Friday

26th Apr 2019

EU welcomes watered-down UN text on Syria

  • UNSC mural in New York. Human Rights Watch chief Ken Roth gave scant praise to the UNSC statement, saying it was 'better late than never' (Photo: United Nations Photo)

EU foreign ministers have welcomed a UN statement calling on "all sides" to stop violence in Syria. But US diplomats say European oil sanctions are needed to exert pressure on the regime.

The UN Security Council (UNSC) in a presidential statement published on Wednesday (3 August) "[called] for an immediate end to all violence and [urged] all sides to act with utmost restraint, and to refrain from reprisals, including attacks against state institutions."

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 also requested "the [UN] secretary general to update the security council on the situation in Syria within seven days."

The communique replaces a more weighty EU-sponsored draft UNSC resolution put forward two months ago. The failed EU text had called for a UN investigation into "crimes against humanity" perpetrated against "peaceful protesters."

EU foreign ministers hailed the UNSC statement despite its diluted language, designed to appease Syria's historic ally, Russia.

France's Alain Juppe said in a statement: "The council is sending an unambigious message to Damascus." The UK's William Hague noted: "The support for this statement throughout the security council demonstrates the rising international concern at the unacceptable behaviour of the regime." Sweden's Carl Bildt called it an "important step."

The move did nothing to stop killings in Syria, however.

Reports on Thursday morning say at least 45 people lost their lives in the town of Hama when Syrian tanks shelled civilian homes while soldiers posted on roads out of the city and snipers picked off individuals, including children.

Speaking in Congress on Tuesday, the US ambassador to Syria, Robert Ford, gave the lie to the UNSC hypothesis that the Syrian opposition is engaging in "reprisals."

"The most dangerous weapon [in the hands of protesters] I saw was a sling-shot," he said of his trip to Hama last month.

Ford added that the EU should impose oil sanctions on Syria if the international community wants to put real pressure on President Bashar Assad.

"Unilaterally, additional American measures probably aren't going to have that big of an impact ... The big companies working in the energy sector in Syria are from Europe or Syria's neighbours."

An open letter sent by 68 US senators to President Barack Obama on Wednesday backed Ford's position. "We ask that you engage with our European allies and European energy companies on ceasing the purchase of Syrian oil and investment in Syria's oil and gas sectors, and that you work to encourage the European Union to sanction the Commercial Bank of Syria," it said.

The only pro-oil-sanction call in Brussels has so far come from the Liberal group in the EU parliament.

Liberal leader Guy Verhofstadt on Tuesday said in a press release that: "listing ... the two state-owned oil companies Syria Petroleum Corporation and Sytrol would significantly deprive the regime of its daily revenues, since 90 percent of Syrian oil exports are exported to the EU - and market conditions do not favour easy substitution of other arrangements."

The EU has so far imposed travel bans and asset freezes on 35 Syrian regime members and four defence-related Syrian companies.

Trump's Israel plan to 'test' EU resolve

EU countries ought to draw "red lines" for US president Donald Trump on the Arab-Israeli conflict, Herman Van Rompuy, the former head of the EU Council, has said.

EU seeks mini-trade detente with US

EU states have agreed to open trade talks with the US in a bid to rebuild relations with their oldest partner on the world stage.

News in Brief

  1. Talks to merge Germany's two largest banks collapse
  2. EU and Japan back Iran nuclear deal despite US
  3. China addresses EU concerns on belt and road plan
  4. EU: Russian citizenship plan 'attacks' Ukraine sovereignty
  5. Deutsche Bank hands over Trump loan documents
  6. UN: Europe is badly prepared for new refugee crisis
  7. Macron to set out 'Yellow vest' counter measures
  8. Italy requests EU action plan for new Libya migrant wave

Opinion

Closer EU-Caribbean ties mean greater prosperity for all

The foreign affairs minister of Haiti calls for the replacement EU-Africa, Caribbean, Pacific 'Cotonou' agreement of 2000 to be updated to take account climate change, infrastructure and tourism to help the country transition away from aid-dependence.

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. Migration and climate are EU's top priorities, Macron says
  2. Greens commit to air quality 'super commissioner'
  3. Far-right Facebook networks removed before Spain election
  4. EU and Japan in delicate trade talks
  5. Closer EU-Caribbean ties mean greater prosperity for all
  6. Details of EU Brexit talks with Blair and Soros kept secret
  7. Weber vows to block Nord Stream 2 amid 'sue' threat
  8. 'Next Juncker' must fix EU's corporate power problem

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us