The European Union on Monday strongly condemned Russia for the bombardment of the Syrian city of Aleppo, saying air strikes by Moscow and Damascus could amount to war crimes.
“Since the beginning of the offensive by the regime and its allies, notably Russia, the intensity and scale of the aerial bombardment of eastern Aleppo is clearly disproportionate,” EU foreign ministers said in a statement after talks in Luxembourg.
“The deliberate targeting of hospitals, medical personnel, schools and essential infrastructure, as well as the use of barrel bombs, cluster bombs, and chemical weapons, constitute a catastrophic escalation of the conflict … and may amount to war crimes,” they said.
The EU ministers said they would also press ahead with extending sanctions against the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, but stopped short of threatening measures against Russia over the conflict.
The reference to war crimes is potentially significant since if pressed, a case could be taken to the International Criminal Court in the Hague.
The statement noted the EU’s “conviction that the situation in Syria should be referred to the ICC and renews its call to the UN Security Council to take action in this respect. ”
Ministers also called urgently for an immediate ceasefire in Aleppo to allow humanitarian aid to reach the ancient frontline city which has been pummelled mercilessly by Assad’s forces and then by his longtime Russian ally from September last year.
The EU “strongly condemns the excessive and disproportionate attacks by the regime and its allies”, it said.
As the EU statement was coming through, Moscow announced an eight-hour cessation of hostilities for Thursday, stealing the limelight in the diplomatic battle.
The EU ministers said the bloc “firmly believes that there can be no military solution to the conflict” and called directly on Russia to agree a ceasefire to open the way to peace talks.
EU foreign affairs head Federica Mogherini said earlier Monday ministers could consider additional Syria sanctions but ruled out imposing restrictive measures on Russia.
The statement made no reference to this possibility although Britain and the United States had said in talks in London on Sunday they should be considered.
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