Dr Charles Tannock

Member of the European Parliament for London

Ashton told to press for 'limited' military action in Syria

The Parliament - 14th June 2012

By Martin Banks

Two senior MEPs have demanded "limited" military intervention to stop the "ghastly human tragedy" in Syria.

UK deputy Graham Watson told parliament that such action would enjoy the "support of world opinion".

Both Watson and another UK deputy, Charles Tannock, were speaking in a debate on the EU's policy on Syria during the Strasbourg plenary with EU high representative for foreign affairs, Catherine Ashton.

The demand for some form of military action comes as a number of countries warned on Thursday of a descent into civil war in Syria.

France wants a UN peace plan brokered by mediator Kofi Annan to be enforced but Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov has insisted Moscow will not sanction the use of force.

China is also unlikely to back such a move in the UN security council.

Meanwhile, the Syrian government has been accused of war crimes and crimes against humanity in a new report by the human rights group, Amnesty International.

In Wednesday's parliamentary debate, Watson, a former ALDE group leader, called on Ashton to demand an international intervention, led by the UN, to stop the "ongoing slaughter" in Syria.

"The Annan plan is dead, despite attempts to revive its corpse," he said.

"In Haffa, Houla and Hreitan, a ghastly human tragedy is unfolding before our eyes. Women and children are being shot at random, children are being tortured and allegedly even used as human shields."

"The EU, and Ashton, as our voice on the world stage, should be urging UN secretary-general Ban Ki-Moon to call on Nato or others to intervene and the International Criminal Court to investigate."

Watson added, "The UN security council may be hamstrung, but with the support of world public opinion Ban Ki-Moon doesn't have to be."

His comments were partly backed by Tannock who called on Russia to "show true leadership" and lift its security council veto blocking UN action to counter the bloodshed in Syria.

Tannock, Conservative spokesman on foreign affairs in parliament, said Russia must use its "unique leverage" to bring about change - and the west should keep all its options open, including limited military intervention.

He "utterly condemned" the "barbaric atrocities" perpetrated against innocent civilians, including and women and children, by the Al-Assad regime in Syria.

"The so called 'shabiha' are beyond control and are increasingly acting with impunity. Their atrocities have repulsed the international community and are reminiscent of the unspeakable atrocities of the Balkans twenty years ago.

"It is clear that the Annan peace plan has failed. Russia must use its unique leverage to effect change and urgently reverse its security council veto, thus unblocking the path for robust international action o