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EU leaders agree on common line on Russia and Syria
The EU Council of Foreign Affairs meeting yesterday in Luxembourg receives broad coverage. They condemned Russia’s intervention in Syria. HRVP Mogherini warned that Russian intervention in Syria was a very high-risk “game-changer“, noting that “it has some very worrying elements.” “It has to be coordinated, otherwise it risks being extremely dangerous, not only from a political point of view but also military“. Ms Mogherini said that the EU is ready to support the UN in negotiations with the present Syrian regime.
All EU leaders condemned Russia’s military operations in Syria and they all believe that there cannot be lasting peace in Syria under the present leadership. Only Večer considers that EU Foreign Affairs ministers failed to find common ground to explicitly condemn the attacks. Luxembourg Foreign Minister Jean Asselborn said it would be disastrous if more Syrians became refugees due to uncoordinated bombing. “It is essential to focus on the protection of the EU’s external borders, otherwise Schengen could be dead”, quotes Tageblatt. European officials accuse the Bashar al-Assad regime of bearing the greatest responsibility for the 250,000 deaths in Syria and the displacement of millions of people, according to Mihai Draghici inmediafox.ro.
Many EU countries including Germany admit they do not want to make the same mistake as in Libya where a dictator was killed, leaving a power vacuum, writes Beda Romano in Il Sole 24 Ore. Russia’s attacks in Syria go beyond Isil positions, hitting Syrian rebels and therefore the attacks must end now, Diário Económico reports. Europe also fears the consequences of these attacks, considering that Russia’s intervention can prolong the conflict, undermine the political process, aggravate the humanitarian situation, and increase radicalisation. HRVP Federica Mogherini said that Russia’s intervention has changed the rules of the game. “There is no long-term military solution: it is the political track that we must focus on now,” says Margot Wallström, the Swedish Minister for Foreign Affairs, speaking with Swedish Radio. As an EU accession candidate and NATO Partner, Turkey plays a key role in the concepts presented by EC President Jean-Claude Juncker. HRVP Mogherini is aiming to organise a peace conference on Syria with the EU as mediator.
The Times and die Welt explain that Russia is expanding its military base and has doubled the rate of airstrikes since the outset of the offensive, while the US dropped 50 tonnes of ammunition to a rebel coalition in Syria. Daniel Brössler suggests in Süddeutsche Zeitung that there is no common goal between Russia and Europe. He adds that Vladimir Putin is only interested in saving his ally Bashar al-Assad or at least his regime. Europe’s dilemma is that it can neither solve the Syrian crisis with Russia, nor without it. Both Miloš Balabán in Právo and Naumescu Valentin inRomania Libera continue to report on President Juncker’s words in Passau. Naumescu Valentin considers it as an anti-American and pro-Russian omen but Naumescu underlines that most European leaders explicitly disapprove of Mr Juncker when the latter speaks about “an army of the European Union which should no longer depend on NATO and on the United States”, but perhaps others agree with him.
Miloš Balabán shares a similar point of view noting that Europe must improve its relations with Russia and that we cannot allow Washington to dictate our relations with that country. The author argues that Mr Juncker surely has a good reason for such strong words. Balabán adds that Europe is pressured by the conflicts in its close proximity, which give rise to refugee waves negatively affecting the EU’s coherence. In a commentary, Il Foglio says that after four and a half years of civil war in Syria, Europe is still in a state of “confusion“, so it is contracting out to the UN its search for a solution. Europe is facing a military dilemma it is unwilling to solve. And the current division on Bashar El-Assad’s role in Syria’s future is a fractious issue; indeed France and the UK object to al-Assad having any type of role, while Germany and Spain argue for it, according to El País.
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