Tuesday

23rd Apr 2019

No change in EU policy after Syria 'massacre'

  • Bodies in Houla. The UN counted 32 children under the age of 10 and over 60 adults (Photo: FreedomHouse2)

A "massacre" in the village of Houla in Syria on Friday (25 May) has not altered EU policy on the conflict.

The UN Security Council in a press statement on Sunday said "dozens of men, women and children" are dead and "hundreds" more wounded.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

It noted the casualties were partly caused by "attacks that involved a series of government artillery and tank shellings on a residential neighbourhood." It also said there was "killing of civilians by shooting at close range and by severe physical abuse." But it did not say who did the point-blank killing.

Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov in a press conference with his British counterpart, William Hague, in Moscow on Monday indicated that opposition groups perpetrated some of the atrocities to make Syrian President Bashar Assad look bad.

"Both sides are responsible for the deaths of innocent civilians," he said.

For his part, Hague noted: "We are not arguing that all violence in Syria is the responsibility of the Assad regime."

Meanwhile, French President Francois Hollande - in his first intervention on major foreign policy - published a joint statement with British leader David Cameron on Tuesday morning.

The two men blamed the "massacre" squarely on Assad's "senseless murderous brutality" and said they would meet the Syrian opposition in Paris on an unspecified date.

They repeated the EU's pre-Houla line that outside intervention should stop at diplomatic pressure and that the best solution is UN special envoy Kofi Annan's blueprint for a ceasefire followed by a "Syrian-led" political process.

Unlike more hawkish EU statements in previous months, they did not call on Assad to step down or for the creation of humanitarian corridors guarded by international troops.

Speaking for the EU in her statement on Sunday, foreign affairs chief Catherine Ashton hedged her bets on who did what at Houla.

She said she is "appalled" by "reports" that it was government forces. She also endorsed the Annan plan, but added that the "international community" should keep "urging Assad to step aside."

The US has said it favours a Yemen-type resolution, in which Assad goes in return for immunity. But its top military commander, general Jack Dempsey, told the CBS news channel that he still favours "diplomatic pressure."

The information war on Syria also emerged at a minor press event in the EU capital on Saturday.

A pro-Assad group staged a press conference under the eyes of the Belgian police in which a Christian friar from the monastery of Mar Yakub in Syria blamed all violence in the country on "fanatical Muslims financed by Saudi Arabia and Qatar." Anti-Assad NGOs heckled the speakers and said they were paid for or manipulated by the Syrian embassy in Brussels.

Syrian soldiers have reportedly defected in large numbers to the Free Syrian Army (FSA) in recent weeks.

But a senior FSA commander on Tuesday told Israel's Haaretz newspaper that Assad still has 70,000 loyalists under his command and a cache of chemical weapons under the control of Abdel-Fatah Qudsiyeh, his chief of secret police.

Apart from Chinese and Russian support at the UN-level, his regime is also backed by Iran and Shia Muslim factions in neighbouring Iraq and Lebanon.

EU migrants sneaking into US from Mexico

Almost 1,000 Romanian nationals were caught trying to sneak into the United States in 2017, of which around half attempted to cross via Mexico. Nationals from countries like Hungary and the UK were also intercepted.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Counter BalanceSign the petition to help reform the EU’s Bank
  2. UNICEFChild rights organisations encourage candidates for EU elections to become Child Rights Champions
  3. UNESDAUNESDA Outlines 2019-2024 Aspirations: Sustainability, Responsibility, Competitiveness
  4. Counter BalanceRecord citizens’ input to EU bank’s consultation calls on EIB to abandon fossil fuels
  5. International Partnership for Human RightsAnnual EU-Turkmenistan Human Rights Dialogue takes place in Ashgabat
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNew campaign: spot, capture and share Traces of North
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersLeading Nordic candidates go head-to-head in EU election debate
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Secretary General: Nordic co-operation must benefit everybody
  9. Platform for Peace and JusticeMEP Kati Piri: “Our red line on Turkey has been crossed”
  10. UNICEF2018 deadliest year yet for children in Syria as war enters 9th year
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic commitment to driving global gender equality
  12. International Partnership for Human RightsMeet your defender: Rasul Jafarov leading human rights defender from Azerbaijan

Latest News

  1. Ukraine comic-president invited to EU capitals
  2. Trump's Israel plan to 'test' EU resolve
  3. Romania drafts EU code on NGO migrant rescues
  4. Bulgaria, Hungary, and Malta shamed on press unfreedom
  5. EU drafts $20bn US sanctions list in aviation dispute
  6. Brunei defends stoning to death of gay men in EU letter
  7. US Democrats side with Ireland on Brexit
  8. Wifi or 5G to connect EU cars? MEPs weigh in

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us