Catherine Ashton: reforms must be backed by credible action … now


Catherine Ashton, the High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and Vice-President of the Commission, made the following statement today:

“I strongly condemn the continuing violence and deaths in Syria in the context of protests calling for freedom and democracy. I sincerely regret the loss of life, particularly in the Southern city of Daraa, and extend my condolences to the families of the victims. I urge in the strongest terms the Syrian authorities to immediately put an end to the violence.

I cannot emphasise enough the responsibility of the state to protect all citizens and respect the rightof peaceful protest and free speech. The announcements made by the Syrian authorities to launch reforms must be backed by credible action on the ground. The Syrian people must be allowed to express their grievances without fear of intimidation, repression and arrest. Meaningful political reforms guaranteeing freedom of expression, fundamental rights and the rule of law must begin now.”

EU: Suspend talks with Syria 07-04-2011The EU must reassess its bilateral relations with Syria, Bahrain and Yemen in the light of their violent repression of demonstrators, and talks on a future Association Agreement with Syria must be suspended, say MEPs in a resolution passed on Thursday. MEPs are also concerned about the presence of international troops in Bahrain and call for an investigation into the death of 54 protestors in Yemen.  EU negotiations on the still-pending Association Agreement with Syria must be suspended until the Syrian authorities carry out “expected tangible democratic reforms”, say MEPs. The resignation of Syria’s government on 29 March “will not be enough to satisfy the growing frustrations of the people”, they add. President Bashar al-Assad must put an end to repression of political opposition and human right defenders, lift the state of emergency and undertake genuine political, economic and social reforms, says the resolution. The use of violence by a state against its own people must always have direct consequences, stresses the resolution, drafted by the EPP, S&D, ALDE, Greens/EFA and ECR groups and passed by a show of hands. MEPs therefore call on both the EU and national governments to revise bilateral relations with Bahrain and Yemen, and consider imposing asset freezes or travel bans. The text condemns interference by the authorities of both countries in the provision of medical treatment and denial of access to health facilities for injured protestors.

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