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Syria: in support of an European initiative

Never, perhaps, has an international crisis ever demanded a strong European initiative as clearly as this. The USA is hesitating, marked by over ten years of foreign commitments with controversial results. Quite rightly France is highlighting the need not to allow the use of chemical weapons, which were banned over 90 years ago after the First World War, go unpunished. In an historic u-turn the British are paying the price of their mistakes in Iraq.

The UN Security Council is paralyzed by those who fear that one day it will be addressed in a comparable situation that directly involves themselves. The international community is divided in the face of a terrible civil war in which the number of victims is soaring and in which there seems to be no hope of finding a solution.

It is this kind of situation which calls for response on the part of Europe.

First on principle. We cannot accept the use of banned arms, not only from a moral point of view but also in the eyes of international law. In the world Europe embodies the law and implements it.

Then according to the means we have we should be able to make this acceptable on the part of the International Community as long as the response is political, then diplomatic at the cost of real efforts in dialogue and negotiation. The G20 meeting under the Russian Presidency is an opportunity that we should seize, that a united Europe with a real strategy could successfully undertake. Neither Russia nor China or even the European states which are against a military intervention could in fact take to the risk of agreeing with this "trend towards extremes" which the use of arms of mass destruction embody.

Instead of division over the response to provide we have to unite in condemning it.

The European Foreign and Security Policy - so often criticized for its weakness - would see how useful it really is to our embarrassed governments. It would finally gain the influence we are expecting of it and possibly lead to unexpected results. A well prepared European Council meeting which recalls the principles and which offers the possibility of a solution in an international conference in which all players take part might provide an open door in answer to the world's legitimate indignation. The European Union must take the initiative.

It would be the occasion for Europe to define its regional and strategic interests which go beyond the Syrian issue. These are widely shared and no European nation can claim specific interests without running the risk of isolation.

On an international level there are things that only Europe can do. Preferring the political, diplomatic path to an uncertain military solution is one of these.