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Mogherini rules out EU sanctions on Russia over Syria, for now

But EU foreign policy chief does not reject further steps against Assad regime officials accused of war crimes, rights abuses

High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Federica Mogherini talks to reporters during a Foreign Affairs meeting in Luxembourg on October 17, 2016. (AFP PHOTO/JOHN THYS)
High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Federica Mogherini talks to reporters during a Foreign Affairs meeting in Luxembourg on October 17, 2016. (AFP PHOTO/JOHN THYS)

LUXEMBORG — The European Union is not considering sanctions against Russia for its role in Syria although further measures against Damascus are possible, the bloc’s foreign affairs head Federica Mogherini said Monday.

“This has not been proposed by any member state,” Mogherini said as she arrived for a meeting of EU foreign ministers dominated by the Syrian crisis when asked about steps against Moscow, despite its support for Syrian President Bashar Assad in his offensive on the besieged city of Aleppo.

“But we have sanctions on the Syrian regime… and there are discussions on that, for sure, that could be possible,” she said regarding Syrians accused of rights abuses or war crimes.

Mogherini’s comments came despite a warning by the United States and Britain on Sunday that Western allies were considering imposing sanctions against economic targets in Syria and Russia over the siege of Aleppo.

Syrians walk over rubble following air strikes on the rebel-held Fardous neighborhood of the northern embattled Syrian city of Aleppo on October 12, 2016. (AFP/Ameer Alhabli)
Syrians walk over rubble following air strikes on the rebel-held Fardous neighborhood of the northern embattled Syrian city of Aleppo on October 12, 2016. (AFP/Ameer Alhabli)

The EU is already embroiled in an acrimonious stand-off complete with damaging sanctions against Russia over the Ukraine crisis, and many member states are reluctant to make matters worse by adding more.

“I do not think it would be fruitful if we discuss now for hours if and how and when we are going to decide on sanctions against Russia,” Luxembourg Foreign Minister Jean Asselborn said.

“Firstly, we will not find a consensus and secondly I believe as well, that it is not the right time and it would be counter-productive,” he said.

Others, however, said it was imperative to increase the pressure on Russia and Syrian President Bashar Assad in order to halt the carnage in Aleppo.

British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, who met Kerry on Sunday night, said events in Syria’s second city “should shame humanity,” and that Monday’s talks should focus on “how to keep the pressure on the Assad regime and its puppeteers, the Russians.”

The EU already has extensive sanctions in place against Syria, including oil and arms embargoes, plus restrictions on more than 200 individuals and 70 entities.

Talks involving Russia, the US and other Western powers over the weekend failed to secure any breakthrough likely to lead to a ceasefire in Syria or the opening of humanitarian access.

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