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    The EU warns Russia on its involvement in Syria

    The EU has warned Russia that “fighting alongside the regime” in Syria’s bloody civil war will only “prolong the agony” of the conflict. The warning comes from the European External Action Service (EEAS) which also cautions that a military escalation “will lead nowhere.”

    The EEAS draws comparisons with the nuclear deal thrashed out with Iran which will end years of economic sanctions against Tehran in exchange for restrictions on its nuclear programme.

    A statement delivered by the Latvia presidency of the EU on behalf of the EEAS said, “The Iran deal took us 12 years. The war in Syria is possibly an even more complex matter. It has multiple players with many diverging objectives. The latest phase has been marked by military escalation, both by Syrian and by non-Syrian participants.”

    It adds that the EEAS “wants to be frank about the fact that a military escalation in the civil war will lead nowhere: it will only prolong the agony of the conflict. Fighting terrorism is one thing: in Syria that means fighting the groups defined as terrorist by the United Nations, including Da’esh and Jabhat al Nusra.

    “It does not mean fighting alongside the regime in the civil war. That will only provoke a matching increase in the arms supplies by some regional powers to the opposition.”

    It goes on, “The only thing Syria, and us all, don’t need is further escalation. On the contrary, we need de-escalation and international and regional cooperation on an agreed common agenda for peace.”

    On the fight against terrorism in Syria, the EEAS said the EU had decided “long ago” not to be militarily involved, but added, “Still, we actively contribute with non-military means to the objectives of the global coalition against Da’esh. Our engagement goes from reducing the threats of radicalisation and the recruitment of new foreign terrorist fighters in European countries, to working to stop the flow of revenues Da’esh.”

    The aim, it argued, should be to “bring the different strands” of the Syrian political and military opposition together behind a “common vision and purpose.”

    “There are concrete measures that are possible even in the current circumstances and that would promote de-escalation and open the way to peace.”

    Such measures, the EEAS suggests, included “intensifying” the EU’s “humanitarian diplomacy”.

    “We can seek ways to provide access and protection, as well as to promote humanitarian principles and consensus on the guideline for the delivery of aid. Steps in the direction of a solution – this is what is needed, this is what we are working at, within the UN framework.”

    Meanwhile, Anna Fotyga, who chairs the European Parliament’s influential sub committee on security and defence, has accused Russia of “trying to destroy” the opposition in Syria rather than fighting IS.

    Fotyga, a Polish MEP, said she was particularly concerned about the threat the conflict poses to energy security in Europe.

    She added, “The devastating crisis in Syria represents, along with the conflict in Ukraine, the biggest threat to our security. The engagement of Russia and the way it has executed bombing in Syria shows it is out to destroy the opposition there rather than Islamic terrorists.

    “This is making things increasingly difficult for Turkey which, let’s remember, seeks to cooperate with the West.”

    By Martin Banks