Israel′s Peres delivers historic EU speech | Europe| News and current affairs from around the continent | DW | 12.03.2013
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Israel's Peres delivers historic EU speech

Israeli President Shimon Peres delivered an historic speech to the European Parliament in Strasbourg on Tuesday, calling for the Arab League to intervene in Syria "to stop the massacre."

"The Arab League can and should form a provincial government in Syria to stop the massacre, to prevent Syria from falling to pieces. The United Nations should support the Arab League to build an Arab force in blue helmets," President Peres said during a speech before the European Parliament on Tuesday. His speech was the first by an Israeli head of state to the assembly in nearly three decades.

The free world, he continued "cannot stand by when a massacre is carried out by the Syrian president against his own people and his own children."

Western leaders have turned to the UN Security Council several times to appeal for a mandated intervention, but have been blocked by Russia and China. Gradually, the EU and US have recognized Syria's opposition group. They have both upheld an arms embargo - out of fear that weapons could fall into the hands of extremists - but recently loosened regulations to send "non-lethal" weapons to the opposition fighters.

Diplomatic efforts have failed to sway Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to relinquish power. Western leaders worry that if a diplomatic solution does not emerge soon, Syria could fall into a state of political mayhem similar to Somalia's.

In the two-year civil war that has ravaged Syrian communities, an estimated 70,000 have been killed and at least 2 million displaced from their homes, according to the United Nations. About 1 million refugees have fled to neighboring Turkey, Jordan and Lebanon.

"It breaks all our hearts."

Syria's president, Bashar al-Assad, was a threat for the entire region, "and even for Europe," Peres said, blaming his arsenal of chemical weapons. Arab League intervention was the only solution to prevent chemical weapons from falling into the wrong hands.

Delivering his speech before the 754-strong member parliament, the Israeli president also singled out Iran and Hezbollah as threats that should not be overlooked.

Peres called the current Iranian government "the greatest danger to peace in the world," citing Iran's belligerent rhetoric toward Israel and its refusal to halt uranium enrichment, which Western powers fear will be used for developing a nuclear weapon.

He also used the opportunity to call the Lebanese group Hezbollah a terrorist organization, appealing to other parliamentarians to give it the same label.

The EU is already under pressure from Israel and the United States to place the group on a terrorist blacklist. "Your voice is highly respected," Peres said, adding his voice to the calls.

"We appeal to you – call terror, terror."

Chaim Herzog was the last Israeli head of state to address the forum's then 10 member nations, 28 years ago.

jlw/kms (AP, AFP, dpa)

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