Page last updated at 16:18 GMT, Tuesday, 11 September 2012 17:18 UK

MEP calls for 'coalition of the willing' on Syria

A senior MEP has said the European Union needs to lead a "coalition of the willing" to end the violence in Syria.

Speaking during a debate on the conflict on 11 September 2012, Liberal group leader Guy Verhofstadt said the EU had an "obligation" to protect the Syrian people.

He said it was time to stop waiting for Russia and China to agree to a UN resolution; "if the Americans don't have the courage then why not the Europeans?", he concluded.

However his socialist colleague from Belgium, Véronique de Keyser, accused Mr Verhofstadt of wanting to start a war that would be "more dangerous than that in Iraq or Afghanistan".

Thousands of people have been killed and around a quarter of a million people have fled the country since the conflict began last year.

Fighting has raged between forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad and those opposed to his rule.

The violence flared following the 2011 Arab Spring, but has intensified in recent months, with attacks by government forces in towns including Homs and Aleppo, and fighting reaching the capital Damascus in July 2012.

The EU's High Representative Baroness Ashton said the EU was working with neighbouring countries including Jordan and Turkey.

She told MEPs that she had facilitated a "dialogue" with opposition groups, but British Conservative MEP Sajjad Karim questioned whether it was now the time to "arm the opposition or initiate a no-fly zone".

MEPs voted on a resolution setting out their concerns on the situation in Syria during the daily voting session on 13 September 2012.

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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