EU threat­ens new sanc­tions against Syria

Viet Nam News - - WORLD -

LUX­EM­BOURG — Euro­pean Union for­eign min­is­ters yes­ter­day threat­ened new sanc­tions against Syria over its al­leged chem­i­cal at­tacks, but held off from join­ing ex­pected new puni­tive US 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 alAs­sad.

“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.

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.

EU for­eign min­is­ters yes­ter­day also dis­cussed how they could per­suade the US not to pull out of the Iran nu­clear deal, but stopped short of im­pos­ing new sanc­tions on Tehran.

Britain, France and Ger­many used the meet­ing of the EU’s 28 for­eign min­is­ters to try to build sup­port for ex­pand­ing sanc­tions against Iran to pun­ish it for its bal­lis­tic mis­sile pro­gramme and its role in re­gional con­flicts in­clud­ing Syria and Ye­men.

They hope that by do­ing so they will per­suade US Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump not to fol­low through on his threat to aban­don the land­mark 2015 deal to curb Iran’s nu­clear am­bi­tions.

Dan­ish For­eign Min­is­ter An­ders Sa­muel­son said there was “a very broad ma­jor­ity” in favour of ex­pand­ing sanc­tions, as the clock ticks down to a May 12 dead­line im­posed by Trump to “fix” the agree­ment.

Si­mon Coveney, the Ir­ish for­eign min­is­ter, said there was a need to “send a strong sig­nal to Iran that we’re con­cerned in re­la­tion to some of their ac­tiv­ity par­tic­u­larly in Syria”.

“But also to send a mes­sage to Wash­ing­ton that we share their con­cerns in some of those ar­eas,” Coveney said af­ter the talks in Lux­em­bourg.

Tar­gets for new sanc­tions could in­clude both Ira­ni­ans and also non-Ira­nian mili­tias in Syria, an EU diplo­mat said.

But any de­ci­sion on sanc­tions would have to have unan­i­mous sup­port from all 28 EU states and so far sev­eral, in­clud­ing Italy and Swe­den, are not con­vinced.

Ger­man For­eign Min­is­ter Heiko Maas said the ques­tion of ex­pand­ing sanc­tions would “re­main on the agenda” in the com­ing weeks. — REUTERS/AFP

France’s For­eign Min­is­ter Jean-Yves Le Drian (mid­dle) and Britain’s For­eign Sec­re­tary Boris John­son (mid­dle-right) at­tend a Euro­pean Union for­eign af­fairs coun­cil in Lux­em­bourg yes­ter­day. — AFP/VNA Photo

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