EU threatens Russia with sanctions over role in Syria unrest
European Union (EU) leaders warned Russia at a summit on Friday that they would consider sanctions over its role in the Syrian conflict, if Moscow did not stop “crimes” in the devastated city of Aleppo.
As the bloc’s 28 leaders met in Brussels for a crucial discussion on their strategy to deal with Moscow, EU President Donald Tusk said they should “keep all options open, including sanctions.”
French President Francois Hollande said “all options are open for as long as there is not a ceasefire that is respected and for as long as there is an intention to destroy this town, Aleppo, a town of martyrs.”
The leaders in a draft summit statement said the EU was weighing sanctions against supporters of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime, if they failed to stop atrocities.
“The EU is considering all options, including further restrictive measures targeting individuals and entities supporting the regime, should the current atrocities continue,” the draft EU summit statement said.
“The European Council strongly condemns the attacks by the Syrian regime and its allies, notably Russia, on civilians in Aleppo,” it added.
British Prime Minister Theresa May, arriving for her first EU summit since the June Brexit vote, called for a united European approach to “sickening atrocities” in Syria. “We must show a robust and united European stance in the face of Russian aggression,” she said.
She added: “It is vital that we work together to continue to put pressure on Russia to stop its appalling atrocities, its sickening atrocities in Syria.”
The EU leaders were to discuss their long-term Russia policy over dinner but deep cracks over how tough to be with Moscow remained evident. Some warned there was no unity on adding sanctions over Syria to those that the EU has already imposed on Russia over the conflict in Ukraine.
“One option is sanctions. I don’t think there’s unity but I think it should be on the table, that this should be an option for the future,” Swedish PM Stefan Lofven said.
Luxembourg premier Xavier Bettel, however, said “certain people were talking about sanctions” but “we have to find solutions around the table.”