Thursday

26th May 2022

EU tells Russia to 'cease' strikes on Syria rebels

  • Luxembourg: Putin shows little sign of ceding to EU demands (Photo: consilium.europa.eu)

The EU has said Russia “must cease” strikes on “moderate” Syria rebels and that its ally, Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad, must, sooner or later, go.

The joint statement was adopted by foreign ministers in Luxembourg on Monday (12 October).

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

“The recent Russian military attacks that go beyond Dae'sh [another name for Islamic State] and other UN-designated terrorist groups, as well as on the moderate opposition, are of deep concern, and must cease immediately”, it says.

“This military escalation risks prolonging the conflict, undermining a political process, aggravating the humanitarian situation, and increasing radicalisation”.

It adds that Russia’s air strikes should be “closely coordinated” with a US-led anti-Islamic State coalition.

It also urges Russia to use its “influence” on Assad to “push for a reduction of violence” against civilians and “to encourage [his] constructive role in the process leading to a political transition”.

It doesn’t say when Assad should step down. But it says he must go sooner or later.

“There cannot be a lasting peace in Syria under the present leadership”, the text notes.

“The Assad regime bears the greatest responsibility for the 250,000 deaths of the conflict and the millions of displaced people”.

“Those responsible for war crimes and crimes against humanity in Syria must be held accountable [in international courts]”, it adds.

“As a consequence of its policies and actions, the Assad regime cannot be a partner in the fight against Dae'sh”.

Flexibility

Arriving in Luxembourg on Monday, the British foreign minister, Philip Hammond, told press: “We can be flexible about the manner of his [Assad’s] departure and we can be flexible about the timing … but if we try to work with Assad we will only drive the [moderate] opposition into the arms of Isil [annother name for Islamic State]”.

French Europe minister, Harlem Desir, said the post-war authorities in Syria cannot include Assad, but can include “elements of the current regime which aren’t implicated in crimes against the civilian population”.

Luxembourg’s Jean Assleborn, whose country is chairing the EU presidency, warned: “we cannot create a vacuum [of power in Syria]".

Slovakia’s Miroslav Lajcak, who used to head the EU foreign service’s Russia department, added: “We shouldn’t base our strategy on wishful thinking, but on realities. It’s not about who we like or don’t like, it’s about who’s relevant, and, as of today, he [Assad] is definitely relevant”.

Poland's Grzegorz Schetyna said the EU statement was deliberately vague on Assad's future so that all EU states could sign up to it

The Danish foreign minister, Kristian Jensen, noted that Russia is “part of the problem”.

But he added: “We hope Russia will be part of that [US-led] coalition”.

Belgium, Lithuania, and Sweden also described Russia’s intervention as “worrying”. The EU foreign service chief, Federica Mogherini, called it a “game-changer”.

“It has to be coordinated otherwise it risks being extremely dangerous”, she added, on the risk of an accidental military clash between British, French, US, and Russian forces in the region.

Putin’s ‘good will’

The EU statement said Russia must also cease “violations of the sovereign airspace of neighbouring countries”, after its planes, on three occassions last week, entered the airspace of Nato member Turkey.

But for his part, the Russian leader, in an interview with the Rossiya-1 TV channel on Sunday, showed no sign of bowing to Western demands.

He said he forewarned Western powers of his military operation out of “good will”, even though they “never inform us” of what they’re going to do.

He noted “some progress has been made” in creating “working groups” with Israel, Turkey, and the US “so as to avoid incidents”.

He also boasted of Russia’s use of conventional cruise missiles to strike targets in Syria from the Caspian Sea.

He said the “cutting-edge, high-precision weapons” crossed “two countries [Iran and Iraq] … made 147 turns along the route and flew at a height of between 80 and 1,300 metres” at the speed of a “jet aircraft”.

He added, in a thinly veiled threat to Nato powers, that “they have seen … now that Russia is ready to use them if this is in the interests of our country and people”.

France aims for EU minimum-tax deal in June

EU Commission vice-president Valdis Dombrovskis said on Tuesday that Poland's recovery plan could be approved within a week. This could also help unblock Warsaw's reluctance to agree to the tax deal.

Opinion

When Reagan met Gorbachev — a history lesson for Putin

Neither Reagan nor Gorbachev achieved their goal at the famous Reykjavik summit of 1986. Despite that fact there are lessons that current leaders — particularly Vladimir Putin — could adopt from these two iconic leaders.

Opinion

Orbán's overtures to Moscow are distasteful and detrimental

Some Western European politicians are reviving the chimera of a negotiated settlement. None of this makes the current, half-hearted approach towards sanctioning Russia look better — nor does it shed any favourable light on the cravenness of Hungary's current government.

News in Brief

  1. Dutch journalists sue EU over banned Russia TV channels
  2. EU holding €23bn of Russian bank reserves
  3. Russia speeds up passport process in occupied Ukraine
  4. Palestinian civil society denounce Metsola's Israel visit
  5. Johnson refuses to resign after Downing Street parties report
  6. EU border police has over 2,000 agents deployed
  7. Dutch tax authorities to admit to institutional racism
  8. Rutte calls for EU pension and labour reforms

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic delegation visits Nordic Bridges in Canada
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersClear to proceed - green shipping corridors in the Nordic Region
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers agree on international climate commitments
  4. UNESDA - SOFT DRINKS EUROPEEfficient waste collection schemes, closed-loop recycling and access to recycled content are crucial to transition to a circular economy in Europe
  5. UiPathNo digital future for the EU without Intelligent Automation? Online briefing Link

Latest News

  1. EU summit will be 'unwavering' on arms for Ukraine
  2. Orbán's new state of emergency under fire
  3. EU parliament prevaricates on barring Russian lobbyists
  4. Ukraine lawyer enlists EU watchdog against Russian oil
  5. Right of Reply: Hungarian government
  6. When Reagan met Gorbachev — a history lesson for Putin
  7. Orbán oil veto to deface EU summit on Ukraine
  8. France aims for EU minimum-tax deal in June

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us