for all debates during this part—session there will be no catch—the—eye procedure and no blue cards will be accepted. Furthermore, as has been the case during recent part—sessions, debates will include remote speeches from Parliament’s liaison offices in the Member States.

 
  
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  Josep Borrell Fontelles, Vice-President of the Commission / High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy. – Mr President, dear Members of the European Parliament, the conflict in Syria has lasted now 10 years. Ten years of tragedy for the people of Syria; displacement, exile, poverty, destruction, torture, enforced disappearances, barrel bombs, chemical weapons. We thought that we would never need to see this again at our doorstep.

Five countries have soldiers in Syria at this moment, but even with the military support of Russia and Iran, Assad cannot win and only a political solution is sustainable. And yet the political process set out by the United Nations Security Council in its Resolution 2254 is stuck, completely stuck.

A constitutional committee has been set up to negotiate a new constitution, providing the basis for free and fair elections supervised by the United Nations. But the Assad regime blocks any real discussion and does not want free and fair elections. Instead, in June, Assad will hold his own elections to make sure he wins, to convey that Syria is at peace, that reconstruction should begin and sanctions be lifted, and that we should recognise that he won. Nothing else would be a bigger mistake. Peace is not won by crushing the people, by crushing opposition and pursuing a war until the country, the whole country, is on its knees.

In Syria, over 500 000 people have died. The economy is literally collapsing. More than half of the population have fled their homes. In northern Syria today, hundreds of thousands live in tents. The pandemic has exacerbated the challenges. Latest data suggests the poverty rate stands at 80% and 12 million Syrians, nearly 60% of the population, are severely hit by food insecurity.

All this is happening on our borders, in our immediate neighbourhood, on the other side of the Mediterranean. We should not and we cannot and we will not allow Syria to be forgotten. On 13 March I will co—chair with the United Nations a fifth Brussels conference on the future of Syria and the region. We must give the United Nations and its special envoy, Mr Pedersen, our full support and continue to push for a genuine political solution, according to the United Nations Security Council resolution.

The political process has to move forward with a new negotiated constitution, free and fair elections, release of political prisoners. The EU is ready to provide its support and, once the time is right, to focus on reconstruction funds and the rebuilding of Syria and of the lives of its citizens. We are ready to provide very substantial support but business as usual is not an option.

We demand a safe Syria for refugees to return to their homes and a real search for the missing. The Commission is calling for the creation of an international mechanism to locate the missing – or their remains, some in mass graves – accountability for the many war crimes and crimes against humanity and the impunity and until we see this, we must keep up the pressure. There will be no end to sanctions, no normalisation, no support for reconstruction until a political transition is underway. This must be the message from the Brussels conference.

We must keep providing assistance to the Syrian people in need, both in Syria and in neighbouring countries, in particular in Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey, which host millions of refugees. These people deserve our continued support. In 10 years, the European Union and its Member States, have provided 22 billion. It means on average 2.2 billion every year in assistance for needs inside Syria, in support of refugees and in support of refugee hosting countries. We are the biggest donor and we will continue showing our solidarity. The support of this Parliament to these efforts has been and remains crucial. The needs are immense and we will call on other donors to provide support too because we cannot do everything.

And, of course, we will continue engaging with civil society. Their voice is crucial to fully understand what’s happening and what is needed to bring hope for the future, for a peaceful and different Syria. We cannot let them down, we cannot give up. Thank you for your interest and I count on your full support.

 
  
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  Lukas Mandl, im Namen der PPE-Fraktion. – Herr Präsident, Hoher Außenbeauftragter, liebe Kolleginnen und Kollegen! Es ist nicht mehr üblich, das Wort „Krieg“ zu verwenden. Man sagt dann oft nur „bewaffneter Konflikt“. Aber wenn wir darüber sprechen, was schon seit zehn Jahren in Syrien los ist, dann ist das Krieg. Und wenn wir über Krieg sprechen, müssen wir uns dessen bewusst sein, das ist für manche Menschen auf dieser Welt nicht graue Theorie, sondern tägliche, blutige Realität – für Kinder, Frauen und Menschen, die betroffen sind von diesem seit zehn Jahren andauernden Krieg in Syrien.

Wenn wir über Migration und Flucht sprechen, dann sprechen wir sehr viel über die Auswirkungen an unseren Außengrenzen der Europäischen Union, innerhalb der Europäischen Union, aber wir sprechen noch immer zu wenig über die Fluchtursachen, über die Entwurzelung von Menschen dort, wo sie ihre Heimat haben. Und die geschieht durch den Krieg in Syrien seit zehn Jahren.

