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19th Jan 2020

EU drops talk of sanctions on Aleppo massacre

  • Aleppo in october. "There is no justification to reduce a whole city to ashes," German foreign minister said. (Photo: REUTERS/Abdalrhman Ismail)

Foreign ministers did not discuss new sanctions against Syrian or Russian authorities in Brussels on Monday (12 December), despite accusations that they had reduced Aleppo to "ashes".

The city, parts of which have endured weeks of Syrian regime and Russian air strikes, massacring the civilian population, is said to be 90-percent controlled by regime forces.

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The EU foreign affairs chief, Federica Mogherini said after chairing the ministers’ meeting in Brussels on Monday that "the situation is clearly not positive and not encouraging - to use an euphemism."

She said there was unity on trying to get in more humanitarian aid.

She added that “no member state is asking for additional work on sanctions," however.

The EU, in November, added 17 Syrian ministers and the governor of the central bank to the list of people subjected to asset freezes and travel bans.

EU leaders had also voiced outrage at Russia’s role in the Aleppo bombardment and the UK, among others, proposed adding Russian names to the blacklist.

Some ministers on Monday again criticised Moscow.

French foreign minister Jean-Marc Ayrault said that no ceasefire in Aleppo could be agreed because of "Russian dual language” and Russia’s “kind of permanent lie."

He said that even if Syrian and Russian troops conquered 100 percent Aleppo, only "naifs" and "supporters of realpolitik" thought that that would mean the end of the war.

"What will make peace is a total ceasefire and resumption of negotiations," he said.

His German counterpart, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, said "Russia's role was clear" and that it was "an illusion" to believe that fighting would end soon.

Aleppo in ashes

He said that even if there had been radical Islamist fighters in Aleppo, there was "no justification to reduce a whole city to ashes, bomb hospitals and leave citizens exposed to a situation in which they can at best just survive."

Speaking before the meeting, Luxembourg's Jean Asselborn said that the EU should favour a political solution and that "the keys are in the hands of the US and Russia, of the Iranians, Saudis and many others in the region."

In the meantime, Mogherini said, the EU was working with regional players to "try to start a political process."

"We need to have political transition and power sharing," she said.

Invisible work

She added that the EU's priority was civilians. She said that "the EU is the one that is, with the US, delivering and trying to deliver humanitarian aid."

She said that 850,000 people have received food thanks to the EU and that 350,000 children were covered by a special protection programme.

"Our work is constant, even if sometimes not very visible," she said.

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