10:59 Oct. 21, 2016
Russia's aggression in Syria has brought its relationship with the West to a new low
European Union leaders have pledged to keep all options open to respond to atrocities committed in Syria by Russia and President Bashar al-Assad's regime, but stopped short of threatening Moscow with sanctions over the bombing of Aleppo.
"The European Council strongly condemns the attacks by the Syrian regime and its allies, notably Russia, on civilians in Aleppo. It calls on them to bring the atrocities to an end and to take urgent steps to ensure unhindered humanitarian access to Aleppo and other parts of the country. The European Council calls for an immediate cessation of hostilities and for resumption of a credible political process under UN auspices," the European Council said in a statement after a strategic policy debate on relations with Russia.
Despite strong rhetoric against Russia's military actions in Syria the leaders failed to agree on a tough joint statement saying just that "all available options" remain on the table, without mentioning sanctions specifically.
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While the UK, France and Germany wanted to take a harsher tone with Russia, Italy's Matteo Renzi led those countries who opposed the move.
The United Nations said on October 20 that Russian and Syrian bombing of Aleppo has killed nearly 500 people in the past month, and large parts of the city will face severe food shortages by the end of this month.
The division within the EU over how tough it should be on Russia for its aggression in Syria is influenced by the economic and energy ties various European states have cultivated with Moscow.
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Under sanctions imposed in 2014 over Russia's aggression in Ukraine, trade with Russia has dropped by around 30-50 percent in a number of European countries.
Italy, which in the past had particularly close economic ties with Moscow, has struggled with stagnant economic growth and has particularly chafed under the Ukraine sanctions.
Based on reporting by AP, RFE/RL, Bloomberg