The European Council called for a political solution to the crisis in Syria, which has been struggling against Islamic State militants amid an ongoing civil war.
The Council claimed that lasting peace in Syria cannot be achieved under the leadership of Syrian President Bashar Assad and expressed concern over the airstrikes that Russia has been launching against ISIL radicals in Syria at Assad’s request.
According to a Council statement issued after a meeting of EU leaders in Brussels on Thursday, the European Council “agreed on the need to focus on the fight against DAESH [ISIL] and other UN-designated terrorist groups [in Syria] in the framework of a united and coordinated strategy and a political process on the basis of the Geneva Communiqué of 2012.”
Speaking in Brussels on Thursday, French President Francois Hollande also expressed the European Union’s anti-Assad stance, but stressed that a political process in Syria must involve numerous states.
“Contacts will, of course, be made with the countries most concerned, regional states, [Persian] Gulf countries, Iran,” Hollande told journalists, adding that Russia and the United States should also be involved.
Russia started precision airstrikes against ISIL targets in Syria on September 30, following a request from Syrian President Bashar Assad. The Russian airstrikes hit targets that are chosen based on intelligence collected by Russia, Syria, Iraq and Iran.
According to the Russian Defense Ministry, the airstrikes have done considerable damage to ISIL command and logistics networks, as well as to infrastructure used to equip suicide bombers.
A US-led coalition has been targeting the positions of ISIL radicals in both Syria and Iraq since September 2014, without achieving any breakthroughs in the fight against ISIL.
Russia has criticized the coalition campaign for being carried out without the approval of the Syrian government or the UN Security Council.
The United States, which has been supporting the so-called “moderate” Syrian opposition and calling for Assad to step down, has accused Russia of targeting Assad’s opponents rather than ISIL positions in Syria. Russia has dismissed such allegations, stressing that they lack factual evidence.
Earlier in October, Syrian Ambassador to Russia Riad Haddad confirmed that the Russian airstrikes in Syria are being carried out against armed terrorist organizations and not political opposition factions or civilians. He added that Russia’s airstrikes had destroyed 40 percent of the Islamic State infrastructure in Syria.