EU threatens new sanctions against Syria
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.
Frances 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 Syrias 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.
Im afraid the Syrian war will go on in its horrible, miserable way. But it was the world saying that weve 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 EUs 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 Irans 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 were 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
Frances Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian (middle) and Britains Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson (middle-right) attend a European Union foreign affairs council in Luxembourg yesterday. AFP/VNA Photo