I propose to take Questions Nos. 106 and 108 together.
The Syria conflict, which is now in its eighth year, has cost up to 500,000 lives. Over 13 million people are in need of humanitarian assistance inside Syria. This is a tragedy which has caused untold misery for millions of ordinary Syrians, and which has had a serious impact on neighbouring countries. The long-running conflict in Syria, and the misery that it has caused, has been further prolonged by the military support provided to the Assad regime. There are significant Iranian forces in Syria, which have been assisting the regime in the violent suppression of its own people . This is unhelpful and unwelcome. It is also quite clear that Russia’s support for the Assad regime has prolonged the suffering of the Syrian people. Russia has also repeatedly vetoed UN Security Council resolutions on Syria, which has seriously undermined the protection of Syrian civilians.
This conflict has had a negative impact right across the region, with many of Syria’s neighbours facing heightened security threats, as well as being the hosts to millions of Syrian people fleeing the conflict. We understand that these countries have concerns about the conflict raging on their borders and about the potential spill-over of violence. I call on all regional actors, and indeed all involved in the Syria conflict, to show restraint and avoid any escalation, which could further undermine regional stability, as well as adding to the suffering of civilians.
The Syria crisis is high on the EU agenda. I discussed the situation in Syria with my EU counterparts at the Foreign Affairs Council (FAC) in February, March and April. At the FAC in April, we condemned in the strongest terms the use of chemical weapons in Syria, and stressed the need to ensure full legal accountability for those responsible for such crimes. We also reiterated the EU’s support for the UN-led political negotiations to end the conflict, and the urgent need to reinvigorate the political track. I reaffirmed the need to avoid any escalation of the situation in Syria, and the importance of ensuring accountability for the use of chemical weapons.
A comprehensive, sustainable, Syrian-owned and Syrian-led resolution to the conflict will be required to provide lasting relief to this terrible suffering. UN Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura is leading political negotiations to end the conflict based on the 2012 Geneva Communique and UN Security Council resolution 2254. The EU provides direct assistance to the UN-led Geneva peace talks and has launched, in coordination with the UN, an initiative to develop political dialogue with key actors from the region to identify common ground. Ireland and the EU fully support the UN-led efforts to resolve this conflict.