Leaders discuss responses to Syria conflict

Cameron, Merkel and Hollande meet to seek a common approach on Syrian war

German chancellor Angela Merkel, British prime minister David Cameron and French president Francois Hollande meet during yesterday’s EU summit. Photograph:  Alain Jocard/AFP/Getty Images

German chancellor Angela Merkel, British prime minister David Cameron and French president Francois Hollande meet during yesterday’s EU summit. Photograph: Alain Jocard/AFP/Getty Images

 

The leaders of Britain, France and Germany met on the sidelines of yesterday’s EU summit in a bid to seek a common approach to the war in Syria ahead of next month’s G20 summit in Turkey.

With migration and the Syrian conflict topping the agenda of yesterday’s summit of EU leaders, British prime minister David Cameron, German chancellor Angela Merkel and French president François Hollande held private discussions on the Syrian conflict.

Sources said it was too early to tell if the three would launch a common initiative.

Turkey, which holds the rotating presidency of the G20, has become embroiled in the war in Syria unfolding on its borders, with Russia jets entering Turkish airspace earlier this month.

The EU is increasingly divided on how best to deal with the Syrian conflict, in particular the possible role for president Bashar al-Assad in any future government.

Germany has begun suggesting that some form of engagement with the Syrian president is necessary, a move opposed by Britain and, especially, France. Both countries have been involved in US-led air strikes against Islamic State for the past year.

syria

New exodus

Donald Tusk

“It is our obligation to be prepared for all possible scenarios,” Mr Tusk said. “We must ask ourselves if the decisions we are going to take are sufficient to contain a new migratory wave.”

Troops loyal to Mr Assad yesterday continued their attempt to reclaim land won by rebel groups. They bombed rebel-held towns north of Homs, backed by Russian military jets.

Russia began bombing campaigns in Syria on September 30th, claiming that it is targeting Islamic State fighters. But the US and other western powers have queried Moscow’s motivation.

No-fly zones

EU leaders were also expected to discuss the establishment of an EU border force to protect the union’s external borders, as well as an improvement in deportation rates in a shift in emphasis in the EU’s approach to the crisis.

Mr Tusk said the future of the so-called Dublin Convention, which obliges refugees to seek asylum in the EU country where they first arrive, would be discussed, though no immediate solutions would be found.

With the vast majority of asylum seekers arriving in Italy and Greece, the Mediterranean countries are struggling to impose the legal requirements of the Dublin agreement.