Dr Charles Tannock

Member of the European Parliament for London

Situation in Syria

Delivered in Plenary - 15th February 2012

Madam President,

The shelling in the city of Homs by the Syrian regime is atrocious and must be condemned unequivocally by the international community. The decision of China and Russia to veto a UN resolution condemning this brutal crackdown and the killing of many unarmed women and children is also shameful.

The Syrian regime must be unanimously called upon by the international community to withdraw its forces from the cities of Syria, to allow human rights agencies access to the country and to pave the way for eventual democratic elections.

The Turkish and Saudi condemnation of the regime, and in particular Turkey’s role in accepting refugees, is commendable. The Arab League should also be congratulated for seeking to end the violence and for producing a new peace plan, which the Syrian regime must implement without delay.

Syria must be made to guarantee protection for peaceful protesters and uphold the fundamental human right to freedom of expression. This is not possible, in my view, with Assad still in power. He bears ultimate responsibility for any criminal actions of the army, in particular the most active Alawite units, as many Sunni units are now defecting when deployed militarily. He must recognise the popular rejection of his dictatorship and step aside in the national interest.

Yesterday Mr Verhofstadt called for arming the Free Syrian Army. This, in my view, is dangerous at this stage as we do not know who they all are and what role the Jihadis play in this and how this might cause a proxy war with Iran and Hezbollah on one side pouring in arms to the Ba’athist regime and Saudi Arabia and Qatar arming Islamist insurgents, with innocent unarmed Christians, Alawites not allied to the regime and other minorities – from Kurds to the Druze – being caught up in a bloody civil war with major reprisals against non-Sunni Muslims.

However, I – and my group – would support setting up a safe haven for refugees with a no-fly zone, if eventually militarily possible, near the Turkish border. But even that is not clearly achievable at this stage. However, every other economic sanction against Damascus must be put in place urgently.