The EU's foreign policy chief, Catherine Ashton, has again stressed the urgency of finding a diplomatic solution to the escalating conflict in Syria, telling journalists in Tallinn on Monday that every delay in bringing the parties to the negotiating table would take a human toll.
"[...] We believe that, in the end, a solution that brings people together to find a political process is absolutely necessary. And the longer we wait, the more people get killed," she said.
"The longer the parties are not prepared to sit down and work it out, the more children have no school, have nowhere to live, their families have to live in refugee camps. The longer that this goes on, the more countries in this region suffer from having to house huge numbers of refugees [...]"
Ashton's comments, albeit more strongly worded, were effectively a repetition of a statement she issued on Friday, which expressed alarm at the situation and spoke of the need to move forward with the diplomatic process "without further delay."
When asked whether it was realistic, in light of last week's alleged chemical attack, to expect representatives of the government and rebels to sit down together, Ashton was resolute that negotiations along the lines of the planned Geneva II conference would take place.
"Because in the end that's what we have to do [...] Any conflict has to end up in a process where people who have often done terrible things have to sit down and work out a way to stop it. It doesn't mean that you condone the attacks, it doesn't mean you don't contemplate alternatives," she said.
Ashton said further that it was important that the UN inspectors in Syria are able to examine the evidence as quickly as possible and reach clear conclusions about what took place.
Ashton was in Tallinn speaking at an ambassadors' conference organized by the Estonian Foreign Ministry.