BELGRADE – European Union leaders condemned Russia on Friday for its bombing in Syria’s besieged city of Aleppo but faced resistance from Italy to impose new sanctions against Moscow, Reuters reports.
Britain, France and Germany want maximum pressure on Moscow to stop its assault on rebels in eastern Aleppo. 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.
With no military role in the Syrian civil war, the European Union is relying on its neutral status to help the United Nations to end the near 5-1/2-year Syrian conflict, anxious to be seen to be active.
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.