Syria: hypothesis of sanctions against Russia out of EU text

Renzi blocks,cooperates with Mogherini for alternative solution

21 October, 13:58

    European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, left, and European Council President Donald Tusk address the media after the first day of an EU summit in Brussels early Friday European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, left, and European Council President Donald Tusk address the media after the first day of an EU summit in Brussels early Friday

    (by Patrizia Antonini)

    BRUSSELS - The possibility of sanctions against Russian ''people or entities'' for supporting the Syrian regime of Assad has disappeared from the final text approved by EU leaders. The language was softened, evolving into an ''evaluation of all available options''. ''There is no sense in talking about sanctions for Russia'' at a time when ''we all agree that it is necessary to put all possible pressure in order to reach an agreement on Syria'', said Italian Premier Matteo Renzi, the promoter, among others, of a sweeping discussion on EU-Russia relations. European sources said the Italian premier blocked the hypothesis of sanctions at a dinner held behind closed doors.

    Renzi asked to go back to the idea that emerged at a meeting of foreign ministers on Monday, specifying that restrictive measures would be applied to the ''Syrians''. The draft text that arrived yesterday on the table had instead been changed over the past few days, at the request of France, Germany and Great Britain. Here the reference to the ''Syrians'' had disappeared, leaving room to a more ambiguous formula that paved the way also to measures against Russian people or entities. EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini cooperated with the premier, building a solution accepted by all, including Francois Hollande, Angela Merkel and Theresa May, who arrived at the summit with a foot on the accelerator for the line of sanctions against Moscow. Spain, Greece, Austria and Cyprus were also against sanctions, according to other sources.

    The political signal, however, remains. European leaders ''condemned the attacks of the Syrian regime and its allies, Russia in particular, against civilians in Aleppo'', prompting ''an immediate cessation of hostilities and the resumption of a credible political process under the sponsorship of the United Nations''. Mogherini was charged with moving forward with work to bring humanitarian aid to Syria and continue along the path of diplomacy. Meanwhile Nato secretary-general, Jens Stoltenberg, stressed ''concern'' for a Russian aircraft carrier en route towards the eastern Mediterranean that ''could support military operations in Syria'' and announced that it will be monitored ''in a responsible and measured way''.

    The hard line is not over. The head of the Elysee had arrived in Brussels to ''convince colleagues to exercise all possible pressure''. The German chancellor had called to assume ''a position'' because ''speaking is not enough''. The ceasefire ''must be long-lasting'' and the situation in Aleppo ''is inhuman''.

    ''It is vital to continue to work together to put pressure on Russia'', warned British Premier Theresa May. European Council President Donald Tusk urged to ''keep all options open, including sanctions if crimes continue in Syria, in Aleppo''.

    Sources spoke, among others, about a phone call by Hollande to Tusk on Wednesday night, after a meeting with Putin, to stress the need to boost pressure on Moscow.

    © Copyright ANSA - All rights reserved