14th May 2021

EU tells UN that political solution on Syria is within reach

  • Van Rompuy at the UN: the EU won new powers at the world body in 2011 (Photo:

EU Council chief Herman Van Rompuy has told the UN that the recent deal on Syria's chemical weapons could help end the civil war.

Van Rompuy put the Syria conflict, which he described as a "black wall of doom," at the centre of his UN address.

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He noted that the Russia-US agreement for international monitors to destroy Syria's chemical arsenal is a "political opening [which] matters deeply."

"If commitments can be upheld and promises kept on chemical weapons, if lines of communication can reopen, if we can find an agreement within the international community and at the [UN] Security Council... if we can do all this on chemical weapons, then chances are we can do it elsewhere," he said.

He predicted that if the conflict goes on, "there may be three and a half million refugees before the year is over."

Van Rompuy spoke the same day as foreign ministers from the five UN Security Council [UNSC] veto powers - China, France, Russia, the UK and the US - met in New York to discuss a draft UNSC resolution on the chemical weapons agreement.

The US wants the text to invoke chapter VII of the UN charter, or, in other words, to threaten use of force if Syria does not comply. But Russia wants a softer text.

A Western diplomat told Reuters the latest draft threatens to "impose measures" under chapter VII, but stipulates that another resolution, also subject to a Russian veto, would be needed to take military action.

"We have a few details to solve. But I think we shall reach a common resolution maybe today or tomorrow," French foreign minister Laurent Fabius told press.

Meanwhile, Van Rompuy noted that the EU is a major world player despite its economic crisis.

His speech marks just the third time in UN history that the EU's top official addresses the UN General Assembly after the EU won new UN powers in 2011.

Van Rompuy noted that "Europe is not disengaging [from world affairs], even despite the economic difficulties that the past years have brought."

He said: "Today, the eurozone is financially in better shape than 12 months ago. The existential threat to the euro area is over and we are now fully focusing on improving prospects for employment and growth."

He added that the crisis has brought the EU closer together as a "political project."

"Our political will to preserve Europe's unity cannot be underestimated. We have shown it these past five years," he said.

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