Monday

16th Jan 2017

EU shames Russia on Aleppo 'massacre'

  • Ayrault (l): "We said clearly to Russia that you can stop this massacre" (Photo: consilium.europa.eu)

The EU has named Russia as being partly responsible for a “massacre” of “historic” proportions in the Syrian city of Aleppo.

“Since the beginning of the offensive by the [Syrian] regime and its allies, notably Russia, the intensity and scale of the aerial bombardment of eastern Aleppo is clearly disproportionate … and may amount to war crimes”, EU foreign ministers said in a joint statement in Luxembourg on Monday (17 October).

Dear EUobserver reader

Subscribe now for unrestricted access to EUobserver.

Sign up for 30 days' free trial, no obligation. Full subscription only 15 € / month or 150 € / year.

  1. Unlimited access on desktop and mobile
  2. All premium articles, analysis, commentary and investigations
  3. EUobserver archives

EUobserver is the only independent news media covering EU affairs in Brussels and all 28 member states.

♡ We value your support.

If you already have an account click here to login.

  • Aleppo children: The UN envoy said there were 100,000 minors in the line of fire (Photo: ihh.org.tr)

They implicated Russia in the “deliberate targeting of hospitals, medical personnel”, in the “targeting of a UN humanitarian convoy on 19 September”, and in the use of “starvation of civilians … as a tactic of war”.

They said the Russian-led air strikes had used illegal munitions, such as “cluster bombs”, and that Russia’s ally, Syrian president Bashar al-Assad, was guilty of “confirmed use of chemical weapons”.

They called for an “immediate cessation of hostilities” so that aid convoys could reach the combat zone.

They did not threaten new sanctions against Russia, but they said they would add extra names of Syrian regime members and entities to their blacklist.

Russia, half-way through the EU ministers’ talks, announced an eight-hour ceasefire in Aleppo on Thursday, but the EU’s foreign policy chief, Federica Mogherini, said aid agencies needed at least 12 hours to get in and out.

Jean-Marc Ayrault, the French foreign minister, said EU states would not use military force to halt the killing.

But he said “Europe must mobilise” its “political force, moral force” because “if Assad achieves his aim, which is the fall of Aleppo and the massacre of the population, it will be a stain on the history of Europe”.

“We said clearly to Russia that you can stop this massacre”, he said.

Stefan de Mistura, the UN’s special envoy on Syria, said there were 100,000 children in the line of fire and that people had had no aid for one month.

“Between now and December, if we don’t find a solution for Aleppo, Aleppo will not be there anymore”, he said, adding, like France's Ayrault, that “history will judge us” if the Russian-Syrian campaign goes on.

Russia sanctions

Britain and the US had, prior to the Luxembourg meeting, said they were considering additional economic sanctions against Russia.

Lithuania's foreign minister, Linas Linkevicius, joined them on Monday, telling the RFE-RFL news agency that sanctions were the EU’s “only leverage” and that without them “we cannot expect any change of the situation” in Syria.

EU leaders will discuss Russia relations and whether to extend the life of existing economic measures, imposed over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, at a dinner on Thursday in Brussels.

Diplomats said events in Aleppo had made the extension of existing measures all-but a done deal, but Germany and Austria said on Monday that they were “sceptical” about additional restrictions.

“I don't see how sanctions with a possible long-term effect are supposed to contribute to improving supplies to the civilian population [in Aleppo] … So I'm not the only one who, in this case, is rather skeptical about sanctions”, German foreign minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said.

Austria’s Sebastian Kurz said: “We do not need a further escalation”.

An EU source said Mogherini was also in the sceptics' camp. She "thought the EU needs to be engaged with everybody, and wants a role for the EU, so not to alienate Russia”, the source said.

Deaf ears

Russian statements the same day indicated it would not change path.

Sergei Rudskoy, a defence spokesman, told the Tass news agency that even the eight-hour ceasefire “makes no sense” because it would help jihadist fighters, such as Jabhat al-Nusra, to regroup.

Sergei Ryabkov, a deputy prime minister, said Western criticism on Syria was due to US geopolitics. “If something does not suit the United States in Russia’s behaviour, shouts about sanctions begin”, he said.

Dmitry Peskov, the Kremlin spokesman, also ruled out any change in Ukraine.

Russia, France, Germany, and Ukraine had spoken of holding a summit in Berlin on 19 October - one day before the EU leaders’ talks on Russia in Brussels.

But Peskov said on Monday the chances of the Berlin meeting were “next to nil” because aides had not completed preparatory work.

Malta raises alarm on Russia in Libya

A Russian-backed warlord could start a “civil war” in Libya, increasing refugee flows to Europe, Malta, the new EU presidency, has said.

Trump team asked which EU state is next to exit

The outgoing US ambassador to the EU, Anthony L Gardner, says Trump's transitional team had placed a call to officials at the EU institutions asking which member state would be next to leave the European Union.

News in Brief

  1. Oxfam: Wealth of eight same as half world's population
  2. Turkish MPs back Erdogan power-grab
  3. Controversial Danish 'jewellery law' used four times
  4. Serbian president threatens to deploy troops to Kosovo
  5. Facebook in fake news crack down in Germany
  6. Number of lone minors coming to Italy doubles
  7. Kosovo's ex-PM released in France
  8. US accuses Fiat of secretly exceeding emissions standards

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Computers, Privacy & Data ProtectionThe age of Intelligent Machines: join the Conference on 25-27 January 2017
  2. Nordic Council of Ministers"Nordic Matters" Help Forge Closer Bonds Between the UK and the Nordic Region
  3. Martens CentreNo Better way to Lift Your Monday Blues Than to Gloss Over our Political Cartoons
  4. Dialogue PlatformThe Gulen Movement: An Islamic Response to Terror as a Global Challenge
  5. European Free AllianceMinority Rights and Autonomy are a European Normality
  6. Swedish EnterprisesHow to Create EU Competitiveness Post-Brexit? Seminar on January 24th
  7. European Jewish CongressSchulz to be Awarded the European Medal for Tolerance for his Stand Against Populism
  8. Nordic Council of Ministers"Adventures in Moominland" Kick Off Nordic Matters Festival in London
  9. PLATO15 Fully-Funded PhDs Across Europe on the Post-Crisis Legitimacy of the EU - Apply Now!
  10. Dialogue PlatformInterview: Fethullah Gulen Condemns Assassination of Russian Ambassador to Turkey
  11. Zero Waste EuropePublic Support Needed to Promote Zero Waste in More Municipalities
  12. Belgrade Security ForumEU Cannot Afford to Ignore the Western Balkans as Populism Surges