EU to press Putin on Syria at summit

 
President Putin greets Jose Manuel Barroso and Herman Van Rompuy in St Petersburg President Putin, left, will hold talks with Jose Manuel Barroso, centre, and Herman Van Rompuy

EU officials are expected to press Russian President Vladimir Putin to take a stronger line on the crisis in Syria during a summit in St Petersburg.

EU member states want Russia to put pressure on its ally to withdraw heavy weapons from cities and comply fully with UN envoy Kofi Annan's peace plan.

Russia and China are also resisting US and European calls to condemn President Bashar al-Assad and seek his removal.

On Sunday, Mr Assad denied his forces had any role in the Houla massacre.

In a televised address, President Assad told parliament the killing of more than 108 people in their homes, including 49 children, was an "ugly crime" that even "monsters" would not carry out.

Witnesses have blamed pro-government militiamen for the massacre, which has triggered international condemnation and led to several countries expelling Syrian diplomats in protest.

Mr Assad said the only way to resolve the crisis was through political dialogue, and that "foreign meddling" was to blame for Syria's divisions.

Start Quote

Russia's role is crucial for the success of Annan's plan”

End Quote Catherine Ashton EU foreign policy chief

European Council President Herman Van Rompuy, European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso and EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton are among those attending Monday's summit.

On Sunday, Mr Putin invited the EU leaders for dinner ahead of the talks at a lavish estate on the outskirts of the city.

European diplomats regard the meeting as a chance to renew ties with Mr Putin since his return to the presidency earlier this month.

The leaders are also expected to discuss trade and Iran's controversial nuclear programme. Russia will also be looking to speed up moves towards visa free travel in Europe.

But correspondents say Syria is likely to dominate the agenda.

Political transition

"We need to make sure that Russia is using fully its leverage in convincing the [Assad] regime to implement [the peace plan]," an EU official quoted by the Reuters news agency said.

"The Russian side has certainly not been very helpful in finding solutions in terms of a political way out."

President Bashar al-Assad addresses parliament in Damascus President Assad blamed outside forces for causing divisions in his country

Moscow insists it is not protecting Mr Assad but says his removal cannot be a precondition for political dialogue.

Baroness Ashton, who met Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov before Sunday's dinner, said in a statement: "Russia's role is crucial for the success of Annan's plan."

She said the EU wanted to "work closely with Russia to find a way to end the violence".

The statement added that Baroness Ashton had spoken to Mr Annan by telephone on Sunday and they had agreed that the crisis was at "a critical point".

Analysts say pressure is growing on Moscow to concede that the initiative is stalled and to promote a compromise in which President Assad stands down to allow a transition of power.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said on Sunday that she had "made it very clear" to Mr Lavrov in a telephone conversation that the focus was shifting to a political transition.

"Assad's departure does not have to be a precondition, but it should be an outcome so the people of Syria have a chance to express themselves," she said during a visit to Stockholm.

The BBC's Steven Rosenberg in Moscow says that although the summit is not expected to produce any major breakthrough in relations between Russia and the EU, it is still important.

EU leaders will be able to reacquaint themselves with Vladimir Putin and it is also a chance to gauge what kind of relationship Moscow and Brussels are likely to have during his six-year presidency, our correspondent adds.

 

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  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 299.

    The 'Arab Spring' took many western countries by surprise in its speed and how it spread from country to country. You would have thought that they would have changed their foreign policies to anticipate further uprisings or dissent, but no, still the hand wringing and arguments. If Syria ever does get regime change where next? Israel must be getting very nervous

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 298.

    294.A Realist
    Get your tin hat and rifle or do you mean someone elses children will have to fight for what you think is right? Russia chould call the Americans bluff and say we will support you after the same period has elapsed ie 65 years of your chapter 7 veto;s in support of your middle east ally.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 297.

    285. TheProgrammer
    "You're living in a dream world"
    /Nope. You keep on saying stuff like that. It's not a way to debate. I called you obtuse. Seems you also can't accept when you've run out of arguments./

    "they aren't absolutely honest and selfless, some of these politicians are influenced by vested interests and you know it."

    /Did I ever say they weren't?/

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 296.

    these madmen as called by some on HYS are the products of 4 permanet Security Council US- Russia-France-UK and its sad that it took more then 50 years to support democratic changes in the Arab countries.the blame for all these deaths is on these countries hands not their leaders as they were trained to suppress their countrymen

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 295.

