Europe's top officials stopped short on Thursday, September 5 of endorsing a U.S.-led push for a military strike against Syria in response to last month's chemical weapons attack, and warned there could be no military solution to the 2-1/2-year-old conflict, according to Reuters.
The position set out by European Council President Herman Van Rompuy and European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso would appear to leave the European Union at slight odds with the United States, as President Barack Obama has said he is poised to take military action once he has approval from the U.S. Congress, where votes are expected next week.
Van Rompuy described the August 21 poison gas attack near Damascus, in which an estimated 1,400 people died, as "abhorrent" and a crime against humanity that could not be ignored. But ultimately diplomacy remained the best way to resolve a conflict which has killed 100,000 people, he said.
"There is no military solution to the Syrian conflict," Van Rompuy told reporters ahead of a summit of the Group of 20 countries in St Petersburg, where Syria is expected to dominate debate along with discussion on the global economy.
"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."
"The international community cannot remain idle," Van Rompuy said, a comment that appeared to leave the door open. "We have to show that such crimes are unacceptable and will not be tolerated, to show that there can be no impunity."
According to RIA Novosti, 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.
British 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.