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Co-operation on regional and global issues

35 - Relations with the US on the Syrian conflict

Grade: A-
Unity 4/5
Resources 4/5
Outcome 8/10
Total 16/20

Americans and Europeans – most notably France and the UK – coordinated policy towards Syria but had limited impact on the ground.

Europeans and Americans generally saw eye-to-eye on Syria during the course of 2012. All insisted – though without success – that the Syrian government cease its repression and enter into a transition process, with President Bashar al-Assad removed from power.

Both the US and the EU were frustrated by Russia and China, which in February and July again vetoed action against Syria at the UNSC. In an attempt to create a strong coalition and come up with viable solutions to the Syrian crisis beyond the UN, they formed the “Friends of Syria” group in February. Several meetings were held, at which Americans and Europeans played an important role, but the value of the group diminished as the year went by. A crucial push to force the opposition to organise itself and become more representative came from US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, alongside Qatar, and leading European states such as France, leading to the Syrian National Coalition in November 2012.

On the European side, the main diplomatic players were the French and the British. Apart from a brief period of tension during the summer, when the French called for a no-fly zone at one point, both cooperated closely with the US, with France often leading the way in exploring new options (the “Friends of Syria” group, the free zones, and the recognition of the Syrian National Coalition), and both coordinating on non-lethal arms supply for the resistance. Lastly, the EU as a whole also strongly supported the Western effort, with new rounds of sanctions every month or so, in step with the US. These sanctions were taken outside a UNSC resolution framework. They confirmed, after the Iranian case, that the EU could apply sanctions effectively.