Thursday

22nd Oct 2020

EU considering global summit on Syria crisis

  • Hague at a meeting of the Libya contact group last year, shortly before Nato countries and rebels brought down Gaddafi (Photo: FCO)

UK foreign minister William Hague has said EU countries may convene a global summit on how to bring down Syrian leader Bashar Assad despite a blockage in the UN.

He told MPs in London on Monday (6 February) the UK and France are working to create a so-called Friends of Syria Group - an informal club of countries that will seek ways to make Assad stop military action, hand over power to a national unity government and hold free elections.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

Asked by one deputy if an EU-Arab League summit will take place in the next few days or weeks, he said: "That is indeed one of the possibilities for bringing together a wider group of countries. But I think it would be wise to have a bigger group, as there are many African nations that have been supportive in the UN, and in Latin America as well."

He noted: "I have spoken to [Turkish] foreign minister Ahmet Davutoglu and ... I would expect Turkey to be an active participant in the new international grouping that will be formed."

French President Nicolas Sarkozy first floated the idea of a Syria contact group on Saturday after China and Russia vetoed a UN Security Council (UNSC) resolution calling for the Assad hand-over, itself an Arab League idea.

Russia has said that Nato countries are keen to start a war with Assad for their own strategic aims. Meanwhile, the EU and US say Russia is cynically protecting its old ally despite reports of mass-killings.

A diplomat from one EU country said the contact group could - in theory - go as far as arming the Syrian opposition without breaking international law.

"If you take the hypothesis that the [opposition] Syrian National Council is the legitimate government and this council asks for weapons or military advice, then obviously EU member states or the Arab League would be perfectly free to provide that if they were willing to," he said.

"This doesn't undermine the UN. You can do plenty of things [without a UNSC resolution], but, of course, without one you don't have such a strong political mandate," he added.

France already recognised the Syrian council last November.

For her part, Chancellor Angela Merkel at a meeting with Sarkozy in Paris on Monday said she gives him a free hand in terms of German support for the contact group plan.

The German leader used unusually forceful language to condemn Russia, a German ally, which orchestrated the veto with China.

"We were not only disappointed but furious that we were not able to get approval of a UN resolution. And I have to say here, Russia must ask itself if we are really in a historical situation where policy should be made separately from the Arab League. I can't imagine that this will prove to be a big success," she said.

Russia: EU and US want war with Syria

Russia has accused Nato countries of trying to start a war with Syria and foment unrest in Iran - claims backed up by some Western security analysts.

News in Brief

  1. Commission to press Croatia on migrant 'abuse' at border
  2. Belarus opposition awarded 2020 Sakharov Prize
  3. Belgium's foreign minister in intensive care for Covid-19
  4. MEPs restrict CAP funding for bullfighting
  5. Coronavirus: Liège is 'the Lombardy of the second wave'
  6. UK to keep out EU nationals with criminal past
  7. Report: EU to restrict travel from Canada, Tunisia, Georgia
  8. Pope Francis supports same-sex civil unions

Column

A 'geopolitical' EU Commission. Great idea - but when?

Safeguarding Europe's position starts with recognising the unpleasant reality that Europe's power is waning. Behind the facade of European cooperation, national self-interest still predominates and that has never been any different.

Rightwing MEPs bend to Saudi will after Khashoggi death

Saudi dissident and journalist Jamal Khashoggi was killed two years ago on 2 October. Since then, mainly centre-right, conservative and far-right MEPs have voted down any moves to restrict, limit or ban the sales of weapons to the Saudi regime.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNESDAMaking healthier diets the easy choice
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersUN Secretary General to meet with Nordic Council on COVID-19
  3. UNESDAWell-designed Deposit Return Schemes can help reach Single-Use Plastics Directive targets
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Council meets Belarusian opposition leader Svetlana Tichanovskaja
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region to invest DKK 250 million in green digitalised business sector
  6. UNESDAReducing packaging waste – a huge opportunity for circularity

Latest News

  1. Nato and EU silent on Turkey, despite Armenia's appeal
  2. EU tells UK to decide on Brexit as deal 'within reach'
  3. EU farming deal attacked by Green groups
  4. France vows tough retaliation for teacher's murder
  5. All eyes on EU court for decision on religious slaughter
  6. 'Big majority' of citizens want EU funds linked to rule of law
  7. EU declares war on Malta and Cyprus passport sales
  8. EU Commission's Libya stance undercut by internal report

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us