Foreign Ministry condemns MEP's trip to Syria

The recent trip to Syria by Latvian MEP Tatjana Ždanoka of the Latvian Union of Russians political party is unacceptable, Foreign Minister Edgars Rinkēvičs told LETA Wednesday.

Rinkēvičs said that such activities by a politician representing Latvia are not acceptable and must be condemned, especially since the European Union has imposed sanctions on the Syrian regime, LETA was informed by the minister's advisor Mārtiņš Drēģeris.

The minister however allowed that the politician's actions are not much of a surprise, as she also visited the Crimean peninsula shortly after it was illegally annexed by Russia.

''This whole situation is a huge disappointment and leads to questions regarding the motives regarding Ždanoka's actions and the system of values this European Parliament member actually represents,'' the minister said, adding that her activities should be put under scrutiny by the European Parliament.

Ždanoka posted on her Facebook account on Monday that she had a ninety-minute meeting with Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad on Sunday in Damascus. Assad has been accused of war crimes and crimes against humanity.

She was accompanied by Estonian MEP Yana Toom (Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe) as well as Spanish MEP Javier Couso Permuy (European United Left).

Estonian officials have likewise criticized Toom's trip as "unacceptable".

The European Parliament has distanced itself from the trip.

"This is not an official visit from the European Parliament or any of its official bodies, and the expenditures are not being paid by the EP; this trip is entirely on their own responsibility," the parliament's deputy spokesperson Marjory van den Broeke told BNS Monday, reported ERR.

Ždanoka is well-known in Latvia for her pro-Russia views and initiatives. In 2014 she was narrowly elected to the European Parliament for the Latvia’s Union of Russians party, despite it failing to win seats in the national parliament or Saeima. The party is known to have received Kremlin cash via the Latvian Human Rights Committee.

Since then she has supported Russian foreign policy interests such as advocating in favor of the Crimea annexation, voting against financial aid to Ukraine and frequently appearing on Russian state media praising the policies of President Putin.

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