Thursday

2nd Apr 2020

Bahrain, Syria and Yemen 'playing with fire'

  • The USS Dwight D. Eisenhower in the Arabian Sea in 2010 (Photo: cusnc.navy.mil)

A Hungarian junior minister speaking in the name of EU foreign relations chief Catherine Ashton has said that Bahrain, Syria and Yemen should beware of Libya-type military intervention.

Zsolt Nemeth, Hungary's deputy foreign minister, made the remarks at a European Parliament debate in Strasbourg on Wednesday (6 April). He spoke on behalf of Ashton, who from time-to-time asks people from the rotating EU presidency to step in when she is busy.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

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

... or join as a group

With NGOs reporting that Bahrain has so far killed 23 people, Syria 122 and Yemen 63, Nemeth said: "We've been discussing these three countries, where there are authoritarian regimes which are also playing with fire, and where there is a risk of intervention."

"I think we have sent out a very clear and important signal that came from the high representative [Ashton] and that is a very crucial message to these three countries - they know that in Libya and also in the Ivory Coast there have been military interventions and that's always a possibility."

Referring to UN Security Council resolution 1973 allowing strikes on Libya, he added: "Over the past three weeks both the European and the international community have shaped a very clear philosophy under the motto of 'the responsibility to protect' … and that should be a warning sign to Yemen, Bahrain and indeed to all of those countries which maintain authoritarian regimes."

Ashton spokesman Michael Mann told EUobserver that Nemeth's "nuanced" words should not be seen as aggressive.

The Nemeth-Ashton line echoes French President Nicolas Sarkozy, who told press in Brussels shortly after French jets bombed Gaddafi that: "Every ruler should understand, and especially every Arab ruler should understand that the reaction of the international community and of Europe will from this moment on each time be the same."

British and French diplomats agree with Nemeth "in principle." But France has quietly rowed back on Sarkozy's statement in recent days, with diplomats briefing that the level of violence in Syria, for example, is nothing like that in Libya and that there is "nothing on the table" in terms of military planning.

For its part, the US is against action in places where its strategic interests do not coincide with its values.

Bahrain is home to the US Fifth Fleet and Bahrain's regional allies are part of the anti-Gaddafi coalition. Conflict in Syria could spread to Israel, Iran and pro-Syrian militants Hamas and Hezbollah in Gaza and Lebanon. Meanwhile, a power vacuum in Yemen could turn parts of it into an al-Qaeda stronghold.

Nemeth's bullish comments came after MEPs from across the political spectrum attacked Ashton for issuing statements instead of taking action.

The centre-right EPP group aims to ask her in a resolution on Thursday to consider imposing an EU asset freeze and visa ban on members of the three regimes. Several MEPs also called for an arms embargo, a snap session of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva and a freeze on EU-Syria talks on an Association Agreement.

Finnish Liberal deputy Anneli Jaatenmaki said: "I am angry … the letters we have received from Ashton are not any kind of strategy, we should stop sending empty messages."

Non-attached British MEP Diane Dodds said Ashton's contribution is "nonsense" and her European External Action Service is a waste of money: "We need much more than the odd telephone call or a statement calling for this or that."

In other parts of his analysis, Nemeth said there is an "increasing risk that radical elements will prevail" in Bahrain and that there is "no hard evidence" that Iran is behind the protests, as Bahrain and Saudi Arabia have claimed.

He said targeted sanctions "are an option" and that the EU has power to shape events in the region: "An awful lot depends on us. How the Arab spring will end depends to a great extent on us."

In Saudi Arabia, contacting the EU is a crime

Women's rights activist Loujain al-Hathloul is facing trial. One of the allegations is contacting the EU delegation. Despite pressure from Brussels, Saudi Arabia remains unimpressed.

EU declares Africa 'most important' global partner

The European Commission has a new strategy for Africa. The proposal, whose details have yet to be worked out, spans broad issues like climate, energy, digital transformation, jobs, peace, governance, and migration.

Opinion

Trump's 'plan' for Israel will go against EU values

As someone who has been personally targeted by Benjamin Netanyahu's incitement against Arabs and Palestinians, Christians, Muslims and Druze, I still believe that peace is possible. But Donald Trump's 'plan' will be a gift to Netanyahu's campaign.

China spy suspect worked for EU for 30 years

The former EU ambassador suspected by German prosecutors of spying for China was Gerhard Sabathil, according to EU officials speaking on condition of anonymity.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNESDAMaking Europe’s Economy Circular – the time is now
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersScottish parliament seeks closer collaboration with the Nordic Council
  3. UNESDAFrom Linear to Circular – check out UNESDA's new blog
  4. Nordic Council of Ministers40 years of experience have proven its point: Sustainable financing actually works
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic and Baltic ministers paving the way for 5G in the region
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersEarmarked paternity leave – an effective way to change norms

Latest News

  1. Court: Three countries broke EU law on migrant relocation
  2. Journalism hit hard by corona crisis
  3. EU fighting shortages and faulty medical supplies
  4. New EU navy operation to keep migrant details secret
  5. MEP: Constituents are our window into this tragedy
  6. Without European patriotism, EU decline is inevitable
  7. EU cancels April Fool's 'fake news'
  8. A coronavirus 'Marshall Plan' alone won't be nearly enough

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us