Some 200,000 people have died in Syria since the start of this civil war. Six million Syrians, from a population of 22 million, are now refugees; a number that is, unfortunately, still on the rise. These statistics are astonishing, but the truth is that this brutal civil war is far from over. Syrian rebels (some of whom are Al-Qaeda members) continue to reap success in Syria. They recently seized control of a key airbase in the northwest province of Idlib, after a siege that had lasted two years. Meanwhile, despite the military action taken by the United States and its allies, ISIS and other extreme Islamist groups continue their campaign of destruction. A genocide is taking place, with total impunity, at Europe's doorstep.
The photo of young Aylan Kurdi, dead on the shore in Bodrum, is the greatest illustration of the world's failure. We have the duty to act immediately to help end this conflict, and contribute to bringing stability to the region. If we want to reach a lasting agreement, the EU, the United States, Russia and China must be a central part of this effort.
Russia's military activity in Syria seems to be intensifying. Putin knows everything we know. The only difference is that we don't dare to stand up and say that conflict in this region is unacceptable and unsustainable for the international community. By increasing his participation now, he ensures a key role for Russia in the negotiation of any future agreement. It's impossible to imagine a solution to the Syrian conflict without the direct involvement of Russia.
Furthermore, we have to show China that the status quo no is no longer economically rewarding for them. It's time for the EU to build on the success of the recent deal with Iran, and lead a joint agreement in the region. Only two months ago, the international community reached an unprecedented agreement with Iran after a P5+1 meeting (United States, Russia, China, United Kingdom, France, Germany). The High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Federica Mogherini, should now use this experience and the momentum generated by this agreement to propose an initiative that develops, within an international framework, a vision for the stabilization of Syria and the region at large.
The United Nations must now work on a plan to find a political solution to put an end to four years of conflict in Syria. Furthermore, the anti-ISIS coalition will have to double its efforts to curb the spread of Islamist forces. It seems that the US-led international coalition has not been able to stop the jihadist expansion in Iraq and Syria. Its failures can be accounted for by the lack of military commitment. But, above all, the problem is that the coalition lacks a shared vision for solutions in the region. We must increase support for the democratic and moderate opposition in Syria.
The development of a shared vision will not be easy or free of controversy. It will require dialogue with Putin, and persuading Iran to change its attitude towards the region, in order for it to become part of a constructive solution. We have to increase our support not only for the democratic and moderate opposition in Syria, but also for the Free Syrian Army. We are aware that even the members of the US-led anti-ISIS coalition have different priorities, as Syria has become a battlefield for regional wars. But we must try. For the West, there are no good options, only options that are not as bad as others. Without a large diplomatic effort to find a common vision for the region, it seems very likely that the options we have now will continue to decrease, as the humanitarian crisis at Europe's doorstep continues. The Iraq talks, led by the EU, could be ideal for working with regional leaders to develop this vision.
Any agreement has to be mindful of our historic failures in this region, and safeguard the rights of Sunnis, Shiites, Alawites, Kurds and other religious sects and ethnic groups. It's time for the EU to take the initiative. The world has to give the Syrian refugees --who were able to escape-- the hope and opportunity to one day, go back home.
This is a much bigger challenge than the shaky Middle East peace process or the deal with Iran, but the consequences of our continued failures will be devastating for Europe, the region and the world. Those who still believe that the war in Syria, Al-Assad's bombings of civilians and the Islamic State's genocide do not concern us, or that these problems will resolve themselves, must wake up immediately.
On September 11, Guy Verhofstadt sent a letter to the EU's high representative for foreign affairs, Federica Mogherini, in which he asked her to launch a diplomatic initiative to promote regional cooperation and contribute to the stabilization of Syria.
This post first appeared on HuffPost Spain and was translated into English.