No call for EU sanctions against Russia on Syria: Mogherini

 A handout picture made available by Aleppo Media Centre shows displaced Syrian families leave the neighborhoods where the fighting occurs in eastern Aleppo, Syria, on November 29.
A handout picture made available by Aleppo Media Centre shows displaced Syrian families leave the neighborhoods where the fighting occurs in eastern Aleppo, Syria, on November 29.PHOTO: EPA

BRUSSELS (AFP, REUTERS) - The EU has no plans to impose sanctions on Russia over the conflict in Syria, foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said on Monday ahead of a leaders' summit this week.

"No, we didn't discuss at all sanctions, and there was no member state asking for additional work on sanctions" against Russia, Mogherini said after a meeting of European Union foreign ministers.

EU leaders backed down from threatening sanctions on Moscow over the carnage in Aleppo at their last summit in October amid deep divisions in the bloc about how tough to be on Russia.

But with Russian-backed Syrian forces on the verge of retaking the few remaining parts of Aleppo still in rebel hands, the EU warned at the weekend it could add to a long list of figures and groups in Syria it has already hit with travel bans and asset freezes.

There had been hints that EU leaders could also act against Russia when they meet on Thursday, especially after the resignation last week of Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi, one of the biggest opponents of sanctions.

But Mogherini, a former Italian foreign minister, insisted the EU remained united over Syria.

"You find our unity every time we speak," Mogherini told a press conference in Brussels.

"You find the unity of the Europeans not only in statements and our diplomatic action but also in our humanitarian action." At Thursday's summit, EU leaders are expected to back a six-month rollover of damaging economic sanctions against Russia over the conflict in Ukraine.

Meanwhile, the US said on Monday that Russia's insistence on changes to a framework for ending bloodshed in eastern Aleppo are "unacceptable".

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, backed by Russia, is now close to taking back full control of Aleppo, which was Syria's most populous city before the war and would be his greatest prize so far after nearly six years of conflict.

"Russians continue their onslaught and have insisted on changes to the framework that we find unacceptable," a U.S. official said on condition of anonymity.