‘Europe pays a heavy price for Syria – it must act to end the crisis’

Ian Black writes: Europe’s extraordinary political turbulence, triggered by the Brexit referendum, has caught the attention of the world. But the longer-running and far deadlier crisis in the continent’s backyard bleeds on while precious little is being done to help end it.

Syrians fighting to overthrow Bashar al-Assad are close to despair: Russia and Iranian intervention has bolstered the president’s position while Washington and Moscow have moved closer together – perhaps to the point where they will seek to impose a solution to end the five-year war. The UN deadline for agreement on a “political transition” in Damascus is looming on 1 August.

Europe, argues the country’s main western-backed opposition movement, can and must do more – however badly it is distracted by problems closer to home. That was the message it took this week to the EU’s foreign policy chief, Federica Mogherini, who played a key role in last year’s landmark nuclear talks with Iran but has failed to make much impact on Syria, where 400,000 people have been killed and millions made homeless.

“This last year has proven that Europe is the first continent that is paying the price of a lack of serious management of the Syrian crisis – because of the refugees and security issues, and this is unlikely to stop,” said Basma Kodmani of the Higher Negotiations Committee. “Russia has not seen any terrorist attacks – isn’t that interesting?”

The links between European instability and the carnage in Syria have never been clearer – the atrocity at Istanbul airport the latest grim reminder. [Continue reading…]

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