Thursday

30th Jun 2022

EU toes the line on Syria air strikes

  • French and British jets fired 17 missiles, alongside a US air and naval bombardment (Photo: navy.mil)

EU countries are preparing to back Western air strikes on Syria, the same way they backed the UK on Russia's chemical attack on a former spy.

The EU statement on Syria's use of chemical weapons against civilians is to come from foreign ministers meeting in Luxembourg on Monday (16 April), two days after France, the UK, and the US fired on chemical weapons facilities in the Middle Eastern country.

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

  • Mogherini: "EU supportive of all efforts aimed at prevention of use of chemical weapons" (Photo: consilium.europa.eu)

The EU "condemnation" of Syria's chemical warfare will be "unequivocal and crystal clear" an EU diplomat said.

It might also speak of further sanctions on Syria, he added.

He said France would brief ministers on the evidence it had of Syria's guilt.

"It's important that we [the EU] demonstrate that the attack is attributable to the [Syrian] regime. We're in an effort to convince some European countries which have doubts, but it's not what you will see come come out of the … [foreign ministers'] conclusions," the EU diplomat said.

EU foreign affairs chief Federica Mogherini, who will chair Monday's meeting, gave a foretaste of the feeling in Luxembourg in a statement over the weekend.

"The EU was informed about targeted US, French and UK airstrikes on chemical weapons facilities in Syria," she said.

"The EU is supportive of all efforts aimed at the prevention of the use of chemical weapons," she added.

The EU is "ready to consider imposing further measures [on Syria] as appropriate," she said.

European Commission president Jean Claude Juncker also gave a foretaste. "The international community has the responsibility to identify and hold accountable those responsible of any attack with chemical weapons," he said.

Angela Merkel, the German leader, was even more outspoken, despite fears of escalating tensions with Syria's ally, Russia.

"We support the fact that our US, British and French allies ... assumed their responsibilities. The military intervention was necessary and appropriate," she said in a statement.

Russia relations

The EU ministers will also discuss Russia relations on Monday.

Talks will focus on Russia's support for the Syrian regime, its aggression in Ukraine, and Europe's resilience to Russian hacking and propaganda, the EU diplomat said.

Ministers will also discuss "selective engagement" with the Kremlin, on issues such as nuclear non-proliferation in Iran, he said.

"It's important that the EU remains united … what we want to avoid is that each member state has an autonomous policy [on Russia]," the EU diplomat added.

"Our determination must be total, very clear, including regarding the impunity over the use of chemical weapons," he said.

Monday's talks come after EU states expelled dozens of Russian diplomats over Russia's attempt to kill a former spy in the UK using a chemical agent.

A joint EU statement at the time squarely blamed Russia, despite the fact that some member states had raised doubts behind closed doors.

Austria, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Greece, Luxembourg, Portugal, Slovakia, and Slovenia ultimately did not join in with the EU expulsions of Russians.

The German president, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, also warned on Sunday that "we should be at least as worried about the galloping alienation between Russia and the West, the consequences of which stretch far beyond this case [the UK attack]."

Different views

For his part, the Russian ambassador to the EU, Vladimir Chizhov, continued to deny that Russia or Syria had done anything wrong in an interview with the Belgium-based news agency, Agence Europe, out on Monday.

"It was all fake," Chizhov said on Western evidence of the Syria chemical attack.

He described the chemical attack in the UK as "another attempt in a line of similar attempts by the British authorities to poison Russia-EU relations, not only Russia-UK relations."

Asked if Russia still had any friends in the EU Council, the Russian diplomat added: "I wouldn't name names, but I understand that there are different views".

Opinion

Does the EU have a Syria strategy?

Instability in the Mediterranean region is not in the long-term interest of Europe - that means mobilising leverage that the EU has in other areas to incentivise hard-nosed actors in Moscow, Tehran and Ankara to agree to the EU's vision.

Agenda

Macron and Syria top EU agenda This WEEK

French president to deliver speech on EU democratic model after populist victories in Hungary and Italy and amid an escalation of the Syria crisis.

Feature

Lebanon crisis overshadows EU aid for Syrian refugees

Lebanon hosts over one million Syrian refugees, and has received some €1bn in EU funds. Caught in a geo-political tug of war between Saudi Arabia and Iran, Lebanon's domestic politics have cast a longer shadow over its Syrian 'guests'.

Column

One rubicon after another

We realise that we are living in one of those key moments in history, with events unfolding exactly the way Swiss art historian Jacob Burckhardt describes them: a sudden crisis, rushing everything into overdrive.

News in Brief

  1. Russia threatens Norway over goods transit
  2. Russia urges Nato not to build bases in Sweden, Finland
  3. New president for European Committee of the Regions
  4. Gas flows from Spain to Morocco, after Western Sahara row
  5. BioNTech, Pfizer test 'universal' coronavirus vaccine
  6. UK sanctions second-richest Russian businessman
  7. Hungary permits emergency supervision of energy firms
  8. Bulgaria expels 70 alleged Russian spies

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers write to EU about new food labelling
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersEmerging journalists from the Nordics and Canada report the facts of the climate crisis
  3. Council of the EUEU: new rules on corporate sustainability reporting
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers for culture: Protect Ukraine’s cultural heritage!
  5. Reuters InstituteDigital News Report 2022
  6. EFBWW – EFBH – FETBBHow price increases affect construction workers

Latest News

  1. If Russia collapses — which states will break away?
  2. EU Parliament interpreters stage strike
  3. EU's post-Covid billions flowing into black hole
  4. Nato expands and reinforces on Russian flank
  5. EU Commission says it cannot find messages with Pfizer CEO
  6. EU ministers sign off on climate laws amid German infighting
  7. EU presidency still looking for asylum relocation pledges
  8. Finland and Sweden to join Nato, as Erdoğan drops veto

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us