With the collapse of a US-Russia brokered ceasefire last month, the war in Syria looks as intractable as ever and violence has escalated in the past fortnight. During a plenary debate on Wednesday afternoon several MEPs criticised Russia’s involvement in the conflict with others calling for the EU to play a greater role in resolving the crisis.
The conflict in Syria is well into its sixth year and has claimed the lives of more than a quarter of a million people. Up to 14 million people are thought to be in need of humanitarian assistance within Syria while almost five million are in hard to reach or besieged areas.
Despite international efforts to reach a ceasefire, violence has escalated in recent weeks with Aleppo in particular facing heavy bombardments. According to Médecins Sans Frontières four of the remaining eight functional hospitals in eastern Aleppo have been damaged by bombing in recent days.
Fabio Massimo Castaldo (EFDD, Italy) accused the EU of being absent from efforts in reaching a solution to the crisis: “As Syria is in our neighbourhood we are the first to see the impact of a lack of stability there. We need to take our role in foreign affairs.”
Slovak minister Ivan Korčok spoke on behalf of his country’s presidency of the Council: “We need to convince all actors that a political solution is the only option ahead of us. No side will win this war on the field. In these times of despair for the Syrians, we must not lose hope in a political process.”
The Syrian crisis is the world’s worst humanitarian disaster. The EU is the leading donor in the international response to the conflict with more than €6.8 billion in aid from the EU and its member states,. The number of Syrian refugees outside Syria now amounts to almost five million, with most in Turkey, Jordan and Lebanon, where one quarter of the population are now refugees.