EU urges relaunch of Syria talks after strikes
LUXEMBOURG – Agence France-Presse
European Union foreign ministers on April 16 backed “all efforts” to stop Syria using chemical weapons, after weekend strikes by Britain, France and the U.S., but called for renewed efforts to find a political solution to the seven-year war.
The 28 ministers condemned the military offensive, backed by Russia, that the Syrian government is waging against rebels and called for an immediate ceasefire to allow humanitarian access.
U.S., French and British missiles destroyed suspected chemical weapons development and storage sites in Syria on Saturday in response to an alleged chemical attack in the town of Douma which killed at least 40 people.
In a statement after talks in Luxembourg, EU foreign ministers unequivocally blamed President Bashar al-Assad’s regime for the Douma attack and gave implicit backing to Saturday’s Western military action.
“The Council understands that the targeted U.S., French and UK airstrikes on chemical weapons facilities in Syria were specific measures... with the sole objective to prevent further use of chemical weapons and chemical substances as weapons by the Syrian regime to kill its own people,” the statement said.
“The Council is supportive of all efforts aimed at the prevention of the use of chemical weapons.”
French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said the EU was “united at a very serious moment” in wanting to “prevent and dissuade against any use of chemical weapons.”
Germany’s powerful Chancellor Angela Merkel declared the strikes “necessary and appropriate,” but other EU members have been keen to avoid any step that could lead to further escalation.
Johnson stressed the strikes were “not an attempt to change the tide of the war in Syria or to have regime change or to get rid of Bashar al-Assad.”
Ministers discussed ways to apply pressure to get Russia to drag the Assad government to meaningful negotiations on the future of his country.
“You have to see it, whether you like it or not: without Russia you won’t be able to solve this conflict,” German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said as he arrived for April 16’s talks.