MEPs demand UN-backed response to Syria’s chemical weapons

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The European Parliament called for a binding international resolution on how to deter the use of chemical weapons in Syria yesterday (12 September), as the US and Russian foreign ministers are due to hold a second round of talks on the crisis in Geneva.

MEPs strongly condemned the mass killing of civilians with chemical weapons on 21 August 2013 in the outskirts of Damascus and urged that measures be taken to prevent any further use of chemical weapons in Syria or elsewhere.

They said the UN Security Council must get the report of the UN inspection team as soon as possible and they also voice support for the proposal to hand the Syrian chemical weapons to international community for its destruction as soon as possible.

Welcoming the Russian plan to secure and destroy Syria’s chemical weapons arsenal, the 751-seat assembly added that the use of such weapons "requires a clear, strong, targeted and united response, not excluding eventual deterrent measures."

Parliament says Russia and China must face their responsibility as permanent members of the Security Council to achieve a common position and a diplomatic solution to the Syrian crisis. In the event of a persistent blockage in the Security Council, the matter could be referred to the UN General Assembly, MEPs stressed.

During a debate before the vote, Catherine Ashton, the EU's foreign policy chief, told MEPs that for the first time in a long time, the international community is uniting towards a consensus on Syria.

Ashton added that the Syrian regime should not only say it will agree to an international action, but it actually does follow with measures “quickly, fully and without conditions”.

Liberal leader in the European Parliament, Guy Verhofstadt, cautioned that the EU and US should not be fooled by delaying tactics by Syria.

He also criticised the EU for not taking a greater role, arguing that Ashton should be present at the meetings in Geneva between the US and Russian foreign ministers to help carve the Syria solution.

The conflict in Syria has not only posed a threat to the region’s stability for the past two years, but it has also had a terrible human cost.

By early September, 2 million refugees Syrians, half of them children, had to seek refuge in another country, according to the UN. By the end of the year close to 3.5 million Syrians are expected to flee their homes.

The EU has allocated more than €300 million in funding to help relieve the humanitarian crisis in Syria and MEPs also gave their backing earlier this year to adding €19.5 million for food, shelter and medical supplies.

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