Estonian MEP Yana Toom meets with Bashar al-Assad for second time this year (1)
A delegation of Russia's Federation Council members and three MEPs met with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in Damascus on Thursday. For the second time this year, among the MEPs was Estonian Center Party politician Yana Toom.
Russian news agency TASS was informed about the meeting by Chairman of the International Affairs Committee of the Federation Council of the Federal Assembly of the Russian Federation Konstantin Kosachev, according to whom the recently signed Syrian ceasefire deal was discussed with the Syrian president.
"We are in Syria with a Federation Council delegation together with three MEPs," explained Kosachev. The three MEPs were from Italy, Latvia and Estonia.
According to Syria's state news agency SANA, Assad said at the meeting that Russia is defending Syria's security by also supporting that of its own as well as of European states.
Toom has previously stated that there is a lack of an objective picture of what is going on in Syria and that the EU had chosen the "stranger's side."
Toom previously visited Syria and met with President Bashar al-Assad in July, where they spoke of the war on terror and sanctions imposed on Syria.
Toom to "Aktuaalne kaamera": Assad was more constructive, calmer this time
Yana Toom told ETV news broadcast "Aktuaalne kaamera" in a telephone interview that she spoke with Assad about the international situation and sanctions, however the primary topic of discussion was the truce in Syria.
According to Toom, a truce has been eagerly awaited in Syria and it is hoped that this may now end the war there. She said that she hopes that this ceasefire will hold.
"When I last met with President Bashar al-Assad, his attitude toward Turkish politics and even [Turkish President] Tayyip Erdoğan personally was much more warlike," the Estonian MEP recalled. "Today he seemed to be much more constructive and calm."
She added that the ceasefire deal essentially meant that Russia and Turkey were both guaranteeing that the truce would hold on the part of those sides which they respectively influenced or controlled.
According to Toom, however, the main reason why she traveled to Syria was the refugee crisis.
"It is very clear that the refugee crisis which hit Europe and also made it to Estonia began in this region and if we don't solve this problem here, then we won't solve the refugee problem in the EU," she said.
Toom confirmed that she paid for her own travel and living expenses on this trip. "This has nothing to do with the Kremlin, Assad or anyone else," she stated.
Oksana Talisainen, director of the office of the Estonian MEP, had previously told daily Postimees that Toom was in Syria upon the official invitation of the Syrian government.
Toom herself told ERR via telephone on Tuesday that for security reasons she could not reveal the exact schedule, meetings or route of her current visit to Syria. "Life will show how long I stay," she responded when asked for how long she would remain in Syria.