Dr Charles Tannock

Member of the European Parliament for London

Latest developments in the Middle East, including Syria

Delivered in Plenary - 12th June 2012

Mr President

The ECR Group utterly condemns the barbaric atrocities perpetrated against innocent civilians, including women and children, by the al-Assad Ba’athist regime in Syria. Damascus has turned its paramilitary thugs against its own citizens. The so-called ‘shabiha’ are beyond control and are increasingly acting with total impunity. Their atrocities have actually shocked the international community and are reminiscent in my view of the unspeakable atrocities of the Balkans 20 years ago.

Considering the rapidly deteriorating situation, it is clear now that the Annan Plan has sadly failed, so Russia must now step up and use its unique leverage on Damascus to effect change and reverse its Security Council veto, thus unblocking the path for robust international action on Syria to prevent further bloodshed and pave the way, hopefully, for a democratic regime change with al-Assad well gone.

Russia must be aware that its credibility now is seriously at stake in the Arab world. China will surely follow the Russian lead. Clearly, the international community must now look to the Arab League for guidance, but I am not sure about Saudi Arabia and Qatar alone, because they are not entirely credible in my view as they are not true democracies and they are far too close politically speaking, and even arming the salafists. The Syrian National Council must now be more united. We must work on that, so all options are open to the West including now an arms embargo and even limited military intervention to protect further civilian atrocities. All this must remain on the table to avert further descent into an all-out sectarian civil war, or even Rwanda or Srebrenica-style genocide.

We should also consider proposing a fresh resolution in the Security Council to indict al-Assad and his henchmen before the ICC. Turkey of course is a key player and ultimately is a democracy with the military might to intervene, if it so wishes, at its borders, to impose a humanitarian safe corridor if necessary. Iran, which is dragging its feet, as you well know High Representative, with the EU and the IAEA over nuclear negotiations, will do everything it can to support its Damascus ally and its proxy Hezbollah, but the EU has no interest whatsoever, Ms Brantner, in supporting either of these two brutal regimes. Iran does not belong in the Contact Group, I am sorry.