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Maas calls for pressure on Russia over its Syria role

April 13, 2018

After talks in Brussels, Maas condemned Moscow for blocking resolutions on Syria at the UN Security Council. As the UN council met again, Maas said there must be consequences following the chemical attack.

Heiko Maas in Brussels
Image: picture-alliance/AP Photo/V. Mayo

Maas: 'We will keep up the political pressure on Russia'

Germany's Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said the EU and western powers must increase pressure on Russia for its role in Syria.

"We must increase pressure on Russia to force it to change its attitude," he said during a news conference in Brussels on Friday alongside EC President Jean-Claude Juncker. 

"There will be no peace in Syria without a political solution. Therefore we must also increase the political pressure on Russia to end the impasse in the UN Security Council," the Foreign Ministry said in a short statement on Friday.

Chancellor Angela Merkel regrets UN Security Council's failure to agree to investigate alleged chemical attack in Syria.

Military option discussed

The US, France and UK are discussing the possibility of a military strike on Syria in response to the alleged chemical attack on Douma last Saturday. Germany has said it would not take part in any such action and Maas warned of an "escalation spiral."

However, the minister said of the Douma attack:  "I am also of the opinion that what has happened there cannot remain without consequences."

Maas gave his support to France's proposal for those responsible for chemical attacks to be brought before an international court.

Russian military police near Douma, the site of the alleged chemical attack
Russian military police near Douma, the site of the alleged chemical attackImage: picture-alliance/Photoshot/M. Memeri

UN's Guterres warns of escalation

At Russia's request, the UN Security Council met again on Friday to discuss Syria.

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres warned that the increasing tensions over Syria and the deadlock in the Security Council could "lead to a full-blown military escalation."

The Middle East was in "peril" the UN chief said and had become a threat to global peace. Guterres urged countries "to act responsibly in these dangerous circumstances."

Lavrov: 'God forbid any adventurous action will be taken in Syria'

No US decision yet

US Ambassador Nikki Haley said that President Donald Trump had not yet made a decision about possible action in Syria and there would be no rush to launch military action but "at one point you have to do something."

Haley said that analysis by the US, France and Britain had concluded a chemical attack had taken place in Douma last Saturday.

The US estimates that Assad's forces have used chemical weapons at least 50 times during the seven-year-long conflict, Haley told the Security Council.

"All nations and all people will be harmed if we allow Assad to normalize the use of chemical weapons," she said.

Russian Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia urged the US, France and Britain to refrain from military action: "We continue to observe dangerous military preparations for an illegal act of force against a sovereign state," he told the Council.

Common European foreign policy - by majority vote?

After meeting with the EU's top diplomat Federica Mogherini in Brussels, Germany's Maas said: "If we want to be heard in the world, we need a common European foreign policy."

For the EU itself, Maas suggested that to achieve a more capable EU: "We should consider taking more decisions by majority vote, rather than insisting on unanimity."

EU foreign ministers are to meet in Luxembourg for their regular monthly talks on Monday. They are expected to condemn the Douma attack and call again for a political resolution to Syria's conflict.

jm/ng (AP, AFP, dpa)

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