On 28 and 29 April 2015, a high level delegation from the Parliamentary Assembly of the Mediterranean, led by PAM Secretary General, Amb. Sergio Piazzi, together with Hon. Bilal Kasem (Palestine), and Mr. Mourad Youssry, PAM Deputy Secretary General, visited Damascus, Syria, for consultations with senior officials of the Government and Parliament.

Bilateral meetings were held with the Syrian Deputy Prime Minister, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, the Speaker of the Parliament and all members of the Parliamentary Committee for Foreign Affairs and those for the Committee on National Reconciliation. Discussions focused on the political process for peace, the round of the Geneva negotiations starting today, the challenges posed by terrorist activities in the country and humanitarian assistance.

In Damascus, the PAM delegation also met with foreign diplomats from the Russian Federation, the European Commission, Egypt, Cyprus and the Czech Republic. While in Damascus, the PAM delegation also visited a school which has been transformed in an Assistance Centre to host displaced Syrians.

Detailed discussions took place with the United Nations Humanitarian Coordinator, to review ongoing operations, cooperation with national authorities, outstanding needs, population displacement within the country, the impact of sanctions on civilians, and foreseeable challenges in the light of recent developments on the ground.

The delegation also met with leaders of the Palestinian community in Syria. They provided a detailed account of the current situation in the Yarmouk Camp, 5km from the centre of Damascus. At present, the Camp, which previously hosted 200,000 persons, counts only a population of some nine thousand persons, who still refuse to evacuate their homes due to their political/military affiliation to ISIS and Al Qaeda. This group is however receiving humanitarian assistance through a dedicated corridor. A delegation from the Palestinian Authority will soon travel to Damascus for discussion with national authorities to address the situation.

In Beirut, on 30 April 2015, the PAM delegation was received by the President of the Lebanese Parliament, with whom a fruitful exchange of views took place on the regional dimension of the Middle East crisis, and its implications for the entire Mediterranean basin. The President highlighted the unique role of Parliamentary Diplomacy, particularly that played by PAM, in the present circumstances, to complement the efforts of the international community.

The PAM delegation, in Beirut, also met with senior officials of the United Nations humanitarian operations and UN ESCWA, with whom present challenges resulting from the massive unprecedented displacement of civilians, and their impact on hosting countries, was reviewed.

In view of the forthcoming PAM-UNESCO (Rabat, Morocco, 14-15 May 2015) meeting, hosted by the Parliament of Morocco, on the Protection of Heritage from the destruction, looting, smuggling, and illegal trade by criminal and terrorist organizations, especially in view of the latest episodes of destruction of historical sites and museum in Iraq and Syria by DAESH hordes, and the threat to do so also in Libya, the PAM delegation also met in Damascus the General Director of Antiquities and Museums, who explained the seriousness of the situation in Syria, where even Palmyra and some 400 other archaeological sites had been targeted by terrorists and criminal organisations.

Also in Rabat, on the invitation of the Parliament of Morocco, PAM will be holding, on 26 May 2015 a Parliamentary Session of its Political Committee, open to all partner organisations dedicated to security issues in both the Western and Eastern Mediterranean, in preparation for the meeting of the Ministers of Foreign Affairs of the West Mediterranean Dialogue (5+5 Dialogue).//

issued on 04.05.2015

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