Bassam Abdullah, the Syrian Coalition’s representative to Germany, calls on the European Union to respond to the refugee crisis resulting from the Syrian conflict.
In an article published by the Telegraph newspaper yesterday, Abdullah said that “there is no doubt that the European Union is facing a major refugee crisis as an overspill of the Syria conflict. But this is not just because countries neighboring Syria cannot cope with the influx. It’s that those fleeing the world’s worst humanitarian crisis see no prospect of improvement. If you want to slow the refugee crisis in Europe, provide hope to Syria’s refugees: enforce a no-fly zone in Syria.”
“Syrians are by far the largest group embarking on the perilous journey to seek asylum in Europe. There is good reason for this. For the past four years Syrians have endured a crippling conflict that has seen the use of chemical weapons against civilians, a growing extremist threat, and daily bombardment of innocent people at markets like the recent massacre in Douma.”
Abdullah went on: “Indiscriminate bombardment of civilians by Assad’s helicopters now account for the largest share of daily civilian deaths in Syria. Assad’s military strength has weakened to the point that regime forces are now making bombs out of scrap metal and barrels, thus earning them the name “barrel bombs”. They sound rudimentary, but barrel bombs are deadly weapons that when thrown from regime helicopters are awfully imprecise. Barrel bombs are killing far more Syrians than Isil. And there is no doubt that the Assad regime is responsible because it is the only one that possesses the helicopters from which to throw the barrels. Yet the international community is doing little to halt the killing even while US-led coalition forces are flying in Syria’s airspace.”
“It is clear we must change the dynamics of the conflict to make a political solution a reality,” he added.
“A no-fly zone will immediately take away one of the Assad regime’s terror-inducing tactics that is propelling people to become refugees. A no-fly zone will effectively ground Assad’s helicopters and aircraft; open space for humanitarian aid to be delivered more safely; and immediately save the lives of 200 to 250 civilians every week. By halting Assad’s monopoly of the skies, a no-fly zone will also compel a weakening Assad regime to the negotiating table in order to bring about the political transition Syria needs and on which the international community – including Russia – has agreed.”
Abdullah stresses that “a political solution is a goal currently shared by all except Assad and its backer Iran, which continues to prop up the Assad regime with arms and money, funds Hezbollah’s intervention in Syria, and directly participates in the violence through Iranian militias. By making clear that there are enforceable consequences to ongoing indiscriminate aerial bombardments, a no-fly zone will force Iran and Assad to abandon their strategy.”
“But time is of the essence. As a result of the recent nuclear deal signed with Iran, we have a limited window before the regime in Tehran gets hold of billions of dollars in unfrozen assets, some of which it will use to further bolster Assad’s brutality. This only compounds the misery of so many ordinary Syrians. This is why I urge our international partners to vigilantly monitor the Iranian nuclear deal and Security Council resolution 2231 (2015). The onus is on the international community to ensure that such resources are not allowed to fuel and arm the Syrian regime’s killing machine.”
“The sad reality for Syrians is that although international attention on the Syrian crisis has ebbed and flowed, Assad’s deliberate targeting of civilians through airstrikes and barrel bombs has consistently increased. Assad unabashedly targets rebel-held areas. When families flee one area, Assad hits their next destination and the next and the next. The only logical step for one to save themselves and their family is to flee the country,” he added.
“Some EU countries are sadly building fences to keep out refugees, which is only placing a plaster on a deeper wound. The refugee crisis must be dealt with at its source – the instability and insecurity in Syria primarily due to Assad’s attacks on civilians.”
“It is clear we must change the dynamics of the conflict to make a political solution a reality. A no-fly zone would bolster diplomatic efforts and create the momentum towards a negotiated solution. There is little reason beyond political will for implementing a no-fly zone. In discussions with our partners in the international arena we know naval assets in the Mediterranean Sea could enforce a no-fly zone, thereby lowering the cost of enforcement and minimising the risk to US-led coalition servicemen and women.”
“Europe, with Germany’s leadership, can muster the political will necessary because it can see that a no-fly zone in Syria can ease the refugee crisis. A no-fly zone is a means to alleviating the pressures on Syrians to flee and sends a credible signal to Syrians that Europe is seriously willing to resolve the Syria crisis. And this is one assurance Syrians desperately need.” (Source: Syrian Coalition + The Telegraph)