Plenary speech on the latest developments in the Middle East & Syria

During this week's plenary session in Strasbourg MEPs discussed the latest developments in the Middle East, particularly in Syria. Just before the start of the debate it was announced that Sakharov-prize winner, Egyptian activists Asmaa Mahfouz, was acquitted by an Egyptian court from battery and assault charges. Marietje shares the news with the plenary and continues about the crisis in Syria and the EU's role in finding a political solution. Marietje Schaake (ALDE) – Mr President, I would like to ask a few seconds of your time before I start my speech on Syria, which is what I want to focus on, because there is actually good news to share with this House. The Sakharov winner, Asmaa Mahfouz, has been acquitted of all the allegations against her, and I thought it would be appropriate, while we are talking about these difficult challenges, that we also share this moment of good news together. On Syria, I welcome the High Representative. We have to ask ourselves what, in ten years’ time, we will tell the widows and parents whose children have been tortured to death and killed at point blank range. The new generation of Syrians who wish to fight for more freedom and justice need support. Europe was, can and should be a beacon of freedom, and this comes with responsibility. That is not to say that solutions in Syria are easy, but at least the EU needs to act as a global player and should be united. I urge you to set out a vision and a strategy and to take Member States along. When will the EU Member States really get behind a common foreign and defence policy if it is not in the face of this terrible violence and in this crucial moment in the Middle East? There is a clear need for a new coalition of the willing to save lives and to ensure a transition to a Syria which does not fall into a domino pattern of revenge actions and sectarian war. Despite the weapon supplies and the less than responsible attitude we have seen so far, Russia must be part of the solution. I welcome the contact group you mentioned if it leads to action instead of distraction. Do you also see more room for targeted EU sanctions to pressure al-Assad, and how will you ensure that EU sanctions are enforced and that no more ships such as the one from Russia carrying weapons can dock in Cyprus and then reach Syria?