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3rd Mar 2024

EU threatens Russia over Syria 'atrocities'

  • Young man riding a bicycle in Syria-bombed Aleppo neighbourhood on Wednesday (Photo: REUTERS/Abdalrhman Ismail)

EU leaders will threaten to blacklist more Russians if “atrocities” in Syria continue, according to a draft of EU Council summit conclusions.

“The European Council strongly condemns the attacks by the Syrian regime and its allies, notably Russia, on civilians in Aleppo,” says the text, seen by EUobserver.

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“The EU is considering all options, including further restrictive measures targeting individuals and entities supporting the regime, should the current atrocities continue.”

It calls for “immediate cessation of hostilities” and “unhindered humanitarian access”.

It also says that people deemed guilty of war crimes or “breaches of international humanitarian law” must be “held accountable”.

The threat to blacklist more Russians comes after French and German leaders, at a meeting in Berlin on Wednesday, failed to persuade Russian president Vladimir Putin to stop air strikes against civilians in the Syrian city of Aleppo.

The new text was circulated on Thursday night in parallel with the Berlin meeting after the UK and Germany proposed including the sanctions threat, an EU diplomat said.

Another diplomat said EU leaders had not planned to mention new Russia sanctions before the outcome of the Berlin meeting.

The EU has already blacklisted some 150 Russians and imposed economic sanctions over the Ukraine conflict.

One of those Russians, Kremlin aide Vladimir Surkov, was by Putin's side in Berlin because EU sanctions allow pariahs to attend multilateral meetings.

The EU has also blacklisted some 200 Syrians, including President Bashar al-Assad.

EU leaders will hold informal talks on broader Russia relations at a dinner on Thursday.

A senior EU diplomat said Syria “will be discussed separately from the Russia debate, because the situation is so serious that it needs to be mentioned”.

Another senior diplomat said: “The situation… requires a strong political expression by the EU Council”.

In a sign of the mood in Brussels, three leading European Parliament groups - the centre-right EPP, the Liberals, and the Greens - also said on Wednesday that EU "enforcement tools" on Russia should be "activated" if the Aleppo air strikes do not stop.

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