The European Union has threatened to impose bans against supporters of the Syrian government, particularly Russia, which has been on an anti-terrorism mission in the Arab country for more than a year.
“The EU is considering all options, including further restrictive measures targeting individuals and entities supporting” the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad if the current situation continues in Syria, said a draft statement obtained by AFP before the EU summit in Brussels that opens later on Thursday.
The text claims that the Syrian government and its allies, “notably Russia,” are targeting civilians in their anti-terror campaign in the battered northwestern city of Aleppo. Damascus and Moscow have repeatedly denied the allegation.
It further urges “unhindered humanitarian access to Aleppo” and to other parts of Syria and calls “for an immediate cessation of hostilities and for resumption of a credible political process under UN auspices.”
Aleppo has been the frontline of Syria’s fight against different Takfiri militant groups occupying the city’s eastern flanks. Backed by Russia airpower, Syrian armed forces and allied popular defense groups have in recent months dealt heavy blows to the militant groups operating in eastern Aleppo.
The draft also warns that “those responsible for breaches of international humanitarian law … must be held accountable.”
EU foreign policy chief, Federica Mogherini, and the European Commission, the EU’s executive body, should continue pursuing medical evacuations in cooperation with the United Nations, according to the text.
It further asks Mogherini to push for what it calls a political transition in Syria by working with the region’s main players.
Following a meeting in Luxembourg earlier this week, the EU’s 28 ministers vowed to impose further restrictive measures against Syrian individuals and entities backing the government of President Assad.
The latest development could further deepen tensions between Moscow and the West, which are already entangled in another dispute over the conflict in Ukraine. The Westerners have slapped a series of sanctions against Moscow over its alleged role in the Ukraine crisis.
Germans in disarray over Russia
Meanwhile, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said that sanctions on Russia could not be ruled out, but efforts should be focused on easing the suffering of Syrians.
“I think we cannot deny ourselves the option but … the main focus must now be on helping the people and doing all we can to help,” Merkel told reporters in Berlin after discussing the conflict in Syria with Russian and French presidents, Vladimir Putin and Francois Hollande, respectively.
However, German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier stressed that new sanctions against Russia will not help settle the crisis in Aleppo.
“Bombastic declarations for the press and threats to introduce sanctions will help no one … in Aleppo, who need food and medical assistance,” Steinmeier said an interview with theRheinische Post daily.
Since March 2011, Syria has been hit by militancy it blames on some Western states and their regional allies.
Russia has been conducting airstrikes against Daesh and other terrorist groups in Syria at the Damascus government’s request since last September.