EU leaders backed down on Friday from an explicit threat of sanctions against Russia over the bombing of Aleppo but warned that they would consider “all available options” if atrocities in Syria continue. Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi demanded that any mention of possible punitive measures against Moscow over the Syrian carnage should be removed from a statement issued after a summit in Brussels.

The climbdown underscored the deep divisions between the 28 European Union leaders as they tried to thrash out a long-term strategy on their increasingly bellicose eastern neighbour. The watered-down statement said the EU “strongly condemns the attacks by the Syrian regime and its allies, notably Russia, on civilians in Aleppo” and called for an “immediate cessation of hostilities.” FULL REPORT