Ashton Cautions on Lifting Syrian Arms Embargo
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BRUSSELS (March 16, 2013) – On the second day of Brussels Forum, Catherine Ashton, EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and Vice President of the European Commission, said that any change to the arms embargo on Syria must be judicious. “Any decision to lift an arms embargo, you need to consider the implications of that in a number of different ways.
“We have to work through, very carefully, the best understanding we can have of what would be the implications,” she said in response to a question about a push to lift the embargo by France and the United Kingdom. “Would putting more weapons into the field make it more or less likely that others will do the same? What would be the response of Assad, based on what we know about his response so far? Would it stop people being killed or would it kill people faster?”
Ashton was speaking at the eighth annual Brussels Forum, a conference on transatlantic relations organized by the German Marshall Fund of the United States and attended by heads of state, officials from the EU institutions and member states, U.S. officials, congressional representatives, parliamentarians, and academics.
Ashton also addressed her ongoing negotiations with Iran. “What we’re discussing now is not the end package,” she said. “It’s the first confidence-building measure.”
In a later session on China, Ai Ping, Vice-Minister of the International Department of the Chinese Communist Party’s Central Committee, said “Reform is the only way out for China.” He said that reform will not happen overnight. “Before, we were too much in a hurry. We wanted to make a great leap forward, but it resulted in great suffering. We won’t make that mistake again.”
In response to a question about China’s relationship with North Korea, Ai said, “Korea is a neighbor of China, this fact you cannot change.
“Our aim is to develop, to improve the relations with the international community,” he said. “In the long run, we have to have state-to-state relations, as well as party-to-party relations” between China and North Korea.
The remaining session of the morning focused on the role of governments in their countries’ economies. Elsa Fornero, Italy’s Minister of Labor, Social Policies, and Equal Opportunities, expressed some nervousness about the direction her country will be taking following recent parliamentary elections. “In Italy, the elections have been a shock,” she said. “But it is possible it is for the better.
“I know that many voters are the young people, they do not tolerate the privileges,” she said. “They want to see actions of practice.…I have to believe that the young will understand. We say the crisis is a kind of opportunity.”
In the same session, Japanese Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs Koji Tsuruoka said that while his new government is not proposing new policies, it is moving swiftly and “breaking taboos.” He said that, for example, in the Japanese economy, wealth had been concentrated in the older population, which tends not to spend as much. “So how do you shift the demand to the hands of the younger generation? Prime Minister [Shinzo] Abe approached industries by himself, asked the companies to raise the wages. Toyota was the first to raise them,” he said. “Now the whole of industry is very enthusiastic about the initiative. It is not that the industry doesn’t have the money. They have, but they don’t have anywhere to invest in the country. They invest abroad.”
Brussels Forum is an annual conference on transatlantic relations organized by the German Marshall Fund of the United States and attended by heads of state, officials from the EU institutions and member states, U.S. officials, Congressional representatives, Parliamentarians, and academics. GMF is joined in this initiative by its founding partners Daimler and the Federal Authorities of Belgium, as well as its strategic partners BP, the OCP Foundation, the Ministry of Defence of the Republic of Latvia, Bank of America, and the Government of Montenegro. In addition, GMF recognizes the support of its forum partners the European Union Delegation to the United States, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Lithuania, the Foundation for European Progressive Studies, the Bulgarian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the European Liberal Forum, Deloitte, NYSE Euronext, the Brussels Capital Region, the Centre for European Studies, and NATO. Dinner program partners include IBM, Eli Lilly and Company, Ford Motor Company, the Secure World Foundation, European Investment Bank, Facebook, and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Slovak Republic. Star Alliance is the official airline network of Brussels Forum.