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Thursday 6 April 2017

Assad’s chemical attack: Mogherini has her answer

In the lead up to this week’s Brussels ‘Future of Syria’ conference, the EU’s foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said that EU reconstruction planning can be ‘a dividend for peace’ to entice parties to compromise and begin a political transition.

This was a delusion. Assad’s Economy Minister Adib Mayaleh had already said in February that future reconstruction contracts would primarily go to Russian, Iranian, and Chinese companies. Assad’s minister said the regime didn’t want any European nations to invest in Syria unless they publicly apologised to the Syrian Government and changed their own leaders!

The Assad regime has destroyed its own cities and killed and tortured and starved hundreds of thousands to maintain power. Why would Assad now compromise for the promise of an EU handout when he is already backed by Russia and Iran?

But for EU officials slow in understanding, the chemical attack against civilians should provide a final answer.

Tuesday’s chemical weapons attack by the Assad regime on Khan Sheikhun in Idlib Province, Syria, was the deadliest since 2013. But it was only the most recent of many chemical attacks by Assad breaking the 2013 chemical weapons deal.

EU governments need to face the contempt shown to their efforts by Assad and his allies.

Despite the scale of crimes committed by the Assad regime, by Russia, and by Iran, the EU has not imposed a single sanction against Russia for its actions in Syria, and the EU is selling aircraft to Iran which uses civilian airliners to resupply the regime with fighters and arms.

Here in the UK, Parliamentarians on all sides now need to look at the images of victims of this latest blatant crime against humanity; they must now face the cost of Parliament’s failure to hold Assad to account in 2013.

The UK Government needs to face the consequences not just of its failure in 2013, but its failure throughout six full years to act to protect civilians in Syria: its failure to ground Assad’s jets and helicopters, its failure to airdrop aid to besieged civilians, its failure to protect civilians as they fled across borders and across the sea, its failure to take in some of the youngest and most vulnerable of Assad’s victims.

If Russia continues to shield the Assad regime at the UN, other permanent members of the UN Security Council including the UK must now take measures to end impunity. Assad is showing contempt for every international attempt at peace, contempt for the international community, contempt for international law, and contempt for all humanity.

Words are not enough. Shame is not enough. Act now to enforce existing UN resolutions and protect civilians.