The European Union is standing firm on sanctions against Syriaâ€™s President Bashar al-Assad and will not support reconstruction for the war-torn country until the dictator in Damascus steps aside.
â€œThere will be no end to sanctions, no normalizations and no support for reconstruction until a political transition is underway,â€ Josep Borrell, the EUâ€™s top foreign affairs official, said Tuesday at a European Parliament debate marking the 10thÂ anniversary of Syriaâ€™s unresolved civil war.
Borrell doubled down on the EUâ€™s stance that providing international reconstruction aid to Syrian territory under Assadâ€™s control would vindicate the dictatorâ€™s â€œcrushingâ€ of the countryâ€™s 2011 uprising and â€œpursuing a war until the whole country gets on its knees.â€
The EUâ€™s policy, initially spearheaded by the United States, seeks to isolate Assad until free and fair elections are held in Syria, as called for by United Nations Security Council Resolution 2254.
The top diplomat said the EU is prepared to provide “substantial support” for Syria’s reconstruction once elections are held, according to the political process outlined in Resolution 2254, noting that the EU has already given $26 billion in aid, Turkey’s Anadolu News Agency reported.
Borrell’s comments came the same day as the United Arab Emiratesâ€™ (UAE) top diplomat called for the Damascus regime to be restored to the Arab League, and for â€œjoint actionâ€ with its regime and private sector to help the country return â€œto normal.â€
Speaking alongside Russiaâ€™s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov in Dubai Tuesday, Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the UAE’s foreign minister,Â said that Washingtonâ€™s pressure on its allies and partners to withhold reconstruction money for Syria â€œmake[s] matters difficult.â€ Nahyan specifically mentioned the 2019 Caesar sanctions, which target Assad regime figures for complicity in mass war crimes.
The UAE opened its first diplomatic mission in Damascus in 2018 for the first time since Assadâ€™s regime was ousted from the Arab League in 2011.
Russia, whose military intervention on Assadâ€™s side in 2015 helped turn the tide of the war in Damascusâ€™ favor, continues to seek to back Assad’s political and military initiatives.
Roughly half of Syriaâ€™s population has been displaced by the civil war. More than 80% of Syrians in the country live below the poverty line, though there is little sign the Assad regime is willing to enact reforms demanded by the United States and its allies.