    I've lived in the region and don't believe that if we leave the Middle East to "get on with running their countries" that they will ever be content. The Islamists will gain increasing power. This will result in ever increasing demands on the rest of the world. Are we really going to accept the spread of Sharia Law in the West? Sadly, you have to act before the situation gets "beyond control".

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 294.

    Nobody sane ever wants to go to war - but you can't allow madmen to control your destiny. Sometimes you just have to stand up and fight back. Just like in the school playground - you have to deal with psycho bullies. I want peace to come to the entire Middle East swathe from Syria to Afghanistan. But the only way to achieve peace is to confront the madmen bullies.That sadly means going to war.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 293.

    Why do human beings not celebrate their time on earth, instead of trying to wipe each other out?

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 292.

    284.
    Skywatchman

    281.A Realist....

    We all forget the fact that there are no reporters being allowed into Syria by the Assad regime. If there is nothing to hide then allow the world's press access to report what is actually happening!



    They have taken a leaf out of Israels book on restricting the outside world as to what is really happening. Seem to work for Israel!

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 291.

    IMHO it would be good to see the end of Assad BUT recent experiences has shown that while the wast is very good at getting rid of despots it is less effective at germinating a benign replacement.

    I feel uncomfortable about how excited politicos get having their picture taken next to guns and even less comfortable about the deaths of yet more innocents

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 290.

    287.A Realist
    Until the Russian people "grow up", dump these mafia-like thugs and start acting in a democratic way, these problems won't be resolved.

    You are right and that's why the Russian and Chinese regimes veto any prospect of another country's people gaining democratic freedom. They are determined to retain their will over their people. They only represent their own selfish goals.

  • Comment number 289.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 288.

    286. Theophane
    But if you agree with these EU leaders, you presumably 'have a problem' with how Syria is being run?
    / Yes /
    Why is that any of their business exactly?
    /Humaitarian reasons?/
    And given that the EU is in the throes of financial meltdown, ..not everyone is quite so easy to please as you are.
    /Not a reason to do a cowardly runner. I am a fighter not a quitter, nor easy to please./

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 287.

    Sometime soon we hare going to have to call Putin's bluff. It will do us a world of good. The Russians are a funny bunch, you want to like them - but they consistently get it wrong. They appear to have no moral sense or empathy and seem to be callous and selfish. Until the Russian people "grow up", dump these mafia-like thugs and start acting in a democratic way, these problems won't be resolved.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 286.

    JP;

    "Nor do I have a problem with how the EU is being run."

    But if you agree with these EU leaders, you presumably 'have a problem' with how Syria is being run? Why is that any of their business exactly? And given that the EU is in the throes of financial meltdown, it's perhaps just as well that not everyone is quite so easy to please as you are.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 285.

    277. Jesse Pinkman
    Oh dear. "We", the people of Europe, voted for our respective heads of state and heads of governement. These elected leaders in turn elected VR. Can't you read English or are you just obtuse?
    -----
    You're living in a dream world - they aren't absolutely honest and selfless, some of these politicians are influenced by vested interests and you know it.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 284.

    281.A Realist
    "Sadly, we have no real idea who the rebels are and what they truly represent. My issue is: How many unarmed women & children will be murdered before we are forced to act?"

    We all forget the fact that there are no reporters being allowed into Syria by the Assad regime. If there is nothing to hide then allow the world's press access to report what is actually happening!

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 283.

    231.Controlled Pair
    Your list is incomplete it excludes the Reds under the bed brigade in the USA for whom anything proposed by Russia is automatically wrong.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 282.

    271. Noel Blakes Own Goals
    @Jesse 268
    "but if the Swiss and US models are anything to go by, I don't see the problem."
    You see no problem with the way the US is currently being run?
    ////
    I don't see a problem with the way the US have been run since their inception.

    @280. Theophane:
    Nor do I have a problem with how the EU is beeing run.

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 281.

    This illustrates the real-politik of 2012. Putin, a dictator, who has held illegal power for his entire term, after grabbing it from the drunkard Yeltsin, is somehow imagined to hold sway over another "dictator for life", Assad. Sadly, we have no real idea who the rebels are and what they truly represent. My issue is: How many unarmed women & children will be murdered before we are forced to act?

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 280.

    JP, 277;

    That's stretching the definition of 'democracy', don't you think? The fact that we voted for one of the people who then has a vote for these EU timeservers and bureaucrats. The problem methinks is that some people have grown up with the western mantra that all their political leaders have nice democratic mandates, and it's a bit distressing to learn that this isn't always true.

 

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