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Foreign Minister: Paltry results from Syrian observer mission

European Union foreign ministers meet in a foreign affairs council in Brussels Monday. High on their agenda is the deteriorating situation in Syria, particularly the humanitarian crisis on the ground.

Erkki Tuomioja
Finnish Foreign Minister Erkki Tuomioja. Image: Yle

Foreign Minister Erkki Tuomioja is representing Finland at Monday’s foreign council meetings in Brussels. He is calling for tougher EU sanctions against Syria. The arsenal of restrictions will include an arms embargo, certain financial sanctions and travel bans on members of the Assad administration engaged in the violence.

“Additionally, we will continue to support non-violent actions by the opposition. Neighbouring countries receiving growing numbers of refugees will also receive our support. Our primary concern is about the humanitarian situation. It has not been possible to deliver humanitarian aid in the quantity required,” the Foreign Minister told Yle.

The EU is throwing its weight behind the United Nations.  However according to Tuomioja, the EU foreign council has little real power.

“It is quite clear that no one is proposing any kind of military intervention. We are still trying to press home the point that the UN can act. There was a small risk that we would not get a resolution for the continuation of the (observer) mission, but it will now continue for 30 days. We will re-evaluate the situation in two weeks,” Tuomioja added.

Future of UN observer mission open

The Finnish Foreign Minister speculated that in a few weeks Kofi Annan, the special envoy of the UN and the Arab League to Syria, will have to admit defeat and UN observers will have to withdraw from Syria.

“It’s the only option if nothing happens in the next 30 days. Of course another option would be that we achieve a commitment to some kind of peace plan and a ceasefire. In that case, the observers would continue that we could then consider reinforcing the mission.”

However the Foreign Minister stressed that the UN mission is valuable and should not easily be abandoned.

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