France and EU tell Russia to stop bombing Aleppo

European Union – Foreign Affairs Council – Statement by M. Jean-Marc Ayrault, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Development, on leaving the EU Council (excerpts)

Luxembourg, 17 October 2016

We – all the members of the EU Council of Foreign Ministers – had a long and extremely serious discussion, because everyone is well aware that what’s happening in Aleppo is extremely serious.

If what Bashar al-Assad’s regime wants – namely, the fall of Aleppo and a massacre of the population – occurs, it will leave an indelible mark on Europe’s history. It’s the biggest conflict Europe has seen since the Second World War, so Europe must be spurred into action. And what emerges from this discussion is the same assessment of the dramatic nature and tragedy of Aleppo, the same repulsion over the massacres, the bombing of hospitals and schools, the massacre of women and children. And it’s the same insistence in demanding an end to the bombing. That’s what we said, and we wanted to say it together, to show the unity of the European Union.

Everyone spoke at length. Staffan de Mistura described the situation in Aleppo in very strong terms. He recalled his extremely difficult work making every effort to resume a negotiation process. I myself reported at the EU Foreign Affairs Council, with Spain among others, on France’s initiatives at the UN Security Council. We said very clearly that we won’t give up.

We didn’t envisage the use of military force, but what we want to use is political power, moral power, and we addressed Russia, telling the Russians: “you can stop this massacre. You can have our unequivocal support if it’s a question of continuing to combat terrorism – Daesh [so-called ISIL], al-Nusra –, but there’s one precondition, namely an end to the bombing, and allowing access to humanitarian aid.” (…)./.

European Union – Foreign Affairs Council – Statement by M. Jean-Marc Ayrault, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Development, on his arrival at the EU Council (excerpt)

Luxembourg, 17 October 2016

THE MINISTER – The Europeans are putting across a very clear, very firm message: what’s happening in Aleppo is a humanitarian disaster. Everything must be done to ensure the bombing stops and humanitarian aid – and the EU is very committed – can reach the people, and to resume the peace process. There’s no other route. The situation today is in terrible deadlock.

We must say clearly that Russia is engaged alongside Bashar al-Assad’s regime on a path of destruction. One thinks, of course, of what happened in Grozny. This can’t be an option. You can’t close your eyes to this situation. Everything is being done to silence us and close people’s eyes, but that won’t be the thrust of this meeting. (...)

Q. – Given the disastrous situation in Aleppo, shouldn’t we also be talking of sanctions against Russia?

THE MINISTER – We’re having a debate today during which we’ll look at all the options that will enable us to exert even greater pressure still on Bashar al-Assad’s regime, but also on his allies. France, as you know, has referred the matter to the Security Council, which has shown Russia’s isolation; but we must persevere, we must continue. The pressure must be stronger. The more the EU expresses its unity and determination, the more progress we’ll be able to make on what is a moral imperative, the imperative we should all uphold: to stop the people of Aleppo being massacred. Thank you./.

Syria – Ministerial meeting of the group of “like-minded” states – Press briefing given by M. Jean-Marc Ayrault, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Development

London, 16 October 2016

This meeting was important for the countries which support the Syrian opposition and which are also committed to an independent Syria, a Syria which protects its minorities, a Syria which preserves its unity and, at the same time, a non-sectarian Syria which can rebuild itself with democratic institutions. That’s our political objective. It can be achieved only through negotiation, with due regard for the United Nations Security Council resolutions.

So this is what we – the so-called group of “like-minded” countries, i.e. those which share this objective, so countries such as France, Britain, Germany, Italy, the United States, and also the Arab countries and Turkey – are committed to. All those which are committed to this peace process and have come together today to hold discussions on the basis of information John Kerry provided us with following the Lausanne meeting. It’s an endeavour, but one essential issue is clearly a sticking point: the bombing of Aleppo. So this meeting demonstrated the group’s unity and what this group of countries is demanding: a halt to the bombing of Aleppo.

Of course, we discussed a whole series of other issues. For example, we discussed the Syrian opposition’s situation, and we know that within the Syrian opposition there are so-called moderates, but there’s also the al-Nusra group, which is part of al-Qaeda. We’re fighting it as we’re fighting Daesh [so-called ISIL], and the difficulty is how to make a distinction. And we’re willing, of course, to work. The Russians are talking about this issue as if it’s the only that matters. We have a priority issue, a precondition to all the others: a halt to the bombing of Aleppo. And we’re seeing that the regime – with Russian support, moreover – has other objectives, other areas which risk, in the coming days, being subjected to the same attacks, the same bombing, the same determination to destroy. Clearly we’re still willing to talk – talk to the Russians, of course, to the Iranians –, but we’re insisting on this precondition: a halt to the bombing./.

Published on 06/11/2017

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