EU leaders to condemn Russia over Aleppo


© AFP | Colour-smeared teddy bears are laid by campaigning group Avaaz to protest against the bombing of Syrian city Aleppo on October 19, 2016 in Berlin ahead of a meeting of leaders of Russia, Ukraine, France and Germany

BRUSSELS (AFP) – EU leaders at a summit on Thursday will condemn Russia over attacks on civilians in Syria’s Aleppo, urge an end to fighting and call for a revived political process, according to a draft statement.

“The European Council strongly condemns the attacks by the Syrian regime and its allies, notably Russia, on civilians in Aleppo,” according to the draft obtained by AFP.

It “calls on them to bring the atrocities to an end and to take urgent steps to ensure unhindered humanitarian access to Aleppo and other parts of the country,” the draft said.

It also “calls for an immediate cessation of hostilities and for resumption of a credible political process under UN auspices.”

It warned that “those responsible for breaches of international humanitarian law and human rights law must be held accountable.”

The statement said the 28 leaders invite EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini and the European Commission, the EU executive, to continue pursuing medical evacuations in cooperation with the United Nations.

It also asked her to push for a political transition in Syria by working with the region’s main players which were not named.

The statement omitted the mention of sanctions against Russia despite such calls from Washington and London.

However it further ratcheted up the tone against Russia after EU foreign ministers for the first time strongly condemned Russia by name Monday for the bombardment of Aleppo and warned that the strikes may amount to war crimes.

European Council President Donald Tusk, who will host the summit, warned of the need to maintain European unity over Russia amid weakening support for sanctions imposed on Moscow over its involvement in Ukraine.

The leaders are due to hold a discussion on their Russia strategy over dinner at the summit.

“Our main asset in dealing with Russia remains our unity. To date, regardless of our differences, we have always remained united and we must continue to do so,” Tusk told a press conference.

“This will also be crucial when it comes to Russia’s role in Syria,” he added.


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