EU Talks Russia: ‘Selective Engagement’ Revisited, Syria Condemned

Written by | Monday, October 24th, 2016

The European Union leaders met on Thursday (20 October) to review the policy and relations with Russia including the Syria conflict. However, the leaders did not touch upon the issue of sanctions at this stage. The discussions stayed away from sanctions despite the fact that Russia is pursuing major military activities in support of the Assad regime in Syria and the Kremlin did not implement the Minsk peace agreement regarding Crimea. However, Poland and Baltic countries already lobbied for more sanctions to be enforced towards Russia. Russia’s involvement in the Syrian conflict was brought up at the summit but there is not “much appetite for further sanctions on Moscow”, a senior EU diplomat said.
However, many MEPs had brought up the issue of sanctions at the European Parliament – the center-right European People’s Party (EPP), the liberals (ALDE) and the Greens had drafted a joint letter calling for “tougher sanctions against Russia” at the EU summit of 20 October. “The EU needs concrete leverage to stop Russian war crimes in Syria and a tougher sanctions regime targeting Putin and his inner circle is the most efficient way to achieve this in the short term,” Guy Verhofstadt, leader of the liberal ALDE Group, said.
The summit nevertheless condemned Russia’s actions in Syria and the leaders also called for those responsible for war crimes to be held accountable before international tribunals, the two diplomats stressed. The summit brought up a number of serious foreign policy issues, on top of Syria also the Middle East Peace Process, counter-terrorism, maritime security but also climate change, cross-border cooperation, research, education and the Arctic. The EU leaders also pushed for a major revision of the policy of “selective engagement” with Russia, which was outlined by Frederica Mogherini earlier this year.

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