Wenn wir über die Rolle der Europäischen Union sprechen, ja, dann müssen wir darüber sprechen, Hoher Außenbeauftragter, was Sie getan haben, dass wir als Europäische Union der größte Geldgeber sind. Mit 22 Milliarden Euro in diesen zehn Jahren Krieg hat die Europäische Union geholfen – auch im eigenen Interesse. Das ist kein bloßes Geschenk und die Europäische Union spielt damit eine bessere Rolle als etwa der Iran oder die Türkei oder Russland, die an diesem Krieg beteiligt sind. Aber wir müssen bei der Rolle der Europäischen Union auch die Frage stellen: Wie entwickelt Europa mehr Stärke nach außen? Und wir müssen diese Frage beantworten, und das können Sie, Hoher Außenbeauftragter, bei der Syrien-Konferenz in Brüssel am 30. März. Dazu fordere ich Sie auf!

 
  
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  Isabel Santos, em nome do Grupo S&D. – Senhor Presidente, Senhor Alto Representante, dez anos de destruição e martírio na Síria sem que se consiga um cessar—fogo sustentável. Isto remete-nos ao silêncio e talvez só nos reste apelar ao pragmatismo do possível. Quando mais de 11 milhões de pessoas dependem da ajuda humanitária, impõe-se libertá-la de aproveitamentos políticos e fazê-la chegar a todo o território, incluindo os locais de confinamento e detenção, e que o Conselho de Segurança das Nações Unidas mantenha aberta a passagem de Bab al-Hawa e autorize a reabertura de todas as passagens de acesso humanitário atualmente fechadas.

Não podemos continuar a falar da miséria humanitária do campo de Al-Hol e outros, um solo fértil para a radicalização, sem assumirmos as responsabilidades que nos cabem.

É imperioso que os Estados—Membros procedam com rapidez ao repatriamento dos seus cidadãos, respondam à necessidade de proteção das crianças, e seria imperdoável permitirmos a perda de mais uma geração. É preciso que se continue a apoiar os refugiados e que não se permita o retorno até que condições de segurança e dignidade para tal estejam atingidas.

Sim, não há outra solução para este conflito que não a negociação de uma nova Constituição dentro do processo de Genebra. Apoiamos o esforço das Nações Unidas e do seu enviado especial, mas é preciso lembrar que a paz exige a participação construtiva de todos e o prestar de contas pelos crimes cometidos nesta guerra, passo fundamental para a reconciliação.

 
  
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  Nathalie Loiseau, au nom du groupe Renew. – Monsieur le Président, Monsieur le Haut représentant, dix ans. Dix ans d’horreur et de souffrance. Dix ans qu’un régime, celui de Bachar el-Assad, massacre son peuple, emprisonne, torture, affame, tue. Car à l’origine, la guerre en Syrie n’a rien d’une guerre civile, c’est la guerre d’un homme et de son système contre ceux qui ne sont pas d’accord avec lui. Une guerre sans merci où tous les moyens sont bons: armes chimiques, bombardements, terreur. C’est devenu une guerre où le terrorisme a fait son nid, où Daesh et d’autres ont fait d’innombrables victimes syriennes et ont aussi frappé l’Europe. C’est devenu une guerre où des djihadistes européens ont pris part à des crimes odieux. C’est devenu une guerre que des millions de Syriens ont fui pour trouver refuge en Europe et dans les pays voisins de la Syrie.

Que nous le voulions ou non, la tragédie syrienne est notre problème. Alors, qu’avons-nous fait? Au moins, n’avons-nous pas ajouté de la souffrance à la souffrance. Au moins à la différence de la Russie, de l’Iran, de la Turquie, ne sommes-nous pas allés assouvir en Syrie notre soif de puissance au mépris du droit international. Au moins, lorsque la coalition internationale combat Daesh, le fait-elle avec un mandat de l’ONU. Au moins, essayons nous d’alléger les souffrances du peuple syrien en accueillant des millions de réfugiés et en prenant toute notre part, la première, dans l’aide humanitaire aux populations martyrisées.

Mais nous devons faire, plus parce que les Syriens regardent vers nous, espèrent en nous. Nous devons lutter pied à pied contre l’impunité des crimes de guerre et des crimes contre l’humanité perpétrés en Syrie. Certains pays, la France, l’Allemagne, les Pays-Bas ont commencé à le faire et je voudrais saluer leur action.

Mais je voudrais vous demander plus, Monsieur le Haut représentant. Je voudrais vous demander de porter auprès de la Commission la promesse d’un engagement beaucoup plus fort, beaucoup plus unanime de toute l’Europe pour que les criminels qui ont parfois trouvé refuge soient poursuivis, pour que nos justices travaillent encore mieux ensemble, pour venir en aide aux victimes et aux activistes syriens qui se battent pour le droit. En Syrie, il n’y aura pas de paix sans justice. Il n’y aura pas de retour des réfugiés syriens dans leur patrie sans retour du droit dans leur pays. Alors agissons pour eux et agissons pour nos valeurs.

 
  
 

(The sitting was suspended at 19.32)

 
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