The international community has sent a strong political message of their firm determination to continue putting pressure on the Assad regime in Syria, Bulgarian Foreign Minister Nikolai Mladenov said on February 26 2013, opening a meeting in Sofia of the International Working Group on sanctions against Syria.
The agenda of the working group meeting includes, among other matters, issues related to best practices in the application of sanctions, co-operation between state institutions and the private sector, and the contribution of the IWG to ensuring a swifter recovery by Syria.
Representatives of 56 countries and three organisations, also including the Working Group on Economic Reconstruction and Development in Syria, along with the united Syrian opposition, were at the meeting.
“All of us here are united in our concern over the crisis in Syria. We must direct our efforts to stopping the violence in the country as soon as possible, to put an end to the tragedy of the Syrian people. The international community has sent a strong political message, stating their firm determination to continue to put pressure on the Assad regime,” Mladenov told the meeting, which was co-chaired by Australian ambassador Jenny Bloomfield and Khalid Al Ghaith, assistant foreign minister of the United Arab Emirates.
Mladenov said: “I am proud of the recently held debate in the EU, which enables us not only to expand the arms embargo, but also to work more closely with the Syrian opposition forces”.
He called for full support for the new initiative by the Special Envoy of the United Nations and the League of Arab States, Lakhdar Brahimi, to stop the violence and to start a political transition towards the building of a democratic Syria.
“The Syrian people need our help, support and determination,” Mladenov said.
He said that the opposition had made tangible progress in the consolidation process after the formation of the National Coalition of Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces in November 2012. “The sanctions are an effective mechanism for pressure and we will be persistent in maintaining them until the withdrawal of the regime,” Mladenov said.
He welcomed the efforts by Syria’s neighbours in dealing with the refugee problem. Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan and Iraq are working very closely with the international community to address the serious humanitarian situation in Syria. “The success of the donor conference in Kuwait, at which more than $ 1.5 billion was raised for humanitarian aid, is an expression of solidarity too of the Arab States with the people of Syria,” Mladenov* said.
The meeting of the Working Group was to conclude later on February 26 with a joint communique by all participants.
Meanwhile, United States secretary of state John Kerry was to meet in Berlin on February 26 with his Russian counterpart, foreign minister Sergey Lavrov, for talks expected to focus on future prospects for Syria, the Voice of America said.
Washington and Moscow are at odds over how to proceed after convincing the Syrian opposition to take part in international talks on the conflict.
Kerry has said the US remains committed to a political solution in Syria.
On February 25, the BBC said that the Syrian opposition had agreed to attend an international summit in Rome, after the US and UK “promised specific aid” to the Syrian people. The group had previously announced it would boycott the talks because of “the world’s silence” over the violence. The Friends of Syria group is scheduled to meet in the Italian capital city on February 28.
(*Given the acceptance by Parliament of the resignation of the Bulgarian government last week, like all cabinet ministers Mladenov is in acting capacity pending the formation of the next administration.)