In the immediate aftermath of punitive airstrikes launched by France, the UK and US against the chemical weapons programme of Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad, the EU’s Foreign Ministers insisted during their meeting in Luxembourg on April 16 that talks on finding a political solution to the ongoing war in Syria need to be revived.
The 28 Member States’ ministers expressed their approval for the targeted airstrikes but insisted that a political solution needed to be found as quickly as possible to bring an end to the seven year war
“The Council considers that the targeted air strikes were carried out for the sole purpose of preventing the Syrian regime from using chemical weapons and chemical substances as weapons to again kill Syrian civilians”, the ministers said in an official statement released to the media immediately after meetings that had not included the issue of Syria on the original agenda.
“We stress that the momentum of the current situation must be used to reinvigorate the process of finding a political solution to the situation in Syria…The European Union reiterates that there is no military solution to this conflict”.
Germany leaves the door open to Russia
“Without Russia, it is impossible to resolve this conflict,” insisted German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas on his arrival in Luxembourg, repeating his previous statements that Russia and the EU need to continue being engaged in dialogue over the Syrian conflict.
“The goal of these strikes was to show that there is a red line that should not be exceeded,” said Belgian Foreign Minister Didier Reynders, who also stressed that the EU needed to be in regular contact with Assad’s closest allies, Russia and Iran.
Despite their message of solidarity, the EU remains bitterly split over its next course of action, with many of the Member States fearful Russian President Vladimir Putin’s likely reaction to the airstrikes.
Putin had previously warned against any “thoughtless and dangerous acts in Syria”, which remains one of Moscow’s closest international allies and the key cog in the Kremlin’s efforts to re-establish its influence in the Middle East.
The bloc’s lack of unity played out during the April 14 airstrikes as only two Member States took part in the attacks on Assad’s chemical weapons facilities. Of the 28 EU Member States, only 19 have expelled Russian diplomats from their borders, while five have simply recalled their ambassadors for consultations. Austria, Cyprus, and Greece – three EU countries that are seen as being more Russia-friendly in their foreign policy positions – have refused to punish Moscow for its continues support of Assad and the Kremlin’s role in the attempted poisoning of a former Russian double-agent in the UK.