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Statement by Chair on the explosion in Beirut, Lebanon, 5 August 2020

5 August 2020

Today, our thoughts are with the victims of the explosion in Beirut and their families. The international community must mobilise immediate humanitarian support to Lebanon, including direct medical and food assistance.

European Parliament Chair of the European Parliament's Delegation for relations with the Mashreq countries, Isabel SANTOS (S&D, PT), said:

"I was terribly saddened to learn of the explosion that took place in the port of Beirut yesterday. My thoughts are with the many victims of this terrible incident as well as their families. I would like to express my sincere condolences to anyone who has lost a family member or a friend, and I hope for a swift recovery for the many injured.

The human and humanitarian cost is devastating and I urge the international community to come to the assistance of the people of Lebanon, who are already facing hardship as a result of the economic and fiscal crisis the country is facing. As the country is heavily dependent on imports of foods and medicines, the destruction of the main port in Beirut will further impact the economy and the lives of the Lebanese people.

I therefore call on the European Commission, specifically the Directorate-General for European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid operations, to mobilise all necessary humanitarian support to Lebanon, including direct medical and food assistance.

Lebanon hosts the world's highest number of refugees per capita, who will also need ongoing support during this time."


Syrian authorities must redouble their efforts to find a political solution

  • EU should step up its assistance to the Syrian people
  • Humanitarian corridors should remain open for humanitarian relief
  • Urgent need for a political resolution of the conflict

Without progress on a political settlement, we will not be in a position to assist in longer-term relief and reconstruction, warns the Chair of the Mashreq delegation.

Following the fourth Brussels Conference on "Supporting the future of Syria and the region", the Chair of the European Parliament's delegation for relations with the Mashreq countries, Isabel Santos (S&D, PT), said:

"Yesterday's conference on 'Supporting the future of Syria and the region' is the fourth of its kind, taking place as Syria is entering its tenth year of conflict. The point was made during the conference that the Syrian conflict has now lasted almost as long as the two World Wars combined, and has wrought terrible destruction and inflicted tremendous hardship on the Syrian people.

It is heartening to see that the international community continues to support the people of Syria, both inside the country and in host communities in the region. We must step up our assistance to the Syrian people to ensure that they can realise their dreams of building a new and better future for their country. Syrian refugees in host countries must have access to adequate education and long-term socio-economic opportunities to enable them to contribute to the future of Syria, if and when the time comes that they would like to return, and it is safe for them to do so. More immediately, we must ensure that humanitarian corridors remain open and safe to allow humanitarian relief to reach those who desperately need it.

Finally, I hope that the Syrian government will accept the urgent need for a political resolution of this crisis and will engage more actively with the Geneva process, which will eventually allow funds to be made available for longer-term relief and reconstruction. The EU, the EU Member States and the European Parliament have repeatedly made it clear that, without progress on a political settlement through the Geneva process, we will not be in a position to assist with reconstruction. I therefore urge the Syrian authorities to redouble their efforts in this direction."

Background

The European Union and the United Nations co-chaired the fourth Brussels Conference on "Supporting the future of Syria and the region" on 30 June 2020.

The situation in Syria and the region is highly critical with millions of Syrians internally displaced and having sought refuge in Syria's neighbouring countries. The humanitarian crisis is being further compounded by the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Conference highlighted the importance of the solidarity shown by host countries and communities in Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey, as well as other host countries in the region such as Egypt and Iraq.

Statement by the Chair on the support package for Syrian refugees

The support refugees as well as to host communities helps ensure their relations between the two communities remain positive. In turn, it helps ensure that there are no premature calls for the return of refugees.

5 June 2020

"Jordan and Lebanon host the largest number of refugees per capita in the world and their economies, which is putting additional strain on their already stretched economies. The COVID-19 pandemic has only exacerbated the situation.

EU support will provide assistance to both refugees and host communities. The support to host communities helps ensure relations between them and the refugee population remain positive. In turn, it helps ensure that there are no premature calls for the return of refugees. Any returns to Syria have to be safe, dignified and voluntary, with the involvement of the UNHCR.

