European Union foreign ministers have strongly condemned Syrian and Russian air strikes on civilian targets in rebel-held eastern Aleppo, saying they may amount to war crimes.
A statement agreed by the EU's 28 members on October 17 says that, since the start of an offensive by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's "regime and its allies, notably Russia, the intensity and scale of the aerial bombardment of eastern Aleppo is clearly disproportionate."
The statement said the offensive involved "the deliberate targeting of hospitals, medical personnel, schools, and essential infrastructure, as well as the use of barrel bombs, cluster bombs, and chemical weapons."
Britain and France pushed for strong condemnation of Syria and Russia during the EU foreign ministers' meeting in Luxembourg on October 17.
Calling Russia the Syrian government's "puppeteers," British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson said the bombardment of Aleppo's rebel-held districts "shames humanity."
French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault said the EU ministers examined "all the options to put much stronger pressure" on Assad and his allies.
EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said the bloc was not considering sanctions against Russia for its actions in Syria. But she said there was a possibility of extending measures against Assad's regime.
Russia said on October 17 that Russia and Syrian government forces would halt their air strikes on eastern Aleppo for eight hours on October 20 for humanitarian considerations.
But the United Nations said eight hours was not long enough to allow the delivery of humanitarian aid to some 250,000 civilians trapped in rebel-held parts of Aleppo.
In Washington on October 17, the U.S. State Department said a pause of Russian and Syrian air strikes in eastern Aleppo was a good idea, but said their call for an eight-hour ban was "too little, too late."
With reporting by dpa, Reuters, AFP, TASS, Interfax, and BBC