Only Civilian Protection Can Deter Further Chemical Weapons Attacks  

[4 April 2017 BRUSSELS] As world leaders gather in Brussels today to discuss the future of Syria, dozens of Syrian civilians were killed in a lethal chemical weapons attack in Khan Sheikhun, Idlib. Speaking from Brussels, where they are participating in events on the margins of the Brussels Syria conference, Syrian civil society activists expressed outrage at the latest attacks and called on Europe to take urgent action to protect Syrian civilians – or risk watching the Syrian crisis escalate. 

"It is unacceptable that six years into Syria’s crisis, civilians continue to be slaughtered with impunity. Today’s chemical attacks in Khan Sheikhoun in Idlib province - which has left over 58 Syrians dead, including innocent children – are yet another reminder of why Europe needs to act and save Syrian lives”, Assaad al Achi of the Syrian NGO Baytna Syria said. 

“We know Europe can stem the violence, including by taking active measures to enforce Syria’s ceasefire and working with the UN and Syrian civil society to establish an impartial monitoring mechanism. But simply placing responsibility for Syria’s ceasefire with Astana’s guarantors will not achieve this. Syrians are depending on Europe to show real moral courage and help stop the killing. We hope Europe will not let us down.”

“Europe has a unique opportunity to stand with the Syrian people and turn our calls for political transition, meaningful accountability and civilian protection into reality – it must not let this opportunity go to waste”, Massa Mufti of the Syrian NGO, Sonbola Group for Education and Development, continued. “We, Syria’s civil society, made clear today in our meeting with the EU Ambassadors to the Political and Security Committee that we are eager to work with Europe to chart a course towards a stable, free and inclusive Syria, but to do so we need Europe’s help in ending the violence and protecting innocent civilians.”  

“Syria’s future rests on stopping the violence in Syria today. Thankfully, there are concrete steps our European partners can take to help bring an end to the violence – starting by prioritizing the protection of Syrian civilians inside Syria”, Mazen Darwish of the Syrian Center for Media and Freedom of Expression said.

“The EU’s adoption of a new Syria strategy is an important start and we welcome reassurances from the Ambassadors today that accountability will continue to be at the forefront of Europe’s policy on Syria. Accountability is key to fight radicalism and to achieve the political solution Syrians deserve, that also why we encouraged our European partners to step up efforts to hold war criminals accountable through universal jurisdiction”.

Note to Editor: 

Tomorrow, on Wednesday 5 April at 2:30pm, Massa Mufti, Assaad Al Achi, and Mazen Darwish will join Hozan Ibrahim,  Executive Director of Citizens for Syria, and Mariah Al Abdeh, Executive Director of Women Now for Development, to participate  in an event on the margins of the Syria Brussels Conference. They will discuss the major outcomes of their meetings in Brussels as well as their views and recommendations on the Geneva peace talks and on the Brussels Conference. More details on the event can be found here.

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