• EU moving toward talks with Assad

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    BEIRUT: The European Union (EU) is moving toward engaging in discussions with the government of Bashar Assad’s regime, Elmar Brok, the EU chairman of foreign affairs, said on Wednesday (Wednesday in Manila).

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    Brok, who is currently on an official visit to Lebanon, also said he hoped officials would foster a climate of political unity in the country, hinting that the party’s military wing could be removed from the EU’s terror list in the future.

    Brok explained that the international community is in the middle of a debate about whether to engage with Assad, particularly in light of the threat that poses to the region and to the world. “Europe is a little bit going in that direction,” he told a small gathering of journalists.

    “But the debate is a very open debate. We know for example that the United States and other states have a different opinion, especially Turkey. And a key country in all of these questions will be Turkey,” he added.

    When asked about Hezbollah, whose military wing was added to the EU’s list of terror groups in July 2013, Brok said that “it’s very clear for the moment, for the world community, ISIS [Islamic State of Iraq and Syria] is the most dangerous group.” ISIS is now known as Islamic State.

    If Hezbollah was able to “show responsibility” and help ease tensions in Lebanon, the EU “might be in a good position to change our policy toward Hezbollah,” he added. Brok said that while it was still “too early to say” whether the EU would remove Hezbollah’s terror designation, it has had “discussions about new relationships” with the group.

    Conversely, Brok cast the EU’s commitment to combating IS in no uncertain terms. “We are in a worldwide battle,” he said, adding that has been deeply affected by IS. Recent killing sprees in France and Denmark were committed by individuals apparently inspired by the ideology of IS. “Such a method of killing people should not be accepted,” Brok said.

    While the anti-IS coalition led by the United States has a common stated goal of defeating the terrorist group, Brok bemoaned the lack of synchronized strategies, especially among countries in the Middle East. “We have a coalition of 60 countries, but I have not yet a feeling that most of the countries around this region have a really unified policy,” he added.

    Brok’s visit to Lebanon, along with several other members of the Committee on Foreign Affairs, was intended “to show and give support [to Lebanon]under these circumstances, especially where the refugee is concerned,” he said.

    TNS

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