The Syrian crisis will be discussed at today’s meeting in Brussels of the EU Foreign Affairs Council, which will have to decide whether to extend the sanctions against the regime, which expire on 28 February. The weapons embargo will be among the measures discussed
On the diplomatic front, Arab League and UN Special Envoy Lakhdar Brahimi met recently with the head of the Syrian opposition coalition Ahmed Moaz al-Khatib, encouraging him to pursue efforts to launch a dialogue with the regime: al-Khatib’s answer was on the condition of President Bashar al-Assad’s removal.
The situation on the ground grows increasingly critical. On Tuesday UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay reported to the Security Council that the dead by now number 70,000 (90,000 according to Saudi sources), and criticised the international community’s inertia and inability to stop the conflict that has led to “this disastrous outcome”, repeating his request that Syria be handled by the International Criminal Court; even more alarming was Secretary General Ban Ki-moon’s warning that the country “is self-destructing”. Meanwhile, according to the World Food Program (WFP), approximately 40,000 persons have fled the eastern Syrian city of al Shaddadeh after three days of heavy fighting. According to UNHCR estimates updated as of 6 February, there are 787,000 Syrian refugees in neighbouring countries (Lebanon, Jornam, Turkey and Iraq), but the number is rising at a rate of 5,000 per day.
Next meeting of the “Friends of Syria” to be held in Rome
Italy supports the need to accelerate efforts toward resolving the situation politically through President Assad’s exit from the scene, as well as to both strengthen international community support for the opposition coalition and consolidate and supplement humanitarian interventions. Rome is preparing to host the next meeting of the “Friends of Syria” in the near future.
Mali: PM Traoré in Brussels
The EU foreign ministers will also discuss Mali, in particular a timeframe for the training mission. Interim Prime Minister of Mali Dioncounda Traoré will be in Brussels on Monday to meet with top European institutional officials. This will be the first EU visit by the Malian government since the French military intervention. The meeting with President of the European Commission José Manuel Barroso, according to a spokesperson, “will mark the common desire to expand political dialogue between Europe and Mali”. Meanwhile Brussels has released the first installment (€20 million) of a €250-million aid programme.