24 September 2013 – Brussels – The AJC Transatlantic Institute condemned the decision by Veronique De Keyser, a Belgian Member of the European Parliament, to meet with Bashar al-Assad on a recent trip to Syria. Parliament and the Group of the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats, where she serves as Vice-Chair, must rebuke De Keyser for her reckless decision.
“De Keyser’s actions are utterly irresponsible and only serve to undermine the EU’s common policy, which in May 2011 unanimously decided to sanction Assad for his horrendous crimes,” said Daniel Schwammenthal, Director of the AJC Transatlantic Institute in Brussels. “As a member of the Subcommittee on Human Rights in the European Parliament, her responsibility is to the victims of Assad’s murderous reign. Instead, she chose to lend the Syrian president undeserved legitimacy and upon her return even appears to parrot the regime’s propaganda.”
In an interview with the Belga News Agency this past Friday, De Keyser said that the Syrian president told her that he is “not clung to power” and that he is allegedly “working on a political solution to the conflict.” De Keyser’s actions have already been strongly condemned by her own party in Belgium.
“This trip is definitely not covered by the party. To meet with Bashar al-Assad and, by doing so, to give even a minor form of support is incomprehensible,” said a spokesman for the Parti Socialiste in Belgium.
“De Keyser’s unforgiveable lack of judgment is a stain on the reputation of the entire European Parliament. To distance themselves from her actions, the President of the house and her own political group in Parliament must rebuke her,” said Schwammenthal. “De Keyser has shown herself unworthy of serving as a Member of the Subcommittee on Human Rights and a Vice-Chair of her political group. She should step down from these positions at once.”
The death toll in Syria since the crackdown began in March 2011 is estimated at over 100,000, with millions made refugees. Both the EU and the US cite strong evidence that the Assad regime used chemical weapons against its own people, killing more than 1,400 civilians, including over 400 children, in an attack near Damascus on August 21.