HNC calls on EU to impose sanctions on Russia over Aleppo attacks

Aleppo: Assad regime advances with tanks, rebels hold some fronts
A medic holds a dead child after airstrikes in the rebel held Karam Houmid neighbourhood in Aleppo, Syria October 4, 2016. REUTERS/Abdalrhman Ismail

A senior member of the opposition Syrian High Negotiations Committee (HNC) on Saturday urged the European Union to impose sanctions on Russia over its ongoing military campaign in Syria, especially Aleppo.

Assad regime, backed by Russia and Iran, said on September 22 it was starting a new wide offensive to recapture the rebel-held parts of Aleppo after a week-long ceasefire was declared officially over on 19 September. the offensive includes a ground assault, artillery bombardment, and intensive airstrikes.

Since 19 September, more than 600 civilians have been killed and more than 2000 injured in rebel-held areas of Aleppo province, including the besieged eastern part of the city, Civil defense workers said.

Syrian opposition High Negotiations Committee (HNC) member Bassma Kodmani also urged the EU to consider every option for civilian protection after Russia’s direct involvement and support for the Assad regime’s indiscriminate bombardment of Aleppo and across Syria.

“Advanced Russian weaponry, including ‘Bunker Buster’ bombs used against civilian and medical infrastructure are causing unprecedented destruction and civilian casualties, particularly in Eastern Aleppo. At least 400 civilians have been killed there since the start of the regime’s and Russia’s indiscriminate bombardment campaign” Kodmani said in a statement.

“Russia has repeatedly failed to abide by international law in Syria. And it has shown complete disregard for a genuine diplomatic solution to the conflict. Without consequences for its role in indiscriminately killing civilians, bombing humanitarian relief and targeting medical facilities in Aleppo and across Syria, Russia will continue its illegal campaign and provide cover for the regime’s killing spree,” the HNC member remarked.

“The EU successfully sanctioned Russia over its role in Ukraine. It is also in Europe’s interest to pursue all options to end the catastrophe in Syria and its global consequences: the refugee crisis and terror threat. The EU must urgently impose targeted sanctions against Russian officials and companies directly involved in the indiscriminate targeting of civilians, civilian infrastructure, and medical facilities, and those financially sustaining the Assad regime”, Bassma Kodmani stated.

“Sanctions must go hand-in-hand with robust action to deter the indiscriminate killing of civilians. Declaring a nationwide no-bombing zone – which, if challenged, would lead to limited strikes from naval assets onto regime military targets – would constitute a credible deterrent. Not only will it save lives, but it is the only way to kick start a meaningful political process”, Kodmani added.

Germany calls for sanctions on Russia

German Chancellor Angela Merkel urged Russia on Friday to use its influence with the Syrian government to end the devastating bombardment of Aleppo.

“Russia has a lot of influence on Assad. We must end these atrocious crimes,” Merkel told party members in Magdeburg. She did not address sanctions directly, but said the international community needed to do all it could to bring about a halt in the fighting and get supplies to civilians.

Norbert Roettgen, a member of Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and chair of the Foreign Affairs Committee in the German parliament, called for new sanctions against Russia over its role in the bombardment of Syria.

His comments to the Sueddeutsche Zeitung came two days after another CDU member and member of the European Parliament, Elmar Brok, urged the EU to impose new sanctions against Russia.

“A lack of consequences and sanctions for the most serious war crimes would be a scandal,” Roettgen said, adding military measures would be the wrong approach.

The idea of sanctions was discussed at a coalition meeting on Thursday and also at a meeting of senior officials from the United States, Britain, France, Italy and Germany in Berlin on Wednesday but both groups have decided against it for now, participants said.

The Assad regime forces, backed by Russian air power, Iranian ground forces and Shi’ite militia fighters from Iran, Iraq, and Lebanon, has been tightening its grip on rebel-held districts of Aleppo this year, and this summer achieved a long-held goal of fully encircling the area.

Recovering full control of the rebels’ last significant urban area would be the most important victory of the war so far for Assad, strengthening his control over Syria’s most populous and strategically important regions.