Tue, Jun 05, 2012 - Page 1 News List

Van Rompuy urges EU-Russia cooperation on Syria

AFP Reuters, SAINT PETERSBURG, RUSSIA, BEIJING and BEIRUT

Russia and the EU must overcome their differences on the crisis in Syria to prevent a full-scale civil war, the EU president said yesterday after talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

EU President Herman Van Rompuy, who is in Russia with EU Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso to meet with Putin, said after the talks that the EU and Russia “might have some divergent assessments” over the situation in Syria.

Standing side-by-side with Putin, Van Rompuy said both the EU and Russia needed to overcome their differences to ensure that the violence was halted.

Putin did not explicitly address the situation in Syria and none of the questions asked by reporters at the tightly controlled news conference touched on the issue.

However, he alluded to the differences with the EU in his opening statement, without going into details of the closed-door talks.

“We discussed the most outstanding international and regional political issues,” Putin said.

“This, of course, is the situation in Syria, Iran, the Middle East and several other regions,” he said. “Of course, our positions do not coincide on every issue or in everything.”

In China, the top state newspaper warned yesterday that any Western-backed military intervention in Syria would unleash even bloodier chaos, and said abandoning envoy Annan’s peace plan could push Syria into the “abyss” of full-scale war.

The People’s Daily, the main newspaper of the Chinese Communist Party, spelled out the reasons for Beijing’s opposition to a tougher response to the massacre last month of 108 people in Houla, which Western and Arab governments blamed on forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

The paper also warned that “external forces are not qualified to meddle.”

“It is easy to imagine the turmoil that would occur should Syria erupt into all-out civil war, triggering Western military intervention,” said a commentary in the paper, which generally reflects Chinese government thinking.

In Syria, rebels killed at least 80 army soldiers over the weekend, an opposition watchdog said yesterday, in a surge of attacks that followed their threat to resume fighting if al-Assad failed to observe a UN-backed ceasefire. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said doctors had confirmed the names of 80 dead government soldiers.

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