EU Plan for Middle-East: humanitarian aid and regional rapprochement policy under the UN’s aegis

The Foreign Affairs Council of the European Union started a week with the EU fully concentrated on the Middle-East peace and stabilisation processes. On the eve of the conference on the future of Syria, co-hosted by the UK and and the European Union in Brussels on 4 and 5 April, the Foreign Ministers dealt with the current crisis in Syria, Yemen and Libya.

High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy Federica Mogherini stressed the importance for the EU to support a political solution for the Syrian conflict. Specifically, the genuine political transition that the EU wants to encourage is within the resumed Geneva negotiations between the opposition parties and the Syrian regime -which started last February under the UN’s aegis.  Moreover, Mogherini reports that the Council renovated its will to keep addressing humanitarian needs of the Syrian population despite deliberate attempts being made to prevent the arrival of humanitarian aid. Finally, a preparation for the reconstruction of the country based on encouraging civil society, democracy and freedom of speech as well as enforcing accountability for war crime is starting to be put on paper by EU Foreign Ministers. This plan still needs to be considered by the international community as a whole in the Brussels conference taking place. Oxfam is concerned that the current discussion on reconstruction is more a desire to see refugees returning to Syria than as a real possible solution. In addition, the process happening within the Geneva talks already saw the first withdrawal from the Kurdish National Council which highlighted an opposition to a federal solution for Syria amongst other parties.

Turning to the Yemen conflict, now in its third year, the EU HR called for the elimination of any obstacle that is currently hindering the arrival of humanitarian aid in the Country. She recalled the fact that on average a 17 millions people are dependant on this aid out of which more than 7 millions are on the brink of famine. Most importantly, Mohherini stressed that the possible solutions to the crisis should focus as much as possible towards stability and security on a regional scale due to the implications this crisis has on the Horn of Africa countries. The Council in its conclusions  welcomed the Geneva Conference for the Crisis in Yemen which will be opened on the 25 April, co-hosted by the UN Secretary General and the governments of Sweden and Switzerland.

Finally, the Libyan situation was addressed through a follow up on the EU participation to the Quartet on Libya, joining the Arab League, African Union and the UN. The aim is unity as the solution for the country: “it is a pure and dangerous illusion to think that one part can rule over the entire country against the other” Mogherini declared. Her words were followed by the renewal of the individual sanctions the EU started in April 2016 against Agila Saleh, president of the Libyan Council of Deputies in the House of Representatives; Khalifa Ghweil, Prime Minister and Defence Minister of the  General National Congress which is not recognised internationally; and Nuri Abu Sahmain, President of the General National Congress for their attempt to obstruct the implementation of the Libya Political Agreement.