With this in mind, I welcome that this additional assistance will provide direct support in the crucial areas of access to education, support to livelihoods and provision of health, sanitation, waste services and social protection to host communities and refugees - Syrian refugees and Palestine refugees from Syria.

Now more than ever it is important for the European Union to demonstrate its solidarity and support for its neighbours. This proposal for additional support for refugees and vulnerable host communities is very timely and welcome. It shows that we remain committed to improving the situation of Syrian refugees in our neighbourhood":

Background

Jordan is the third largest host country for Syrian refugees and the influx of refugees from Syria has put tremendous strain on the Kingdom's economy and resources. In a recent survey of 867 Syrian refugee households carried out by the Danish Refugee Council, close to 80 % of households stated that they did not have access to sufficient food for the coming two weeks.

In Lebanon, refugees make up 30 % of the population and the country has taken in 1.5 million refugees since the war erupted in neighbouring Syria in 2011. In a country that is dealing with extreme economic turmoil, the situation of refugees and vulnerable host communities is precarious.

On 3 June 2020, the European Commission has proposed to top up support for refugees and host communities in response to the Syria crisis by a total of EUR 585 million, with EUR 100 million going to Jordan and Lebanon, and EUR 485 to supporting refugees in Turkey.

The proposed funds are intended to bridge the gap until the entry into force of the next multi-annual financial framework in January 2021.

Next steps

As funds for the package will come from the European Union budget, the European Parliament and the Council have to approve the Commission proposal.

Statement by MEP Isabel Santos, Chair of the Delegation

Urgent action is needed to open humanitarian corridors to Idlib

Brussels, 18 February 2020

The situation is north-west Syria is alarming and worsening each day. Over 500 000 people have been displaced since December alone and civilian populations are enduring continual attacks, bombings and indiscriminate killings. Bombs are targeting densely populated areas, medical facilities and settlements for internally displaced people, resulting in hundreds of civilian deaths and worsening humanitarian conditions. Idlib is the last opposition-held enclave and is home to hundreds of thousands of internally displaced people who have fled other battle zones in the country - many having been forced to move several times. There is nowhere left for these people to run.

The Syrian government and its backers are failing in their obligations under international humanitarian law to ensure the protection of civilians. Further, the targeting of civilian areas makes the provision of humanitarian assistance difficult or even impossible. The international community cannot stand by and leave half a million people to live without safety and without access to shelter, water, food and medical services.

The European Union has long held that there can be no military solution to the Syrian conflict and that the only path to stability is a credible and inclusive UN-facilitated political solution pursuant to UN Security Council Resolution 2254 (2015). As Chair of the Delegation for relations with the Mashreq countries I now call on the relevant EU institutions, the EU Member States and the International Community to deploy all political and diplomatic means to bring an end to the bombing campaign and attacks on civilians in north-west Syria, and ensure humanitarian assistance can reach the people who need it. I intend to write to High Representative/Vice-President of the Commission, Josep Borrell, to thank him for his recent speech in the European Parliament on the situation in Syria, to ask him to engage with international partners as a matter of urgency to facilitate the opening of humanitarian corridors to Idlib and other affected communities in north-west Syria, and to report back to Parliament on the actions taken to achieve this.

Statement by MEP Isabel Santos, Chair of the Delegation

Brussels, 23 January 2020

The Delegation for relations with the Mashreq countries welcomes the announcement of the formation of the new Government in Lebanon.

Lebanon is facing a complex, multi-faceted crisis and needs swift action to re-establish political and economic stability. As Chair of the Delegation for relations with the Mashreq countries, I call on the new government to take immediate steps to address the aspirations of the Lebanese people, enact structural reforms, and tackle the economic and fiscal crisis. Now more than ever it is vital that the new Lebanese government is successful in order to re-establish the stability of the country. I welcome the support that the European Union is giving to Lebanon to carry out these social and economic reforms.

The Delegation for relations with the Mashreq countries will continue to follow the evolution of the situation in Lebanon with great interest. The Delegation reiterates the European Parliament's and the European Union's strong partnership with Lebanon and its people, and our continued support for Lebanon's stability, unity, territorial integrity, sovereignty and political independence.