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Syrian ambassadors expelled from several European countries. But not all (maj)

(BRUSSELS2) Half a dozen European Union countries announced today the expulsion of the Syrian ambassador after the Houla massacre and the repeated non-compliance with UN resolutions by the Syrian authorities. The United Kingdom first – Minister William Hague announced this on Sunday – and France launched the movement, followed by Spain, Italy, Germany, Bulgaria and Belgium. Switzerland joined this movement, while Australia, Canada and the United States also announced an identical decision. However, Europeans are not quite on the same wavelength.

No expulsion in Belgium

The special status of the Syrian ambassador in Belgium – accredited to the country and the European Union – thus prevents his immediate expulsion from the country. The Belgian Minister of Foreign Affairs confirmed this: “ the departure of the Ambassador from Belgian territory will only be effective if the European Union, to which he is also accredited, adopts an identical measure ". Currently, according to information collected by B2, the European Union is not considering declaring the Syrian ambassador “persona non grata”. 

COPS discussion

During their usual meeting, the ambassadors of the EU Political and Security Committee (PSC) discussed the status of Syrian ambassadors in their respective countries. “ While some countries confirmed their decision to expel their ambassador, others felt that this was not the path they intended to follow at this stage. » summed up a European diplomat to B2. The EU delegation in Damascus should therefore remain open (as much as possible) and the European Diplomatic Service (EEAS) should play " a coordinating role (*).

Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt asked on Twitter: “Why do those who closed their embassies in Syria leave Syrian embassies open in their countries? (…) We must have a common European Union approach to these issues. And see how we can be (more effective) ". (*) An expert on the matter believes that it is always easier for states that have severed diplomatic relations to expel the Syrian ambassador than for those that maintain their embassy there.

Despite these divisions, the 27 ambassadors defined, during this meeting, a common course of action emphasizing four elements:

  • those responsible for the massacre must be held accountable for their actions;
  • access for humanitarian actors and the commission of inquiry of the UN Human Rights Council;
  • study of new sanctions and implementation of existing ones;
  • placing the Syrian question on the agenda of international meetings, notably during the EU-Russia Summit.

Military intervention or not?

The expulsion of the ambassadors is the last diplomatic step after the recall of Syria's ambassadors. And European countries – like the international community – seem increasingly disarmed in the face of the determination of the Assad regime. The military option is therefore coming back into focus. The Belgian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Didier Reynders, publicly confirmed the need for a “military presence”. “ If the basis seems to be lacking in the international community, including in the Arab world, for a military intervention, it must be possible to think of a military presence, comprising security zones and a peacekeeping force which would guarantee the safety of international observers. , protect the delivery of humanitarian aid, and ensure respect for the ceasefire. "" A consensus in this direction, including Russia and China, should be able to be built around the Annan plan. " he added.

François Hollande, the French president, was more circumspect on Tuesday evening on national television France2. A military intervention in Syria is not excluded provided that it is done in compliance with international law, that is to say by a deliberation of the Security Council (UN) " of ONU. He hopes to convince convince Russians and Chinese to condemn the regime “and also to find a solution which would not necessarily be military. (…) Because the pressure must be put on now to oust the regime of Bashar al-Assad. We have to find another solution.”

(*) Original version: “Why have those that closed their embassies in Syria let Syrian ones in their countries remain open? We still have our eyes and ears there. And we have argued that EU should have a common approach on these issues. That’s how we can be effective.”

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Nicolas Gros Verheyde

Chief editor of the B2 site. Graduated in European law from the University of Paris I Pantheon Sorbonne and listener to the 65th session of the IHEDN (Institut des Hautes Etudes de la Défense Nationale. Journalist since 1989, founded B2 - Bruxelles2 in 2008. EU/NATO correspondent in Brussels for Sud-Ouest (previously West-France and France-Soir).