EU to impose more sanctions on Syria over Aleppo

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The European Union said on Friday it would introduce more sanctions on Syrian individuals and entities over the offensive on Aleppo, where Syrian government forces with the backing of Russia and Iran have been pushing out rebels.

“The EU will act swiftly … 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 bloc’s top diplomat Federica Mogherini said in a statement.

The Syrian army pressed an offensive in Aleppo on Friday with ground fighting and airstrikes in an operation to retake all of the city’s rebel-held east that would bring victory in the civil war closer for President Bashar al-Assad.

Since the beginning of the offensive by the Syrian regime and its allies notably Russia, the intensity and scale of the aerial bombardment of eastern Aleppo have caused widespread civilian casualties and devastated large areas of the city, causing an appalling deterioration in the situation there. Such deliberate excessive, disproportionate and indiscriminate attacks against civilians, aid and healthcare personnel, and civilian infrastructures such as schools and hospitals are unfortunately still a daily occurrence in Syria.

The EU condemned the continued systematic, widespread and gross violations and abuses of human rights and all violations of international humanitarian law.

“These violations, including indiscriminate bombardments, by the regime and its allies, and the offensive at large must stop.”

Mogherini recalled the obligation under international humanitarian law to take all feasible measures to ensure the protection of civilians and civilian objects enjoying special protection under international humanitarian law.

“Those responsible for any such breaches, crimes against humanity and other serious international crimes, which may amount to war crimes, must be held accountable. Impunity for such crimes cannot be tolerated. In this context, 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 High Representative on behalf of the EU said in a declaration.

Given the suffering of Aleppo’s civilian population, the EU demands that all parties to the conflict, in particular the Syrian regime, immediately grant unhindered and unconditional access so that medical evacuations of the sick and wounded from eastern Aleppo can proceed in line with the UN’s plan, and the civilian population can find refuge in a place of safety.

Da’esh aka ISIS

The EU also condemns atrocities committed by Da’esh and other UN designated terrorist groups and reaffirms its strong commitment to combat them. Da’esh and other UN designated terrorist organisations constitute a threat for the future of Syria as well as to the interest and values of the EU.

The EU reiterated its support for the sovereignty, independence, unity and territorial integrity of Syria and its profound conviction that there can be no military solution to the conflict.

“There cannot be a lasting peace in Syria under the current regime and until the legitimate grievances and aspirations of all components of the Syrian society are addressed. The EU calls for an immediate and full ceasefire throughout Syria,'” Mogherini declared.

The EU plans to intensify its outreach to regional actors on the future of Syria, in constant coordination with and close support of the UN Special Envoy, with a view to laying the ground for the resumption of an inclusive and Syrian led political process under UN auspices.

At the same time the bloc will continue to support efforts of the Syrian opposition and in particular the High Negotiations Committee (HNC) as the opposition delegation in the UN-brokered talks.

“The EU underlines that only once such an inclusive political transition is firmly in place will the EU be able to assist with the reconstruction of the country directly and through cooperation with international organisations.”