EU unveils Syria reconstruction plan

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The EU unveiled an ambitious plan Tuesday to support the reconstruction of war-torn Syria, calling it a “dividend” to encourage warring parties to reach a peace deal.

Ahead of an April 5 Syria conference in Brussels, European Union foreign affairs head Federica Mogherini released proposals ranging from demining to organizing elections.

“Too many times the international community has not prepared the post-conflict period in time. This time we want to be ready,” Mogherini told reporters at the European Parliament in Strasbourg.

Mogherini said the EU was “looking beyond the current situation as a dividend for peace that could encourage parties in Syria to make necessary compromises”.

She has pushed the 28-nation EU to play a leading role in post-conflict Syria so as to avoid the mistakes made in Libya and Iraq when the international community effectively left them to their own devices with disastrous results.

The former Italian foreign minister said the EU was ready to do its bit once a “genuine political transition” from Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s rule was underway.

The April 5 conference would provide the opportunity for the parties to begin coordinating their efforts now, she said.

Mogherini highlighted the importance of getting regional players onside -- especially Saudi Arabia, opposed to Assad, and Iran which backs the president and rejects demands for him to step down.

An accompanying document issued by the European Commission said among steps Brussels could take would be to mobilize funding to support reconstruction efforts, including helping with security, demining and monitoring of the ceasefire.

Mogherini said the EU had already mobilized some 9.4 billion euros, of which nearly a billion ($1.10 billion) had been spent inside Syria on humanitarian missions.

The EU could also help restore basic services -- water, health and education -- to show that peace was providing real benefits, the document said.

“The EU could support the drafting of a new constitution and the organization of elections, notably through assistance to election management and an EU electoral observation mission,” the document added.

The EU has consistently backed UN efforts to end the conflict in Syria which has cost some 320,000 lives and displaced millions since 2011 when protests against Assad descended into all-out civil war.

Assad’s future is the key question, with the various rebel groups backed by the United States and Turkey demanding that he step down in any settlement while long-time ally Russia has backed him militarily against the rebels.