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Dora Bakoyannis: ‘There is space for Europe to play a useful role in Syria’

“The situation in Syria has severely deteriorated to the extent that the UN Secretary General has described it as ‘hell on earth’ and, on the political front, the international community has failed to achieve a political solution,” said Dora Bakoyannis (Greece, EPP/CD), speaking today in the framework of the preparation of a report on the issue, at the opening of a hearing on the situation in Syria and its effects upon surrounding countries, organised in Paris by the Political Affairs Committee.

The involvement of international players “creates a complex situation, particularly because of the continuous shifts of alliances, an indication of serious strategic failures across the region”, the rapporteur said. Until now, “none of the existing political negotiations succeeded in achieving an agreement. The Syrian crisis reflects the many competing agendas between international players”, she added.

Addressing the committee, Eugenio Dacrema, Research Fellow on the Middle East and Northern Africa at the Italian Institute of International Political Studies, said that “deep division” defined European countries’ approach to Syria. While some of them intervened directly in the conflict, like Turkey and Russia, “EU countries are generally hostile to the regime, with exceptions, but do not directly support the rebels”.

To different extents, he said, all European countries share three common interests: limitation of refugee flows, limitation of the terrorist threat and stabilisation of the Middle East region.

Questioned as to whether the current trajectory of the Syrian conflict was going in the direction of European interests, he said that “only in part, and significant risks persist. The resilience of the Assad regime avoids unknown and potentially more dangerous alternatives.” However, the approach that the regime (and its allies) is employing in the last phase of the conflict “is problematic, since this approach is the military solution”.

According to Mrs Bakoyannis, “active diplomacy is needed”. Europeans, she said, “should advance a political track that, through de-escalation and devolution will bring some respite to the Syrian people. Besides, there is space for them to play a useful role. Moreover, special attention should be given to Lebanon and Jordan. They need extra humanitarian assistance in order to handle the refugee influx.”

“It is high time to agree a plan for the peaceful transformation of Syria into a politically fair, secure and stable state. Our main goal is to give the Syrian people security and assistance to rebuild their country and help refugees to go back and vote for a new Constitution. Otherwise, organising elections, while millions of Syrians are living abroad, would be meaningless,” Mrs Bakoyannis concluded.