Gulf Middle East

Chemical attacks: strong presumptions about the Assad regime (gymnich)

C. Ashton and J. Kerry at the entrance to the meeting of ministers (credit: Th. Monasse)
C. Ashton and J. Kerry at the entrance to the ministers' meeting (credit: Th. Monasse)

(BRUSSELS2 in Vilnius) The informal meeting of EU foreign ministers held in Vilnius led to an agreement between Europeans on the need to wait for the report from the inspectors and the UN Security Council, before any further action. The discussion held among 28 Europeans, in the presence of the US Secretary of State, John Kerry, continued until the beginning of the afternoon. And it was finally around 14:30 p.m. that the final press conference was able to be organized, 2h30 behind the planned time. The “28” thus agreed – unanimously according to a minister – on a common text. But it took almost two more hours before this text was published. Here it is (in English). To download Here.

NB: We can note that this text makes no reference to the declaration approved by 11 countries at the G20, a text that Germany has just joined. The terms of “greeting” the text or even “taking note” did not arouse common enthusiasm. On the other hand, it designates well – as the draft declaration published by B2 this morning mentioned (read:  Chemical strikes. No doubt allowed? (Gymnich) – one responsible for these attacks, the Assad regime.

The Assad regime was behind the August 21 attack. “A large attack killing hundreds of people, including women and children, was committed in the suburbs of Damascus on August 21. This attack constitutes a flagrant violation of international law, a war crime and a crime against humanity. We unanimously condemn this terrible attack in particularly strong terms. Information from a wide variety of sources confirms the existence of this attack. They appear to indicate strong evidence that the regime is responsible for these attacks because it is the only one to possess chemical weapons and has them in sufficient quantities. »

A crime that cannot go unpunished « Faced with such cynical use of chemical weapons, the international community cannot remain passive. A clear and strong response is crucial to make clear that such crimes are unacceptable and cannot go unpunished. We must prevent the creation of a formidable precedent on the use of chemical weapons in Syria again or elsewhere.”

Resolution of the conflict at the UN. " The European Union also underlines the need to move forward in resolving the Syrian conflict through the UN system. (…) Hopes that the preliminary report on the first investigations can be published as quickly as possible and welcomes the declaration of President Hollande to await this report before any further action (*). The EU calls on the UN Security Council to prevent any further chemical attacks. And he encourages the Security Council to fulfill its responsibilities and take all initiatives to achieve this objective. »

The jurisdiction of the ICC. " The EU recalls the individual responsibility of the perpetrators of attacks of this type who must be prosecuted, as well as the role of the International Criminal Court in investigating and judging such cases. » (**)

A political solution to the conflict. Only a political solution can put an end to this terrible bloodshed, serious human rights violations and widespread destruction in Syria. An inclusive diplomatic process leading to a political solution is now more urgent than ever. The initiative for a “Geneva II” peace conference must begin quickly.

(*) Hollande's declaration was an important element for the Europeans, said several ministers, a “game changer” said one of them.

(**) The Europeans are not calling for referral to the Court. Which is relatively weak for a conviction that aims to be strong.

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).