Catherine Ashton, the European Union’s foreign policy High Representative, said that “a clear and strong response” must be delivered on the use of chemical weapons by the Syrian regime but “through the UN process.” She said she was speaking in behalf of the 28 members of the Union including France, a country that backs the US planed military strikes against Syrian targets. She said France will wait for the preliminary report of the UN investigation team that worked on the scene of the gas attack.

The EU also “urges the UN Security Council to unite in its efforts to prevent any further chemical attack. To that effect, it encourages the UNSC to fulfil its responsibilities and take all initiatives to achieve this goal”.  The problem with this last demand is that the Security Council is deadlocked in all related with Syria because of the behavior of the veto powered countries, usually with the US, France and the UK in one side and Russia and China in the other side.

Finally, the UE considers that only a political solution can put an end to the bloodshed and encourages the diplomatic process in reference to the Geneva II peace conference. Before the eastern Ghouta gas attack happened, talks to hold that conference were constantly delayed. A Russian diplomat asked about the reasons said then that there was a very busy diplomatic agenda ahead, with the G20 and other international summits. Maybe without those delays and with talks going on in August as planned, the attack could be prevented and this critical situation avoided. Now Syria is the main topic in all the international summits anyway.

US president Obama, who went to the G20 summit in Russia and met with Putin to talk about Syria despite the diplomatic crisis because of the asylum granted to the ex NSA contractor Edward Snowden, returned to the US without adding supports to his plans to airstrikes against Syrian targets. Then he sent Secretary of State John Kerry to Vilnius, Lithuania, to met the EU leaders with the same result. Nobody changed positions.

Here you can read the full text of the EU statement:

On 21 August, a large-scale chemical attack was perpetrated in the outskirts of Damascus, killing hundreds of people, including many women and children. That attack constituted a blatant violation of international law, a war crime, and a crime against humanity. We were unanimous in condemning in the strongest terms this horrific attack.

Information from a wide variety of sources confirms the existence of such an attack . It seems to indicate strong evidence that  the Syrian regime is responsible for these attacks as it is the only one that possesses chemical weapons agents and means of their delivery in a sufficient quantity.

In the face of this cynical use of chemical weapons, the international community cannot remain idle. A clear and strong response is crucial to make clear that such crimes are unacceptable and that there can be no impunity. We must prevent creating a dreadful precedent for the use of chemical weapons in Syria again, or elsewhere.

The EU underscores at the same time the need to move forward with addressing the Syrian crisis through the UN process. We note the on-going UN investigation on the 21st of August attack and further investigations on other chemical weapons attacks carried out in this conflict.  It hopes a preliminary report of this first investigation can be released as soon as possible and welcomes President Hollande‘s statement to wait for this report before any further action. The EU urges the UN Security Council to unite in its efforts to prevent any further chemical attack. To that effect, it encourages the UNSC to fulfil its responsibilities and take all initiatives to achieve this goal. The EU and its member states intend to play a full and active part in that context.

The EU recalls the individual responsibility of the perpetrators of attacks of this type, who must be held accountable, and the role of the ICC in investigating and judging such acts.

Only a political solution can end the terrible bloodshed, grave violations of human rights and the far-reaching destruction of Syria.  An encompassing  diplomatic process leading to a political solution is now more urgent than ever. The initiative for a “Geneva II” peace conference, must move ahead swiftly . The EU is ready to provide all support needed to achieve a political settlement and work with partners and international actors, particularly the United Nations.

The EU will uphold its commitment, as the largest donor, to provide aid and assistance to those in need due to the Syrian conflict. It will maintain its readiness to help the recovery, rehabilitation and transition in Syria, in accordance with the needs of the Syrian people.

About Olga Brajnović

Journalist. In my fifties. I've worked for 26 years in a newspaper in Spain. I worked for two years as a stringer and correspondent in the US, and went as a special envoy to other places like the Balkans. Sea lover. Avid reader. Classic Music enthusiast.