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ST. PETERSBURG, September 5 (RIA Novosti, Howard Amos) – The European Union’s two most senior officials called Thursday for a political solution to the ongoing conflict in Syria as world leaders gathered in St. Petersburg for a G20 Summit that is expected to be dominated by US calls for the use of force against the Syrian regime.
“There is no military solution to the Syrian conflict, only a political solution can end the terrible slaughter and grave violations of human rights,” European Council President Herman Van Rompuy told reporters in St. Petersburg shortly after US President Barack Obama arrived in the city.
This call for a political solution was echoed by President of the European Commission Jose Barroso.
“The situation remains a stain on the world’s conscience,” said Barroso, standing alongside Van Rompuy. “The European Union believes that efforts should be evolved towards a political solution to the conflict.”
Obama has said that he supports the use of military force against the Syrian government led by Bashar al-Assad because of its alleged use of chemical weapons.
But other world leaders oppose Obama’s call for intervention. Russian President Vladimir Putin said Wednesday that it would not have made sense for Assad to have authorized the use of chemical weapons, and that any attack on Syria without a UN Security Council resolution would amount to “aggression.”
Van Rompuy conceded Thursday that the Syrian regime was likely responsible for the use of chemical weapons in an attack in Damascus on August 21 in which the United States alleges that over 1,000 people were killed, but stopped short of calling the evidence conclusive.
“Information from a wide variety of sources seems to indicate the Syrian regime is responsible for these attacks,” said Van Rompuy.
European Union countries are split over the use of force in Syria, with two of the continent’s biggest economies, France and Germany, taking opposing positions.
France has said it is willing to back the United States and join military action against Syria, while Germany has ruled out participating in such a strike.
United Kingdom Prime Minister David Cameron has expressed his support for Obama, but the country is confined to diplomatic support for the United States after its parliament voted against military intervention.
Van Rompuy added that the “international community cannot remain idle,” and the United Nations must be used as a means for resolving the crisis. “While respecting the recent calls for action we underscore at the same time the need to move forward with addressing the Syrian crisis through the UN process,” he said.
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