Ms. Catherine ASHTON, High Representative of the EU for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy.

Ms. Catherine ASHTON, High Representative of the EU for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy.

The foreign ministers of the EU decided after 12 hours of discussions, they will not renew the embargo on weapons to the Syrian Opposition that ends next Saturday. The UK and France were pushing for the end of the embargo to press the regime of Al Assad ahead of the planned conference of peace in Geneva proposed by the US and Russia and they succeeded.

But Russia criticized the decision and said would harm the prospects for a peace conference. Also said it will deliver its S-300 anti-aircraft missiles already sold to Syria. According to the BBC, Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said the missiles were a “stabilising factor” that could dissuade “some hotheads” from entering the conflict.

So, we have the promise of more weapons for both sides and at the same time an effort to meet with the same sides to talk about a political solution for peace. So much for the confidence on the success of the talks.

Today, with the embargo still in place, armed men killed three Lebanese soldiers at an army checkpoint in the eastern Bekaa Valley, according to Al Jazzera, then fled towards the Syrian border,  showing how high is the risk of the internationalization of this war in a matter of days and the urgency to talk.

The European countries are now free to send weapons to the moderate opposition groups under some conditions, but not before August, because they say they will wait for the result of the conference of peace proposed by the US and Russia.

One of this conditions is that the weapons have to be used by moderate groups to protect civilians. But there are also radical movements fighting on the field, some with links with Al Qaeda, and the outcome of the battle is uncertain. Despite the efforts to present two sides: one represented by the National Syrian Coalition an other by the regime of Bashar Al Assad, there are many sides fighting now to topple Al Assad, and nobody knows what will happen after that (if the moment comes) between them: the Free Syrian Army, the Jihadists and the Kurds among others.

The EU in its declaration as it does frequently plays two games and condemns both sides but says that the crimes of the opposition forces”do not reach the intensity and scale of those committed by the regime forces and affiliated militias”. Before deciding putting an end to the embargo the declaration says that  is against the escalation of violence and for a political solution, but after that establishes in with terms the members can supply arms to the Syrian opposition as it appears below.

The EU – says the declaration – is appalled by the escalating violence and the continued widespread and systematic gross violations of human rights in Syria, reiterates its condemnation of the atrocities committed by the Syrian regime, which according to the report of the Independent Commission of Inquiry amount to crimes against humanity, and calls for the end of all violence. The EU is seriously concerned with the ongoing military operations conducted by the regime and its supporters in the city of Qusayr. The EU condemns the recent massacres committed by the Syrian armed forces and its militias in Bayda and Baniyas that claimed the lives of more than 140 people, including women and children.

The EU is deeply concerned with the rise of religiously or ethnically motivated violence. The EU calls for the immediate release of the two recently kidnapped orthodox bishops.

The EU deplores serious abuses, including war crimes that are being committed by anti- Government armed groups documented in the report of the Commission of Inquiry, although such abuses do not reach the intensity and scale of those committed by the regime forces and affiliated militias. The EU calls on all sides to fully respect the freedom of movement and physical integrity of all UNDOF and UNTSO personnel. In this regard the EU condemns all instances of hostage taking of peacekeepers.

The EU reiterates the urgent need for a political solution of the conflict and welcomes the joint US-Russian call for a peace conference on Syria to promote a political process based on the principles included in the Geneva communiqué of 30 June 2012. The EU will spare no effort in helping to create the appropriate conditions for a successful convening of this conference. The EU calls on both sides of the conflict to respond positively to this call and to engage openly in a genuine Syrian-led process of negotiations, aiming at a democratic and peaceful political solution on the basis of the Geneva communiqué of 30 June 2012, which foresees inter alia the establishment, on the basis of mutual consent, of a transitional governing body, which would exercise full executive powers. The EU will continue to work with all interested parties, specifically with the UN, the League of Arab States, the Joint Special Representative Brahimi, and all those sincerely committed to the success of this initiative.

Later the declaration says:

The EU renews its commitment to respond to humanitarian needs in Syria and its neighbouring countries, notably Lebanon and Jordan as well as countries of the broader region in accordance with the EU Consensus on Humanitarian Aid. The EU commends those countries that keep their borders open in order to provide safe haven for refugees and also expresses concern about the fate of Palestinian refugees.

The EU calls on all donors to fulfil their pledges made at the Kuwait humanitarian conference of 31 January and to commit to provide further support to those in need.

The EU remains deeply concerned by the spill-over of the Syrian crisis in neighbouring countries and supports their efforts to contain it. The EU is seriously concerned with the involvement of extremist and foreign non-state actors in the fighting in Syria, which is further fuelling the conflict and posing a threat to regional stability.

The EU remains committed to the sovereignty, independence and the territorial integrity of Syria.

The EU expresses its great concern regarding the possible use of chemical weapons in Syria. The EU reiterates the importance of the role of the fact-finding mission established by the United Nations Secretary General to investigate the allegations of use of chemical weapons in Syria. The EU calls on the Syrian authorities to co-operate fully with the investigation and allow it full and unfettered access throughout the country without delay. The use of chemical weapons by anyone under any circumstances is completely unacceptable. The EU will increase coordination with international partners on the threat of chemical and biological weapons and explore ways of cooperation, also with partners in the region and relevant international organisations and bodies in particular to prevent and combat the risk of voluntary or accidental spread of such weapons to neighbouring countries.

The EU will pursue its efforts to reinforce its assistance and support to the civilian population, in coordination with the Assistant Coordination Unit of the SOC and with local civilian structures in order to maintain or re-establish basic services for the benefit of the civilian population.

The EU remains committed to deliver non-humanitarian assistance through all possible channels in order to reach as many people in need as possible and continues its efforts within the Working Group on Economic Recovery to ensure close coordination with other international actors. In order to ensure effective delivery of help to those most in need inside Syria, the EU welcomes the work to establish the Syrian Recovery Trust Fund being taken forward by the co-chairs of the Working Group on Economic Recovery.

The EU will continue to work closely with international partners on planning to ensure that the international community is ready to provide rapid support to Syria once transition takes place. The EU will start without delay to work on articulating a comprehensive response to challenges that shall arise in the post-crisis context, including on justice and security.”

After all this and after renewing the economic sanctions to the regime of Al Assad, the Union decided

With regard to the possible export of arms to Syria, the Council took note of the commitment by Member States to proceed in their national policies as follows:

–  the sale, supply, transfer or export of military equipment or of equipment which might be used for internal repression will be for the Syrian National Coalition for Opposition and Revolutionary Forces and intended for the protection of civilians;

–  Member States shall require adequate safeguards against misuse of authorizations granted, in particular relevant information concerning the end-user and final destination of the delivery;

–  Member States shall asses the export licence applications on a case-by-case basis, taking full account of the criteria set out in Council Common Position 2008/944/CFSP of 8 December 2008 defining common rules governing control of exports of military technology and equipment.

Member States will not proceed at this stage with the delivery of the equipment mentioned above.

The Council will review its position before 1 August 2013 on the basis of a report by the High Representative, after having consulted the UN Secretary General, on the developments related to the US-Russia initiative and on the engagement of the Syrian parties.

About Olga Brajnović

Journalist. In my fifties. I've worked for 26 years in a newspaper in Spain. I worked for two years as a stringer and correspondent in the US, and went as a special envoy to other places like the Balkans. Sea lover. Avid reader. Classic Music enthusiast.

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