MEP: Assad and opposition must return to negotiating table

Member of the European Parliament, Marietje Schaake (ALDE/D66), wants the EU to increase the pressure on the Assad regime and the Syrian opposition to return to the negotiating table in Geneva. Today, European ministers for Foreign Affairs meet to discuss the Syrian crisis and other issues. Schaake: “The conflict in Syria is in a complete deadlock and the distance between the two sides keeps on growing. We cannot stand by and watch as the war and humanitarian disaster cause huge suffering. In the end, the two sides will have to face negotiations because a military solution to the crisis is not to be expected. During the last negotiations in Geneva, a very small step in the right direction was made through a temporary ceasefire in and around the besieged city of Homs. If we are able to negotiate some more humanitarian access through new talks, that would be an achievement in itself. The European Union must call for talks, not only with the Syrian regime and opposition, but also other countries who are playing an important role in the conflict, such as Russia, Iran, the Gulf States and the US.” Chemical weapons Last Friday, both regime and opposition sources reported the use of chemical weapons in Syria, various sides blamed each other. Schaake: “Chemical weapons are just one aspect of the conflict, but this attack shows how far beyond any red lines this war has gotten. The OPCW should be given the opportunity to investigate this latest attack, so that the responsibility for it can be independently verified.” To date, Syria has removed almost 60 per cent of its highest priority chemical weapons. A representative of the OPCW stated that the country needs to quicken procedures if it wants to keep with the time schedule that has been agreed. Broad approach According to Schaake, the solution to the Syrian crisis needs to be sought more broadly than just within the Syrian borders. Schaake: “It is clear that external forces, like Iran, Russia and the Gulf States have a lot of impact on the conflict and the fighting parties. Therefore, we need to look for a broad diplomatic approach in which we involve all the relevant players, including at the negotiating table in Geneva. A sustainable solution will be increasingly difficult if they do not participate or if they are refused.”