EU divided entering days of Syria talks

Friday, September 06, 2013

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ST. PETERSBURG, Russia (AP) — European Union nations enter high-octane talks on Syria as divided as ever, split between moral outrage over the use of chemical weapons and the obligations of slow and burdensome UN diplomacy.


France, like the United States, is preparing possible armed action against the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad. Britain has been surprisingly hamstrung by its parliament. And Germany says it will not take part in an attack and would limit itself to a backseat role at most.


While EU leaders are in St Petersburg with Russian leader Vladimir Putin and US President Barack Obama during the G-20 summit ending Friday, the EU's foreign and defence ministers are meeting in nearby Lithuania through Saturday, seeking to broker a common stance that statements Thursday indicated would prove elusive.


Speaking in Russia, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said: "I do not believe yet that we will reach a joint position." And while EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton cautiously said in Vilnius that she had been "of course, carefully talking with our colleagues and allies," EU President Herman Van Rompuy -- speaking in St Petersburg — bluntly insisted upon UN cooperation, upsetting the French and widening divisions further.


Rebuffing French urgency, Van Rompuy told reporters that EU nations had to underscore "the need to move forward with addressing the Syrian crisis through the UN process".


That involves further delays as UN inspectors prepare a report on the Aug 21 chemical attack and the diplomatic quagmire at the Security Council, where Russia and China have veto power over military action.



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