Page last updated at 18:55 GMT, Tuesday, 12 June 2012 19:55 UK

Catherine Ashton: Syria violence 'sickening'

EU foreign affairs chief Catherine Ashton has condemned the "sickening violence" in Syria, and warned that the situation is deteriorating "day by day".

Baroness Ashton alleged on 12 June 2012 that there have been "massacres and point blank killings" of men, women and children by President Bashar al-Assad's regime, and repeated calls for him to step aside.

She said continuing violence would be disastrous for the Syrian people as well as the broader region, expressing particular concerns about neigbouring Lebanon.

The high representative appealed for international efforts to stop the "bloodshed", and for those responsible to be held to account.

The UN has warned of an alarming escalation in violence in Syria, and the US says it fears the government may be planning "another massacre".

A team of UN military observers is currently inside the country as part of a six-point peace plan brokered by UN-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan.

Lady Ashton acknowledged that the viability of the peace plan had been questioned and that it would be difficult to implement - but she stressed it is the best way forward.

MEPs across the political groups shared Baroness Ashton's horror at the situation in Syria.

Centre-right MEP José Ignacio Salafranca Sánchez-Neyra suggested a military presence in Syria to bring an end to the violence, but Belgium socialist Veronique de Keyser cautioned against this, fearing the impact it could have on terrorism in the region.

British Conservative Charles Tannock called for action to prevent "all-out sectarian civil war" or a "Rwanda-style genocide" in Syria.

Green MEP Franziska Katharina Brantner argued for a peace-keeping mission in the country.

The wide-ranging debate also covered the EU's policy in Afghanistan, the situation in Tibet and the developments in DR Congo following the November 2011 elections.

Useful links:

Democracy Live's guide to how the plenary sessions work.

A disclaimer on the use of simultaneous interpretations, on the European Parliament's website.

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