21st Jul 2019

EU ministers to 'deplore' Syria killings, threaten sanctions

  • 19 more dead: the EU 'stands ready to review its policies towards Syria as appropriate' (Photo: j naylor)

EU foreign ministers will next week step up pressure for Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad to stop killing protesters and to make good on promises of reform.

The ministers plan to say following their meeting in Luxembourg on Tuesday (12 April) that the EU "deplores the many deaths resulting from ongoing violence" and that it "stands ready to review its policies towards Syria as appropriate," according to draft conclusions seen by EUobserver.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

The EU statement asks for "urgent implementation" of al-Assad's reform proposals and calls his bluff on "claims" that the protests are an outside plot, adding: "The Council notes the claim pointing to the involvement of foreign elements instigating violence, which needs to be verified."

Reports indicate al-Assad security forces gunned down more than 20 unarmed civilians in the southern city of Daraa on Friday, on top of 122 killings in March.

The EU vocabulary puts Syria on a par with Yemen, up to now seen as the most dangerous and unstable regime in the region.

The Luxembourg conclusions also "deeply deplore the further loss of life" in Yemen, where 63 people were recently killed. But they are softer on Western ally Bahrain, with 23 casualties, where the EU "encourages the authorities to further investigate all recent events which have resulted in loss of life."

The Hungarian EU presidency earlier this week said travel bans, asset freezes and suspension of talks on an EU-Syria Association Agreement are "an option."

The Syria conclusions - which were agreed by EU diplomats before the latest violence on Friday - could still be changed. They could also be influenced by what al-Assad tells Bulgaria's foreign minister Nikolay Mladenov at a face-to-face meeting in Damascus on Sunday.

"He [Mladenov] will convey the EU's message on the need for reforms," a Bulgarian diplomat said. The contact noted that Bulgaria is taking the initiative "because we have a tradition of close bilateral relations with all the countries in the Arab world, because we are trading with them, because many Arabs come to Bulgaria for their education."

On Libya, ministers on Tuesday also aim to adopt "further restrictive measures, including in the oil and gas sector, against the regime" and to encourage anti-Gaddafi defections. "Those working within the regime face a choice: to continue to associate themselves with the brutal repression … or work to support an orderly and Libyan-led transition to democracy," the draft statement says.

On the flow of refugees, it notes that "member states stand ready to demonstrate their concrete solidarity to member states most directly concerned by migratory movements and provide the necessary support as the situation evolves."

An EU diplomat said the Libya language is even more prone to change than the Syria line.

The migration issue has become an irritant between France and Italy, with France accused of closing its borders and sending people back to Italy. The issue has also climbed the political agenda after more than 200 people drowned trying to reach Italy earlier this week.

Ashton's handling of Libya is under the spotlight because her office in recent days sent out mixed messages on whether or not the EU is open to talks with Gaddafi loyalists.

"If she had taken a more clear line on this, maybe the Greeks wouldn't have invited the deputy FM to Athens, which was embarrassing," an EU diplomat noted.

Libyan deputy foreign minister Abdelati Obeidi went to Athens on 3 April, but little came of the 'peace talks.'

The Luxembourg conclusions say nothing about Belarus, despite the fact EU countries are currently looking into where President Aleksander Lukashenko hides his personal fortune with a view to giving future asset freezes more bite.

Ashton has promised Lukashenko-active EU members, such as Poland, Slovakia and the UK, to use the words "political prisoners" in reference to nine jailed protesters during her post-ministerial press conference, however.

Ashton had previously referred to the group as "detainees."

EU discusses new sanctions on Turkey

EU diplomats have discussed which sanctions to slap on Turkey over gas drilling in Cypriot waters, amid Ankara's ongoing mockery of Europe.


EU should stop an insane US-Iran war

"If Iran wants to fight, that will be the official end of Iran. Never threaten the United States again!", US president Donald Trump tweeted on Monday (20 May).

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNESDAUNESDA reduces added sugars 11.9% between 2015-2017
  2. International Partnership for Human RightsEU-Uzbekistan Human Rights Dialogue: EU to raise key fundamental rights issues
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNo evidence that social media are harmful to young people
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersCanada to host the joint Nordic cultural initiative 2021
  5. Vote for the EU Sutainable Energy AwardsCast your vote for your favourite EUSEW Award finalist. You choose the winner of 2019 Citizen’s Award.
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersEducation gets refugees into work
  7. Counter BalanceSign the petition to help reform the EU’s Bank
  8. UNICEFChild rights organisations encourage candidates for EU elections to become Child Rights Champions
  9. UNESDAUNESDA Outlines 2019-2024 Aspirations: Sustainability, Responsibility, Competitiveness
  10. Counter BalanceRecord citizens’ input to EU bank’s consultation calls on EIB to abandon fossil fuels
  11. International Partnership for Human RightsAnnual EU-Turkmenistan Human Rights Dialogue takes place in Ashgabat
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersNew campaign: spot, capture and share Traces of North

Latest News

  1. Abortion Wars
  2. EU goes on holiday as new UK PM arrives This WEEK
  3. Survey: Half of EU staff 'don't know' ethics rules
  4. Von der Leyen signals soft touch on migrants, rule of law
  5. Timmermans: von der Leyen will be tough on rule of law
  6. Timmermans trolls 'idiot' Brexit negotiators
  7. Rudderless Europe: Will real Germany please stand up?
  8. PiS & Fidesz claim credit for von der Leyen victory

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersLeading Nordic candidates go head-to-head in EU election debate
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Secretary General: Nordic co-operation must benefit everybody
  3. Platform for Peace and JusticeMEP Kati Piri: “Our red line on Turkey has been crossed”
  4. UNICEF2018 deadliest year yet for children in Syria as war enters 9th year
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic commitment to driving global gender equality
  6. International Partnership for Human RightsMeet your defender: Rasul Jafarov leading human rights defender from Azerbaijan
  7. UNICEFUNICEF Hosts MEPs in Jordan Ahead of Brussels Conference on the Future of Syria
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic talks on parental leave at the UN
  9. International Partnership for Human RightsTrial of Chechen prisoner of conscience and human rights activist Oyub Titiev continues.
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic food policy inspires India to be a sustainable superpower
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersMilestone for Nordic-Baltic e-ID
  12. Counter BalanceEU bank urged to free itself from fossil fuels and take climate leadership

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us