London: French President Francois Hollande and German Chancellor Angela Merkel lashed out on Thursday at Russian President Vladimir Putin over Moscow’s bombardment of Aleppo and refused to rule out imposing sanctions on the country.
“What is happening in Aleppo is a war crime; one of the first demands is that the bombardments by the regime and its [Russian] backers must end,” said Hollande after a meeting between the three leaders in Berlin.
Merkel condemned the air raids on Aleppo as “inhumane and cruel”, reports the Guardian.
Both the leaders warned that they could not exclude imposing sanctions on Russia, hours ahead of an EU summit where Russia’s role in Syria is set to be discussed.
“Everything that can constitute a threat can be useful,” said Hollande, while Merkel added: “We cannot remove this option.”
Turning to a planned ceasefire due to begin in Aleppo later on Thursday morning, Hollande said Putin appeared to be ready to extend the truce, set to last for 11 hours.
“We came out of the meeting with the impression that there could be an extension of the truce, but it’s up to the Syrian regime and Russia to show it,” he said.
A truce of just a few hours would not be enough to deliver the necessary humanitarian aid and allow civilians to leave the area, he added.
The Syrian army separately said that the ceasefire would last three days.
Last week, US Secretary of State John Kerry and British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson also said that they were considering fresh economic sanctions against the Syrian Government and its supporters, apparently Russia, in response to the continued bombardment of Aleppo.
However, the two nations failed to develop any consensus for tougher military options, including a no-bombing zone.
Kerry said the west will look again at intensifying economic sanctions. He, however, did not specify Russia as a target.
“We are considering additional sanctions and we are also making clear that President Obama has not taken any options off the table,” said Kerry.
Aleppo, held by rebels determined to oust President Bashar al-Assad, has come under heavy bombardment since the Russian-backed military announced an offensive in late September to regain control of the east.
Air strikes there have flattened numerous residential buildings and civilian facilities, in a campaign the European Union said could amount to war crimes. (ANI)