European Parliament, Strasbourg © EU
International developments in Syria and Egypt were the focus on debate in the European Parliament on 11 September when Catherine Ashton gave keynote speeches on Syria and Egypt.
On Syria Catherine Ashton recalled the substantive EU position agreed by all 28 Member States at their recent meeting in Vilnius: Namely, the condemnation of the chemical attack, the recognition of the apparent evidence of the regime's responsibility, the necessity for the international community to respond and a strong call on the Security Council to fulfill its responsibilities. They also stressed the importance of a political solution and the EU's commitment to providing humanitarian aid now and in the future.
The European Parliament in a lively plenary debate and in its resolution widely welcomed and supported the agreed position of the EU Foreign Ministers and the High Representative. Indeed MEPs strongly condemned the mass killing of civilians with chemical weapons on 21 August 2013 and urged that measures be taken to prevent any further use of chemical weapons in Syria or elsewhere. They called upon the UN Security Council to get the report of the UN inspection team as soon as possible and they also voiced support for the proposal to hand the Syrian chemical weapons to international community for its destruction as soon as possible.
On the most recent developments, namely that Russia has proposed putting the Syrian chemical weapons arsenal under international control and destroying it eventually and that the Syrian foreign minister welcomed this proposal, Catherine Ashton clearly stated to the European Parliament: "I think it's very important to take this momentum and to use it. Because what we are seeing for the first time in a long time, it's the international community uniting towards an action on Syria. But, Honourable Members, we need to proceed with care and examine the developments in detail.
First of all, to ensure that the Syrian regime not only says it will agree to an international action but it must do so quickly, fully and without conditions. It has to follow up with transparency and to make sure that it adheres to all the requirements. It needs to be a different response, in other words, from the response we have had in the past. Broken promises, obstacles put in the way of international efforts."
She continued by saying "The latest developments, therefore, are an opportunity to reinvigorate not just trying to sort out the chemical weapons issue but the broader political dimension. And I hope that we will seize the opportunity to try and urge all to do this."
Catherine Ashton concluded the debate by highlighting that whatever the view on the threat of military strikes is, the reality is that this is a moment to try and pull towards the process that is so necessary to find a political solution and that we need to engage with all partners.
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