Syria: "We cannot remain silent in the face of such atrocities!"

Strasbourg, 23.04.2012 - In his opening address PACE President, Jean-Claude Mignon, welcomed in particular the decision to hold an urgent debate on Syria on Thursday morning. "Our aim, as ever, is to ensure that the democratic changes in the southern Mediterranean go off as peacefully as possible, with full respect for fundamental human rights. This has not always been the case in Syria, where there have been over ten thousand deaths and thousands of refugees – a genuine humanitarian disaster. We cannot remain silent in the face of such atrocities!" he said.

"The ceasefire negotiated by Mr Annan is still not being fully respected and we have serious doubts about the credibility of the commitments entered into by President Assad’s regime. However, I remain optimistic: UN Security Council Resolution 2042, which was unanimously adopted recently, authorising the sending of an unarmed observer mission, and Mr Annan’s six-point peace plan highlight the basic conditions for settling the conflict."

He continued "However, the Arab Spring has given rise to an impressive dynamic for democratic change in our southern neighbourhood, and Partner for Democracy status provides enormous potential for expanding our co-operation with the region. During this session we shall have the honour of welcoming Mr Saad dine El Otmani, the Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Kingdom of Morocco – our former colleague as a member of the Moroccan delegation to the Assembly – who will be reporting on the progress achieved in his country since Morocco was granted Partner for Democracy status."

Lastly, Jean-Claude Mignon pointed out that this session marks the 10th anniversary of Bosnia and Herzegovina's accession to the Council of Europe. "In 2002, this sent out a strong message and constituted an opportunity for the people of Bosnia and Herzegovina to advance along the road to European integration. Today, however, a number of major reforms are still in abeyance, as noted by our Monitoring Committee. Yet here too I remain optimistic: the only way for us to advance is through co-operation, and I am glad that Mr Zlatko Lagumdzija, the Minister for Foreign Affairs of Bosnia and Herzegovina, will be addressing our Assembly on Wednesday, followed by an exchange of views "