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EU backs down on sanctions against Russia over Aleppo bombing

EU president Donald Tusk said the leaders had agreed to 'keep the unity of the EU' over Russia. Photograph: (AFP)

WION New Delhi, Delhi, India Oct 21, 2016, 02.39 AM (IST)

EU leaders on Friday backed down from imposing sanctions against Russia for bombing Aleppo, but warned that "all available options" will be considered if Moscow continues bombing Syria. 

The European Union leaders had gathered in Brussels to discuss the situation in Syria and Russian "airspace violations, disinformation campaigns, cyber-attacks, interference in political processes in the Balkans and beyond" among other issues, Reuters reported. 

After the two-day summit in Brussels, Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi demanded the removal of sanctions against Russia from a statement issued after the summit. EU president Donald Tusk said EU leaders wished to "keep the unity of the EU" over Russia. 

The altered statement said the EU "strongly condemns the attacks by the Syrian regime and its allies, notably Russia, on civilians in Aleppo" and called for an "immediate cessation of hostilities".

The statement also read that the EU will "consider all available options, should the current atrocities continue", AFP reported. 

Russia on the same day announced it would stop its onslaught on Aleppo, and the ceasefire was called in for 24 hours. 

However, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Francois Holland called for sanctions to remain after their meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday. 

Merkel said the EU "cannot accept these inhuman bombardments", adding that "if this kind of violation continues, of course, we will envisage all available measures in order to react to this," she told reporters. 

While Hollande said, "all options are open for as long as there is not a ceasefire that is respected and for as long as there is an intention to destroy this town, Aleppo, a town of martyrs". 

Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi said the priority was to "make all possible efforts to find a peace deal in Syria".

British Prime Minister Theresa May called for a "robust and united" move by the EU against the "sickening atrocities" taking place in Syria. This is May's first EU summit after Brexit. 

(WION with inputs from AFP)

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