The European Union urged Russia to bring an end to the bombing of Aleppo in Syria but refrained from imposing any sanctions on Moscow.
At a regular meeting of foreign ministers from the EU’s 28 member states today, several ministers said sanctions against Russia would have no impact and could even be counterproductive in the search for an overall settlement to the conflict in Syria.
“At present, I don’t see how sanctions with a possible long-term effect are supposed to contribute to improving supplies to the civilian population,” German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said. “So I am not the only one who, in this case, is rather skeptical about sanctions.”
Russia has been heavily involved along with the Syrian regime in the onslaught of Aleppo over the past few weeks since a cease-fire broke down.
While EU ministers were discussing Syria, the head of Russia’s military general staff said Russian and Syrian forces are preparing a “humanitarian pause” for the besieged city on Thursday.
Lt Gen Sergei Rudskoi was quoted by Russian news agencies as saying Monday that Russian and Syrian forces will halt their fighting from 8 AM. to 4 PM on October 20 in order to allow civilians and rebels safe passage out of the city as well as for the evacuation of the sick and wounded.
EU foreign affairs chief Federica Mogherini described the apparent Russian move as “a positive step” but noted that UN agencies have indicated that at least 12 hours would be needed for such an operation to be successful.
“I believe that there will be a little bit of work to be done to find the common ground,” she said.
The EU is looking for a lot more than just a temporary pause and in a common statement ministers called on Russia to demonstrate “all efforts, in order to halt indiscriminate bombing by the Syrian regime, restore a cessation of hostilities, ensure immediate and expanded humanitarian access and create the conditions for a credible and inclusive political transition.”
Even though Russia was not threatened with measures, the ministers are targeting more Syrians. They said the EU will act “swiftly, according to established procedures, with the aim of imposing further restrictive measures against Syria targeting Syrian individuals and entities supporting the regime as long as the repression continues.”
The EU sanctions are likely to include travel bans and a freeze of assets belonging to political figures and top military officials accused of crimes.