Thursday

29th Jun 2017

EU piles sanctions on Syria, raises possibility of UN troops

A french-trained lawyer, the head of a family-run militia and the deputy interior minister are among 18 new people added to EU sanctions on Syria, as France calls for UN forces to help keep the peace.

The new EU measures against President Bashar Assad's regime entered into force on Tuesday (15 November) with the publication of the new blacklist in the bloc's Official Journal.

Dear EUobserver reader

Subscribe now for unrestricted access to EUobserver.

Sign up for 30 days' free trial, no obligation. Full subscription only 15 € / month or 150 € / year.

  1. Unlimited access on desktop and mobile
  2. All premium articles, analysis, commentary and investigations
  3. EUobserver archives

EUobserver is the only independent news media covering EU affairs in Brussels and all 28 member states.

♡ We value your support.

If you already have an account click here to login.

  • Detritus of violence in Syria - commentators have asked who is supplying weapons to anti-government opposition (Photo: syriana2011)

The journal named lawyer Bassam Sabbagh, a member of the Paris bar and the chief of the Damascus-based firm Sabbagh & Associates, as providing "financial support for the regime." It added Abdullah Beri ("in charge of pro-government militia involved in the crackdown") and deputy interior minister Saqr Khayr Beq ("responsible for the use of violence against the civilian population") to the list in a sign of the complex mix of forces involved in the fighting and the fact almost all senior government members were already persona non grata.

In a direct blow to Assad's finances, worth €10.7 billion in the 2007 to 2013 period, the new sanctions also stopped the European Investment Bank from making payments on existing infrastructure contracts. The sanctions came into force the same day as a previously agreed ban on EU purchasing of Syrian oil, a move that will cost Assad €9 million a day in lost trade.

EU foreign ministers meeting in Brussels on Monday underlined that the Union is seeking regime change by peaceful means only despite the fact the situation increasingly mirrors the build-up to military strikes in Libya.

The Arab League at the weekend delivered a mandate for tougher international action by suspending Syria from its club and called for "reflection" on how to protect civilians. The Istanbul-based opposition leadership, the self-styled Syrian National Council, earlier called for a no-fly zone.

Dutch foreign minister Uri Rosenthal told press in the EU capital that Assad's regime has entered its endgame. "We are hearing already that the Syrians are running out of cash, so the sanctions are going to work," he said.

French foreign minister Alain Juppe said the UN should consider sending peacekeepers: "We should think how to protect the civilian population, for example by intervention of observers from the United Nations. We are already to discuss this with the Syrian opposition council and with the UN."

The Arab League decision puts extra pressure on Assad's main ally, Russia, to relax its opposition to UN-level action.

Who is arming the rebels?

Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov continued to talk tough on Monday, however. He told the Interfax news agency that Western countries arm-twisted their Arab friends to suspend Syria and all-but accused them of supplying arms to anti-government fighters.

"We consider it [the suspension] improper. It looks like it was planned ahead of time," he said. "Nobody is commenting on it and no one is admitting it, but the facts are impossible to contradict: weapons are being smuggled into Syria from Turkey and Iraq ... Armed extremists are using peaceful demonstrations to provoke Syrian government violence."

Syrian authorities and a number of independent commentators have in recent weeks also cast doubt on the "fable" that the upheaval is a peaceful grass-roots movement, as in Tunisia.

Bouthaina Shaaban, a top aide to President Assad, told the Independent, a British daily, the stream of YouTube videos highlighting government violence tells one side of the story.

"Early in the crisis, our army and police and security services paid terrible sacrifices but they were told not to shoot at demonstrators. I really don't know why people should make things up," she said. "There is obviously a sector which is interested in conflict and not in reforms. They are all given money to shoot at demonstrators and the security forces – or they are extremist fundamentalists ... In Deraa, we found weapons that were Israeli. I told our people they should show these weapons to the media."

The Iran connection

For their part, former CIA officer Robert Baer and former MI6 officer Alastair Crooke earlier told this website Assad regime change is designed to weaken Syria's ally Iran.

