EU ministers condemn Syria over Turkish jet


EUROPEAN FOREIGN ministers condemned Syria for shooting down a Turkish military jet as they banned the import of all oil products from Iran.

They condemned brutal violence and massacres of civilians in Syria, many of them children and women, and said they were appalled by reports that children were being used as “human shields”.

As the ministers imposed a 16th round of EU sanctions against the regime in Damascus, they also called for United Nations sanctions against the country, a move resisted by Russia.

“The EU condemns the unacceptable shooting down by Syria of a Turkish military plane on 22 June. It offers its sympathies to the families of the airmen involved, and commends Turkey’s measured and responsible initial reaction,” the ministers said in conclusions after their monthly talks.

“The EU notes that this is a matter which needs to be investigated thoroughly and urgently. It calls on Syria to co-operate fully with Turkey and allow full access for an immediate investigation, and for the international community to give its support to such efforts.”

EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said Russia’s engagement in support of a peaceful political process in Syria was crucial. “We have to continue to ratchet up the pressure on the Syrian regime and we want to see united action by the UN Security Council, including comprehensive sanctions under Chapter VII,” she said.

While Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs Eamon Gilmore said there was no indication that Russia might change its stance, he said the ministers remained hopeful it would.

“Russia hasn’t any statement to that effect. There is continuing contact with Russia at a number of levels and the hope is that Russia will be more proactive and positive in dealing with the Syrian situation,” he said.

“We’re now talking about 10,000 people who have been killed in Syria. We’ve seen some appalling atrocities and we would like to see the security council referring the issue to the International Criminal Court.”

The Tánaiste said the election of the Islamist candidate Mohamed Morsi as president of Egypt marked “a result” for the country. “It’s a president elected by the people of Egypt,” he said .

However, Mr Gilmore said there was a great deal of concern about the fact that the military were not transferring political power. “There’s a lot of discussion about how that is going to work out over time. I think there is quite a degree of concern about how things will progress in Egypt.”

The ministers also imposed an oil embargo on Iran in protest at its nuclear programme. After months of debate, the embargo takes effect next month. The move had been resisted by crisis-struck Greece, which is heavily dependent on Iranian oil.

“We are determined to try and achieve a negotiated agreement with Iran to reassure the international community about the purely peaceful nature of the Iranian nuclear programme,” Baroness Ashton said. “It is now up to Iran to decide what it wishes to do.”