EU sup­port for Syr­i­ans won’t end

Arab News - - Opinion - JOSEP BOR­RELL

The con­flict in Syria has en­tered its 10th year. Ten years of war, suf­fer­ing and grief. And it’s still not over. Syr­i­ans con­tinue to live in fear and de­s­pair, their fu­ture held hostage. While the war has forced half the pop­u­la­tion to flee their homes, those who stayed be­hind are fac­ing an un­prece­dented eco­nomic cri­sis and the threat of the coro­n­avirus dis­ease.

At this week’s fourth Brus­sels Con­fer­ence on “Sup­port­ing the fu­ture of Syria and the re­gion,” more than 80 coun­tries, re­gional and in­ter­na­tional or­ga­ni­za­tions and UN agen­cies will sit around a vir­tual round ta­ble to ad­dress all the key di­men­sions of the Syr­ian cri­sis: Po­lit­i­cal, hu­man­i­tar­ian, fi­nan­cial, and re­gional. We will reaf­firm our strong sup­port to the UN’s ef­forts for a po­lit­i­cal so­lu­tion to the con­flict and to the terms of UN Se­cu­rity Coun­cil (UNSC) res­o­lu­tion 2254. A po­lit­i­cal so­lu­tion, reached through a UN-me­di­ated, in­clu­sive, Syr­i­an­led and Syr­ian-owned di­a­logue, is the only way of achiev­ing sus­tain­able peace in Syria. The al­ter­na­tive is ever more mis­ery caused by the ob­sti­nate de­ter­mi­na­tion of the long-dis­cred­ited regime.

This year, on top of be­ing the worst hu­man­i­tar­ian cri­sis since the Sec­ond World War, Syria is close to eco­nomic col­lapse. The regime’s mis­man­age­ment of the econ­omy, wide­spread cor­rup­tion, the fi­nan­cial cri­sis in neigh­bor­ing Le­banon and the coro­n­avirus pan­demic have brought the coun­try’s econ­omy to its knees. The sit­u­a­tion is dire.

Syr­i­ans want the same things as ev­ery per­son and fam­ily any­where else in the world: Per­sonal se­cu­rity, jobs and a fu­ture for their chil­dren. In other words, they need prospects for the fu­ture. The EU and its mem­ber states have been sup­port­ing Syr­i­ans ev­ery­where since the start of the con­flict. More than €20 bil­lion ($22.5 bil­lion) has been pro­vided in hu­man­i­tar­ian, sta­bi­liza­tion and re­silience as­sis­tance since 2011 — for Syr­i­ans in Syria and in sup­port of the neigh­bor­ing coun­tries.

We are very grate­ful for the sol­i­dar­ity shown by Jor­dan, Le­banon and Tur­key in par­tic­u­lar. They are look­ing after more than 5.6 mil­lion Syr­ian refugees. Th­ese coun­tries are strug­gling with com­plex do­mes­tic sit­u­a­tions; they con­tinue to need as­sis­tance to meet the grow­ing needs of both the refugees and their own peo­ple. The EU is also help­ing them. To­day, we want to tell the

Syr­ian peo­ple and the peo­ple of the coun­tries host­ing the refugees that we know what they have been go­ing through, that we care and that we will con­tinue to stand by them.

We know that the Syr­ian refugees’ dearest dream is to go back home. We are ready to help make this hap­pen once the con­di­tions are in place. But to what home? We know that the sta­bil­ity nec­es­sary for the rec­on­cil­i­a­tion and re­con­struc­tion of Syria will only come once the regime re­nounces bru­tal­ity and em­barks on a process of gen­uine po­lit­i­cal di­a­logue, backed with tan­gi­ble changes and moves that will heal Syria’s wounds.

That was, is and re­mains our goal. Our motto is that the Syr­ian peo­ple must de­cide the fu­ture of Syria. The EU will stand by them in do­ing so.

Josep Bor­rell, a for­mer Span­ish For­eign Min­is­ter, is High Rep­re­sen­ta­tive of the Euro­pean Union for For­eign Af­fairs and Se­cu­rity Pol­icy.

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