EU Leaders Fail to Reach Agreement on New Russia Sanctions
European Union leaders condemned Russia early on Friday for the bombing of civilians in Syria’s besieged city of Aleppo, but met resistance from Italy to impose new sanctions against Moscow over what Francois Hollande and Angela Merkel had called “war crimes”.
The leaders failed to agree on a tough joint statement sending a clear message to Moscow that it could face punitive measures for the atrocities.
Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi, whose country has broad trade ties with Russia, said economic sanctions should not be part of that strategy because they would not force Moscow to negotiate a peace settlement.
“We should do everything possible for a peace deal in Syria but it’s difficult to imagine that this should be linked to further sanctions on Russia,” Renzi told reporters after a late-night dinner in Brussels where the bloc discussed strategy.
“Russia’s strategy is to weaken the EU,” said European Council President Donald Tusk, after chairing the first day of a two-day summit in Brussels.
Tusk said the EU leaders strongly condemned attacks on civilians by the Syrian regime and its backers, led by Russia, called for a lasting ceasefire declared and stands ready to consider “all available options if these atrocities continue.”
French President Francois Hollande said “the aim, during this crucial time of ceasefire in Aleppo, is to find a path toward talks and negotiations, and to bring an end to the atrocities that we have witnessed for too long.”
France has sought to isolate Russia diplomatically, first at the United Nations Security Council in New York with a failed bid to force a ceasefire and then with a formal condemnation by all 28 EU foreign ministers this week of Russia’s strikes in rebel-held eastern Aleppo.
European leaders followed up with equally strong language in their summit statement in the early hours of Friday. But the final version removed wording seen by Reuters in earlier drafts threatening sanctions on Russian individuals and companies linked to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
One of the fundamental reasons for the EU’s internal divisions over dealing with Putin is economic. Unlike the United States, the EU depends on Russia for much of its energy, and as a major market for its exports.