federica mogherini

Speech by High Representative/Vice-President Federica Mogherini at the European Parliament plenary session on the situation in northern Syria

Wed, 10/09/2019 - 23:36

Brussels, 09/10/2019 - 21:36, UNIQUE ID: 191009_18


Thank you Madam President,

The Turkish operation into north-east Syria can open a new dramatic chapter in the already very dark history of the Syrian war.

The potential consequences of such military action are clear to everyone – at least are very clear to us. The repercussions can be extremely serious in humanitarian, military, political and strategic terms. For all these reasons, we call upon Turkey to immediately stop its unilateral military action.

New armed hostilities in the north-east would first of all exacerbate civilian suffering and provoke further displacements. This new escalation adds yet another obstacle to the UN-led political process, after the positive news just a fortnight ago of an intra-Syrian agreement on a Constitutional Committee.

Turkey’s unilateral action also threatens the progress achieved by the Global Coalition to defeat Da'esh, of which Turkey is a member. Military action will undermine the security of the Coalition’s local partners, namely the Kurdish forces, and risk protracted instability in north-east Syria, providing fertile ground for the resurgence of Da’esh.

Let us not forget that Da’esh still remains a significant threat to regional, international and European security.

We are also aware of Turkey's intention, in the medium-term, of settling Syrian refugees along the border. It is highly unlikely that a so-called ‘safe zone’ in north-east Syria, as envisaged by Turkey, would satisfy international criteria for refugee return as laid down by the UNHCR [UN High Commission for Refugees].

It is difficult to imagine how such returns could be either safe, voluntary or in any way dignified. Mass resettlement on a scale suggested by Turkey would also profoundly destabilise an already fragile area. Any attempt at demographic change would be unacceptable for us.

We have always supported Turkey for hosting three million Syrian refugees, providing them with a shelter, assistance and services.

But as President [of the European Commission, Jean-Claude] Juncker made very clear a few hours ago in this hemicycle, there can be no question of the European Union financing the infrastructure to receive hundreds of thousands of Syrian refugees in north-east Syria. The European Union will not provide stabilisation or development assistance in areas where the rights of local populations are ignored, or even worse, violated.

Beyond the serious humanitarian and security implications, the Turkish incursion might also prevent the Constitutional Committee from beginning its work. 

Just two weeks ago we were in New York at the United Nations General Assembly, where we received the encouraging announcement that the regime and the opposition in Syria had reached their first agreement since the beginning of the war, thanks to the UN mediation that we have supported all over these years.

We made it clear back then and all over these days, that this is just the first step but a very important one, a real first step to allow the whole country a potential political resolution of the conflict. Now, we were looking forward to the first meeting of the committee in Geneva – and I would like to say that we are looking forward – possibly even before the end of October. 

We hope that the Turkish attack will not delay the first meeting of the Constitutional Committee. Yet we cannot exclude this eventuality.

We ask Turkey to execute an immediate cessation of hostilities. A destabilised north-east Syria, with new ethnic tensions and a resurgent terrorist threat, is certainly not in Turkey’s interest.

We have always shared the goal of ending violence, defeating Da’esh and promoting stability in Syria and in the wider region. Turkey has always been in this a key partner for the European Union and a critically important actor in the Syrian crisis and in the region.

But Turkey’s legitimate security concerns should be addressed through political and diplomatic means, not military action, in accordance with international humanitarian law. We urge all to always ensure the protection of civilians and unhindered, safe and sustainable humanitarian access throughout Syria.

Our goal remains to help the Syrian people build a united, sovereign, democratic and inclusive Syria.

A sustainable solution to the Syrian crisis will not come through military means. I think that this is very clear to all, at least this is very clear to us Europeans. The only way to achieve peace and security in Syria is the full implementation of the UN Security Council Resolution 2254 under UN auspices.

Our immediate goal is now to avoid renewed armed hostilities in the north-east of Syria, to stop them, and to do everything in our power to support the UN-led political process. This is why I invited the UN Special Envoy for Syria [Geir] Pedersen to join us at the next Foreign Affairs Council next Monday in Luxemburg to discuss together the way forward in this critical moment.

The Syria conflict will not be ended by weapons. This war can only be ended by mediation and a true reconciliation within the Syrian society. The conflict can only be ended through a genuine political transition, negotiated by the Syrian parties under the UN auspices.

The whole European Union is united behind this goal, and today I have issued a clear declaration on behalf of all 28 Member States to confirm and make extremely our common position. The five coordinating EU Member States of the UN Security Council have now officially asked to bring the issue in front of the UN Security Council, and I understand that this will happen tomorrow.  

We will also continue to be in touch with our partners, to obviously update the European Parliament on any relevant developments, and to discuss together – I am looking forward to our exchanges tonight – the way forward in this moment. I think that our position has been very clear from the very beginning of these developments, just a few days ago, to see how we can make this call effective and to have some impact on the ground.

Thank you.