EU foreign ministers yesterday called for “a clear and strong response” to an alleged chemical weapons attack in Syria last month blamed on the Damascus regime.
Speaking after the bloc’s 28 ministers held talks with US Secretary of State John Kerry, EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Catherine Ashton said: “We want to see a clear and strong response.”
Europe has been sharply divided over how to respond to US calls for military action against Syria after the deadly Aug. 21 attack which Washington, Paris and London say was carried out by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime.
France is the sole EU nation currently willing to take part in a US-led intervention, with most of the bloc’s governments reluctant to offer even political backing for military action without at best a UN mandate, or at least until the release of a much-awaited UN probe on the attack.
Ashton said that EU ministers welcomed French President Francois Hollande’s decision to await the release of the UN investigation before taking action against Syria.
However, Kerry made clear to the EU ministers that Washington had not decided to postpone a decision on military action until the release of the UN report.
Asked to comment on reports by EU officials that Kerry had agreed to requests to put off a decision pending publication of the report, a US State Department official said: “Secretary Kerry made clear that he would report back to the national security team the recommendations of some members of the EU to wait for the results of the UN inspection, but he also made clear that the United States has not made the decision to wait.”
Germany announced it has signed on to a global statement urging “a strong response” to the chemical weapons attack.
That made Germany the fifth EU member to back the statement issued at a G20 summit in St Petersburg on Friday and signed by 11 countries — including the US, Britain, France, Italy and Spain.