The EU must increase pressure on Russia to change its behaviour in the many crises in which it is involved, German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said in Brussels on April 13, ahead of Monday’s EU Foreign Affairs Council.
Chaired by the EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Federica Mogherini, the ministers will have on the top of their agenda Russian veto at the UN Security Council in response to the horrendous chemical attacks against civilians by forces loyal to Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad.
“We cannot tolerate the failures of the UN Security Council because of Russia’s veto and wee cannot continue in this way. We must increase pressure on Russia to change its behaviour,” said Maas during a press conference with European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker.
Maas reiterated his support for a proposal put forth by France to bring those responsible for the chemical attacks to the international criminal justice to stand trial for crimes against humanity, a position that could face stiff resistance within the EU from members who don’t want to antagonise the Kremlin.
“The use of chemical weapons must not go unpunished…we can not act as if nothing was wrong,” said Maas, while adding that the EU still needs to engage in open dialogue with Russia.
“(The war in) Ukraine, the poisoning in Salisbury, its intervention in Syria and interference in the democratic processes of other countries must be addressed and we must decide how to react,” Maas said in April 14, ahead of Monday’s meeting with the EU-28’s other foreign ministers and where they will reaffirm the Member States’ unity regarding Moscow and the conflict in Syria.
If all of the EU Member States agree that Russia is to blame for the March chemical agent attack in the UK against a former Russian double agent, the will remain split on whether to impose new sanctions against Moscow. More than half of the EU-28 have expelled Russian diplomats from their respective countries, but many of them have simply recalled their ambassador to Moscow for consultations.
The EU ministers are expected to repeat their previously stated position that the solution to the Syrian conflict can only be found through diplomatic means, despite the punitive air strikes carried out on April 14 by the US, France, and the UK against targets connected to the Assad regime.