EU threatens new sanctions against Syria but not Russia

EU threatens new sanctions against Syria but not Russia

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   April 16, 2018  
 
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EU threatens new sanctions against Syria but not Russia

European Union foreign ministers on Monday threatened new sanctions against Syria over its alleged chemical attacks, but held off from joining expected new punitive U.S. measures against Russia.

After Britain and France joined the United States in missile salvoes meant to knock out Syrian chemical arms facilities, EU foreign ministers discussed steps to deepen the isolation of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

“The European Union will continue to consider further restrictive measures against Syria as long as the repression continues,” all 28 foreign ministers said in a statement after their talks in Luxembourg, referring to economic sanctions.

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France’s Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian and his British counterpart Boris Johnson earlier briefed fellow ministers on the air strikes on Saturday. Le Drian said their endorsement showed European unity, after years of EU divisions over how best to end Syria’s seven-year-old war and whether Assad should be a part of any future government.

Western powers said the strikes were a response to an April 7 poison gas attack on the rebel enclave of Douma and were seen as a way to stop the use of chemical weapons.

“It is very important to stress (the strikes are) not an attempt to change the tide of the war in Syria or to have a regime change,” Johnson told reporters.

“I’m afraid the Syrian war will go on in its horrible, miserable way. But it was the world saying that we’ve had enough of the use of chemical weapons.”

Any new sanctions on Assad would build on a series of such EU measures since 2011, which range from an arms embargo and a ban on dealings with the Syrian central bank to travel bans and asset freezes on Syrian officials, military, business people and scientists accused of developing chemical weapons.

In a separate session, ministers discussed Iran’s role in Syria’s war, but there was no breakthrough on whether to adopt new sanctions proposed by Britain, France and Germany on Iranians accused of helping the Syrian regime.

EU diplomats said there was no discussion on Monday of targetting Russian military figures who, along with Iran, have helped Assad recapture rebel-held territory and are accused by the West of war crimes through aerial bombardments and gas attacks on civilians and hospitals.

CALL FOR AID ACCESS

The United States is considering new economic sanctions on Russia aimed at companies it alleges have dealt with equipment related to chemical weapons, according to U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley.

EU diplomats cautioned that until European governments had more idea of what the United States was planning, it was not possible to quickly follow suit. In the past, EU measures have sometimes come months after Washington’s.

Russia is Europe’s biggest gas supplier and, while the EU has imposed significant sanctions on Moscow’s financial, energy and defence sectors over the crisis in Ukraine, close ties between Russia and some EU members complicate discussions about new punitive measures.

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Robin Emmott, Gabriela Baczynska
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