Just weeks after Bashar al-Assad was re-elected, in a vote widely seen as a parody of democracy, some smaller European countries have started improving their relations with the Syrian regime.
Cyprus moved to a new embassy in the capital Damascus. As for Serbia, it established a precedent since the start of the Syrian revolution ten years ago and sent an ambassador.
On Saturday, the Financial Times reported that the above events are “small steps, not turning points.”
“It is unlikely that EU member states will follow the same procedure soon, particularly France and Germany,” the report added.
The initiatives of Cyprus and Serbia, although temporary, illustrate the challenge the EU will face in Syria, particularly as the situation returns to normal over time, according to the newspaper.
Laure Foucher, the senior analyst at the International Crisis Group, said that actions undertaken by these small countries “weaken the EU’s position. The Syrian regime knows exactly how to deal with this situation.”
The newspaper reported on the initiatives of some Arab countries to normalize relations with the Assad regime -recently the UAE and Bahrain.
“Without a political settlement, the EU is opposed to helping a pariah regime with a multi-billion dollar reconstruction bill,” the newspaper said.
Germany and France are more interested in a long-term settlement of the conflict.
Despite the EU’s reluctance to finance reconstruction, many countries finance projects that could be classified as reconstruction, such as school rehabilitations.
“The EU’s political position can last a long time, and the question is what are the concrete achievements,” said the senior analyst at the International Crisis Group.
“There exists a gap between the EU’s political position and what is happening on the ground concerning humanitarian aid,” she pointed out.
The EU imposed economic sanctions on the Assad regime in 2011 for suppressing popular protests and using internationally banned weapons against its own people.
In past years, the sanctions decision has continuously been extended periodically. There are also sanctions imposed by the United States, most notably under the Caesar Act.
The U.S and Western countries, through these sanctions, are seeking to pressure Assad to accept a political solution. This will lead to a just transition of power, despite the sanction’s negative effects on the citizens.
This article was translated and edited by The Syrian Observer. The Syrian Observer has not verified the content of this story. Responsibility for the information and views set out in this article lies entirely with the author.