BRUSSELS: European Union foreign ministers will mull plans next week for the bloc's 27 governments to pull all their ambassadors out of Syria.
A Brussels meeting next Thursday and Friday will, for the first time, include Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu -- who cancelled a planned trip last month -- and will focus on "possible closures of the EU embassies in Syria," two senior EU sources confirmed to AFP.
An EU official said that Europe is considering a coordinated withdrawal of all diplomatic contacts with Damascus ahead of a new push at the United Nations for action against President Bashar al-Assad's regime.
However, responding to publication of documented transcripts obtained by AFP of ambassadors' talks over the past two weeks in which the EU's European External Action Service (EEAS) spelled out the plan, a spokesman for EEAS head Catherine Ashton, Michael Mann, told AFP that several options remained on the table.
Ashton's top managers set out all the alternatives, that "all EU delegations depart, some remain and none move," Mann said, adding that Ashton's red line centred on EU -- as opposed to national -- staff remaining in Syria.
Davutoglu, a key interlocutor, will brief EU counterparts on "the political dialogue between the government (in Damascus) and the political opposition" at home and abroad, as well as the latest diplomatic initiatives on Iran and the Middle East peace process, the source said.
The EEAS is also "engaging in diplomatic contacts with Russia and China as well as other BRIC countries," meaning India and Brazil, an EU official said, with a view to overcoming resistance in the UN Security Council to coordinated action against Syria.
The Security Council has failed to agree on resolutions condemning the year-long repression in Syria in which more than 8,000 people have been killed, according to the UN.
Two draft resolutions were blocked by Russia and China, two permanent members of the Security Council with veto powers.
The UN said Thursday it would send experts on a Syrian government-led humanitarian mission, while UN leader Ban Ki-moon strongly condemned the past year of "brutal repression" by Assad's regime.
The Turkish foreign minister had cancelled his EU trip last month over the French parliament's approval of legislation making it a crime to deny that the mass killings of Armenians in 1915 was genocide. AGENCIES