Wednesday

29th Mar 2017

EU to blacklist Assad's wife, mother and sister

The EU is to add the Syrian leader's wife, mother, sister and sister-in-law to its blacklist at a foreign minister's meeting in Brussels on Friday (23 March).

The new visa ban and asset freeze also covers eight members of President Bashar Assad's government and two oil firms.

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.

  • Bashar Assad's wife, Asma, in Paris in 2008. Vogue magazine last year called her 'a rose in the desert' (Photo: Ammar Abd Rabbo)

Opposition groups, such as the Syrian National Council (SNC), want much more.

SNC spokesman, Radwan Ziadeh, told EUobserver that Nato should launch air-strikes against Assad's tanks, enforce a no-fly zone and create humanitarian safe havens. "What is happening [in Syria] is a new Sarajevo, a new Bosnia," he said, referring to Balkan massacres in the 1990s.

There is no chance of that, however.

The military option would rely on Nato member and Syria neighbour Turkey. But Turkey's message to Syria's Sunni Muslim opposition is: get Christians and other minorities, who support Assad out of fear of Sunni rule, on your side first.

There is not even talk of stopping Syrian banks using Belgian-based firm Swift to make international wire transfers.

"This would amount to an economic blockade. It took two years of talks to agree to do it on Iran and there is no indication it will change the regime's behaviour ... When his [Assad's] closest relatives start calling him and saying: 'Look, I can't send my children to school in Switzerland any more. I can't go shopping in Paris any more' - this will put pressure on him to make concessions," an EU diplomat said.

Meanwhile, rewind 30 years to 1982, and what is happening now in the Syrian towns of Homs and Idlib was happening in Hama, where Assad's father's tanks shelled Sunni Muslim rebels and killed at least 10,000 people.

The man in charge of the tanks was Assad's uncle, Rifaat Assad. He is not involved in today's atrocities because he fled Syria in 1984 after a failed coup.

But when British foreign minister William Hague and France's Alain Juppe speak of "concern" for Syria on Friday, some might ask why they are happy to play home to the man known to average Syrians as "the butcher of Hama."

Impunity versus 'concern'

Rifaat divides his time between his mansion off Park Lane in London and his mansion on Avenue Foch in Paris. He looted enough Syrian money to also buy a huge property in Puerto Banus, on Spain's Costa del Sol.

EU diplomats say he has not broken any British or French laws and that he is a "non-story" because he is so "toxic" in Syria that he could never make a political come-back.

But the SNC's Ziadeh said the EU should blacklist him for past crimes to show Syrian people they are serious about setting things straight. An EU official told this website it is legally possible to put him under an asset freeze so that he cannot sell the properties and hide the money when post-Bashar Syria tries to get it back.

Trust in the West is in short supply among Syrians in any case.

For its part, the Amis de la Syrie - a Syrian expat NGO in Belgium - believes EU countries are exploring a scenario in which Rifaat uses old military contacts to organise a ceasefire, dethrone Bashar, and install himself or his son, the London-based Ribal Asaad, in power with Western support.

If Belgian foreign minister Didier Reynders talks about "concern" for Syria on Friday, some might ask him about Albert Frere.

The Belgian noble controls Compagnie Nationale a Portefeuille, which controls Transcor Astra, which controls Swiss-based AOT Trading.

The Swiss government has confirmed that AOT Trading has been selling Russian gasoil to Syria in recent months. Gasoil, which is used for heating, is not under an EU ban. But it can also be used as petrol for tanks.

Russia: EU and US want war with Syria

Russia has accused Nato countries of trying to start a war with Syria and foment unrest in Iran - claims backed up by some Western security analysts.

Interview

Let's not lecture Trump, says top German MP

Europeans need to propose "projects of common interest" to the US president to preserve "Western unity" on Russia, Norbert Röttgen, the chair of Bundestag's foreign affairs committee said.

Analysis

Lukashenka: End of an era?

The political spring in Belarus ended just as the actual season began, but greater changes loom after 23 years of dictatorship.

News in Brief

  1. UK delivered its Article 50 letter to the EU
  2. Support for Germany's anti-EU party fading
  3. Turkish intelligence not welcome in Germany
  4. US senate approves Montenegro’s Nato bid
  5. Scottish MPs give go ahead to seek referendum
  6. Uber pulls out of Denmark over new taxi-regulation
  7. EU court validates sanctions on Russia's Rosneft
  8. Luxembourg to team up with Ireland in Apple tax appeal

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. The Idealist QuarterlyCan Progressive Stories Survive Our Post-Truth Era? After-Work Discussion on 6 April
  2. ACCAG20 Citizens Want 'Big Picture' Tax Policymaking, According to Global Survey
  3. Belgrade Security ForumCall for Papers: European Union as a Global Crisis Manager - Deadline 30 April
  4. European Gaming & Betting Association60 Years Rome Treaty – 60 Years Building an Internal Market
  5. Malta EU 2017New EU Rules to Prevent Terrorism and Give More Rights to Victims Approved
  6. European Jewish Congress"Extremists Still Have Ability and Motivation to Murder in Europe" Says EJC President
  7. European Gaming & Betting AssociationAudiovisual Media Services Directive to Exclude Minors from Gambling Ads
  8. ILGA-EuropeTime for a Reality Check on International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination
  9. UNICEFHuman Cost to Refugee and Migrant Children Mounts Up One Year After EU-Turkey Deal
  10. Malta EU 2017Council Adopts New Rules to Improve Safety of Medical Devices
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Energy Research: How to Reach 100 Percent Renewable Energy
  12. Party of European SocialistsWe Must Renew Europe for All Europeans