EU voices 'unwavering' solidarity with UK over nerve agent attack

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The EU is united in "unwavering" solidarity with Britain over the poisoning with nerve agent of a former Russian spy on its soil, European Commission Vice President Frans Timmermans said Tuesday.

"It is of the utmost importance that those who are responsible for what has happened see very clearly that there is European solidarity -- unequivocal, unwavering and very strong -- so that those responsible are really punished for what they did," Timmermans told the European Parliament in Strasbourg.

Dutchman Timmermans called for the European Council, which groups leaders of the 28 EU states who are due to meet in Brussels next week, to "in clear terms express its full solidarity with the British people."

"We cannot have nerve gas being used in our societies. This should be addressed by all of us and not just left to Prime Minister May and the British government -- it is a collective European responsibility."

Premier Theresa May said on Monday it was "highly likely" Russia was behind the poisoning of Sergei Skripal and his daughter in the English city of Salisbury.

Moscow on Tuesday denied it was behind the incident, which May said involved a "military grade" Russian-made nerve agent.

Guy Verhofstadt, the European Parliament's Brexit coordinator, called for EU leaders to agree "countermeasures" against Russia at the summit.

The former Belgian prime minister, now a liberal MEP, said the attack had taken place on what was "still European soil", despite Britain's impending exit from the EU next year.

"Mrs May has said this is an attack against Britain as a country and I think that a common reaction in the next European Council (summit) is absolutely needed and countermeasures are (should) be decided by the EU," Verhofstadt said.

"We need a common European response to this outrage."

Skripal, 66, and his daughter Yulia, 33, are in a critical condition in hospital after being found unconscious on a bench outside a shopping centre in Salisbury.

Emergency workers in biohazard suits have been deployed in the normally sleepy city and about 500 people are feared to have come into contact with the nerve agent.


© 2018 AFP

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