BRUSSELS (AP) — European Union countries pledged their assistance Monday to help rebuild basic services and local government in the northern Syrian city of Aleppo if a U.N. plan to halt the fighting there can be implemented.
Success of the plan "is crucial for political reasons, for security reasons, for the refugees," EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said. "And also as a symbol, of what Syria can be and what Syria should not be."
Meeting in Brussels, foreign ministers of the 28 EU nations expressed full commitment to U.N. Special Envoy Staffan de Mistura's efforts to seek localized "freezes of hostility" in Syria.
On Sunday, the ministers held a separate meeting with de Mistura.
In a statement, the ministers said "the EU will seek ways to provide practical support to his efforts, notably by contributing to the revival of local governance and administration, to the restoration of basic services and to the return to normalcy in areas of reduced violence, in particular in Aleppo, as conditions allow."
However, the ministers expressed serious concerns over what they said was intensified military action against opposition forces by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, which they called a threat to the U.N. plan.
The ministers also said that for there to be a reduction of violence, effective monitoring is needed, preferably under U.N. Security Council auspices.
"The EU recalls that cases of forced surrender imposed by the Assad regime through starvation sieges were labelled fallaciously as local cease-fires in the past," the ministers said.
The European Union has mobilized 3 billion euros ($3.7 billion) to date for humanitarian assistance to Syria and neighboring countries affected by the 3½ years of fighting there. The bloc views de Mistura's efforts to achieve a strategic de-escalation of violence as a basis for a political process that could lead to the end of the Assad regime.