The EU ministers on Monday noted Iran should also expect more sanctions after the UN last week accused it of trying to build nuclear weapons.

The German, French and Swedish foreign ministers spoke out in strong terms against a military strike on Iran. But the Netherlands and the UK said "all options remain on the table" in dealing with the emerging regional superpower.

Arab Spring villains bombard EU with lawsuits

The year of the Arab Spring has seen an extraordinary number of anti-EU lawsuits, including by Gaddafi. But even if people win, they have no chance of getting compensation.

EU extends sanctions on Russia

German chancellor Angela Merkel said that Russia hadn't done enough to implement the so-called Minsk peace process, a condition for lifting the sanctions.

EU extends sanctions on Russia

German chancellor Angela Merkel said that Russia hadn't done enough to implement the so-called Minsk peace process, a condition for lifting the sanctions.

Interview

EU visa waiver unlikely to import Ukraine crime

Visa-free travel, which began last week, unlikely to prompt a Ukrainian crime wave, an EU police expert has said, but Ukraine itself is seeing increases in lawlessness.

News in Brief

  1. Schulz calls for ban of Erdogan rally
  2. Trump to celebrate Bastille Day with Macron in Paris
  3. EU extended Russia sanctions until 2018
  4. Netherlands partially liable for Srebrenica massacre, court rules
  5. Cyprus reunification talks resume in Switzerland
  6. Cyberattack cripples Europe, spreads worldwide
  7. Scotland puts second referendum on hold
  8. EU commission fines Google €2.4 bn

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. World VisionEU, Young Leaders and Civil Society Join Forces to End Violence Against Girls
  2. EU2017EEGet the Latest News from the 2017 Estonian EU Council Presidency @EU2017EE
  3. International Partnership for Human RightsEU-Kyrgyzstan Human Rights Talks Should Insist on Ending Reprisals Against Critical Voices
  4. European Free AllianceEFA Is Looking for a New Intern
  5. Malta EU 2017Conservation of Atlantic Tunas: International Measures Become EU Law
  6. European Healthy Lifestyle AllianceCan Statin Therapy Interfere With a Physically Active Lifestyle?
  7. EPSUOn Public Services Day, Stop Austerity! Workers Need a Pay Rise!
  8. EGBAOnline Gambling: The EU Court Rejects Closed Licensing Regimes In Member States
  9. World VisionFaces of Today, Leaders of Tomorrow: Join the Debate on Violence Against Girls - 29 June
  10. ECR GroupThe EU Must Better Protect Industry from Unfair Competition
  11. Malta EU 2017Better Protection for Workers From Cancer-Causing Substances
  12. EPSUAfter 9 Years of Austerity Europe's Public Sector Workers Deserve a Pay Rise!

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNICEFEU Trust Fund Contribution to UNICEF's Syria Crisis Response Reaches Nearly €200 Million
  2. European Healthy Lifestyle AllianceCan an Ideal Body Weight Lead to Premature Death?
  3. Malta EU 2017End of Roaming Charges: What Does It Entail?
  4. World VisionWorld Refugee Day, a Dark Reminder of the Reality of Children on the Move
  5. Dialogue PlatformMuslims Have Unique Responsibility to Fight Terror: Opinon From Fethullah Gülen
  6. EUSEW17Check out This Useful Infographic on How to Stay Sustainable and Energy Efficient.
  7. Counter BalanceEuropean Parliament Criticises the Juncker Plan's Implementation
  8. UNICEF1 in 5 Children in Rich Countries Lives in Relative Income Poverty, 1 in 8 Faces Food Insecurity
  9. International Partnership for Human Rights26 NGOs Call on Interpol Not to Intervene Versus Azerbaijani Human Rights Defenders
  10. Malta EU 2017Significant Boost in Financing for SMEs and Entrepreneurs Under New Agreement
  11. World VisionYoung People Rise up as EU Signs Consensus for Development at EU Development Days