Permanent Mission of the Kingdom of the Netherlands to the UN, United States

Political solution is only way out of Syrian conflict

‘Only a political solution offers a way out of the conflict in Syria. There is widespread hesitancy among EU countries about lifting the arms embargo on Syrian opposition groups. We will discuss this further in the weeks ahead. Whatever steps we take, it is essential that they contribute to a political solution. We will also be looking at lifting economic sanctions on the opposition, mainly to enable them to provide services to the civilian population.’ This was foreign minister Frans Timmermans’s assessment following the discussion on Syria at the informal meeting of EU foreign ministers in Dublin.

Mr Timmermans also raised the issue of young people from EU countries joining up with jihadists. ‘That is a matter of great concern to the Dutch government,’ he said. ‘These young people become radicalised and risk losing their lives or returning traumatised, with all the security risks that entails.’ A number of countries indicated that they also wished to pay more attention to this problem.

The agenda of the informal meeting for Friday included the review of the European External Action Service, which was set up in 2010. ‘We need a strong European diplomatic service so that Europe’s voice is heard loud and clear on global questions. The service therefore has to operate effectively and efficiently, for example in the area of consular assistance and crisis management. We should also look into what buildings and other facilities we could share,’ said Mr Timmermans.

The final item on the agenda was the EU’s relations with regional organisations like ASEAN and the African Union. ‘Crime, terrorism and climate change don’t respect national and regional boundaries. It is in our interests too that these organisations can come up with solutions to regional issues in Asia and Africa,’ said Mr Timmermans.