Monday 23 October 2017

EU agrees Assad regime responsible

US Secretary of State John Kerry meets European Union Foreign Policy Chief Catherine Ashton (AP)
US Secretary of State John Kerry meets European Union Foreign Policy Chief Catherine Ashton (AP)
US president Barack Obama will address the US on action in Syria, he said after the G20 summit (AP)

European Union officials have agreed that the August 21 chemical attack outside Damascus appears to have been the work of Syria's regime, but that any potential military attack against it should wait for the UN inspectors' report.

EU high representative Catherine Ashton and French foreign minister Laurent Fabius were speaking after a meeting of EU foreign ministers in Lithuania.

France had already said it would wait for the UN inspectors' report before deciding to intervene militarily, even though it said the report would only show a chemical attack had taken place, not apportion blame.

Addressing the joint EU position, Mr Fabius said: "It is said that all indications converge toward the fact that the regime is responsible."

After meeting with US secretary of state John Kerry, the EU ministers ended days of division on the issue with a common statement that the available intelligence "seems to indicate strong evidence that the Syrian regime is responsible for the attack," Baroness Ashton said.

The EU nations, most of which have been sceptical on a quick retaliatory strike against the regime of Syrian president Bashar Assad, underscored "the need to move forward with addressing the Syrian crisis through the UN process," Lady Ashton said.

She hoped a "preliminary report of this first (UN) investigation can be released as soon as possible."

Germany joined in blaming the attack on the Syrian government. It had been the only European member of the G20 not to co-sign a joint statement issued Friday at the end of the G20 meeting in St Petersburg, Russia, blaming the government.

That statement calls for a strong international response against Assad's regime but stops short of explicitly calling for military action against the Syrian government.

German foreign minister Guido Westerwelle said in Vilnius that it wanted to wait for EU foreign ministers to agree on a common position before backing the statement.

Press Association

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