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MEP Yana Toom to travel to Syria again this month

MEP Yana Toom (Center).
MEP Yana Toom (Center). Source: (Rene Suurkaev/ERR)

Estonian MEP Yana Toom, who traveled to Syria and met with President Bashar al-Assad on two separate occasions in July and December of last year, will be traveling to Syria again this month.

While Toom told ERR that she would not reveal the exact details of her travel itinerary for security reasons, she did say that she would like to visit Aleppo. Also planned is a meeting with the UN's pecial Envoy of the Secretary-General for Syria Staffan de Mistura, who is involved in Syrian peace talks.

"Assad isn't isn't of primary concern at all and I am not at all sure that this meeting would take place, but the plan was to go see the humanitarian situation in person," Toom explained. "And we will do this in cooperation with the Red Cross."

Toom noted that attempts are being made to organize meetings with representatives of the opposition, however this is very complicated. Should meetings with Russian representatives come up, they would be met with in Lebanon, not Syria, she added.

Toom will be traveling together with six other MEPs, each of whom will also have journalists along with them.

She said that she has not spoken to Estonian Minister of Foreign Affairs Sven Mikser about her upcoming trip, however she has spoken to Prime Minister Jüri Ratas about it. "About the humanitarian situation specifically and how I see it and why I am doing such things — I have indeed spoken to Jüri about it," Toom said. "But that does not mean that Jüri as prime minister approves of my activities. This is not an activity approved of by the prime minister."

Toom: All sides have committed war crimes

"I believe that all sides in the Syrian conflict have committed war crimes — that is probably a fact," Toom said. "And in the case of war crimes, one can actually be sure that all culprits will be convicted. I have no doubt that if that is the case, then that is how it will go."

ERR asked Toom what she hopes to accomplish with her visits. "I am definitely gaining knowledge," she replied. "If you are there on site and speak to people, then that picture is quite different. Our media has a very black-and-white approach to it."

Toom also expressed hope that by making an effort together with other MEPs, they can pressure the EU into getting more involved in the humanitarian crisis in Syria.

In her opinion, the EU should be one party involved in Syria-related talks, as the EU is the one dealing with the refugee crisis. "It isn't the US, it isn't Russia; it is us — but we are not at the table," said the MEP.

Toom noted that she would personally be paying for all travel and accommodations-related expenses.

Editor: Aili Vahtla

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