Sunday

25th Aug 2019

EU and US take 'first step' toward Syria sanctions

  • Al-Assad poster: the pattern of diplomacy on Syria is following the one on Libya, but there is no talk of military intervention (Photo: Travel Aficionado)

EU countries and the US have circulated a draft UN Security Council (UNSC) press statement on Syria, described by diplomats as a "first step" toward imposing sanctions. The development mirrors last month's build-up on Libya.

A source in the UNSC told this website that the draft statement contains language: "condemning violence, calling for restraint, supporting the UN secretary general in calling for an independent investigation into the killings, mentioning the repeal of the emergency law and adoption of other supposedly pro-reform measures, but obviously saying these must be enacted in deed as well as in word, and noting Syria's wider significance in terms of wider security issues in the region."

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 contact added that "there is no inevitable move from that [the UNSC statement] toward sanctions, but it is a necessary first step as in the case of Libya - first you had a press statement, then a resolution, then another resolution."

The draft statement has been put forward jointly by the EU's four UNSC members - France, Germany, Portugal and the UK. The US "has been consulted and is supportive," the source noted.

Russia has said it will respond in the next few hours. The prompt Russian reaction is being seen by the EU as a sign that Moscow backs making a statement in principle but aims to negotiate the wording. China is keeping quiet but is expected to take a joint position with Russia.

A UNSC press statement has less force than a resolution but is adopted by the same procedure, giving China and Russia a veto. No formal UN debate has been tabled on Syria, with the discussions taking place through informal channels.

The developments in New York come after a sharp change in tone by France earlier on Thursday (26 April) in Rome.

Speaking to press after a summit in Italy on Tunisian migrants, French President Nicolas Sarkozy said: "I would like to remind you that before intervention in the Ivory Coast as in Libya, there was a Security Council resolution and that there is no question of doing this or that until there is a Security Council resolution."

He said three times that "the situation in Syria has become unacceptable."

"There is a historic change taking place. And clearly France, as well as Italy, is on the side of the Arab people in their aspiration for freedom and democracy. It's a major development for our country's foreign policy."

A French diplomat said: "We are very far away from talk of military intervention [in Syria]." But he added that the diplomatic build up to UNSC resolution 1973 launching the Libya air strikes began the same way, including Sarkozy's invocation of the word "unacceptable."

A spokesperson for EU foreign affairs chief Catherine Ashton told EUobserver that a Syria discussion is likely later this week in the Political and Security Committee - a body of EU countries' ambassadors dealing with international crises.

Some EU countries expect Ashton's office to start work on a list of possible EU-level sanctions against Syrian officials, such as visa bans and asset freezes. "Obviously in a situation like this, restrictive measures are something you look at," one senior EU diplomat said.

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's forces have reportedly killed some 200 people during protests across the country since Friday (22 April) bringing the death count since violence began six weeks ago to around 400.

Al-Assad has also deployed tanks in the opposition hotspot town of Daraa in southern Syria.

Nadim Houry, a Beirut-based analyst for Human Rights Watch, said the situation on Tuesday evening inside Syria sounded "relatively calm." But he cautioned that it is becoming increasingly hard to get information from sources inside the country. "Daraa is a black hole," he said.

Escalation in Syria has the potential to cause instability in neighbouring Lebanon and to lead to clashes with Israel.

EU to pledge Africa security funds at G7 summit

The focus at the G7 summit will most likely narrow down to the global economy and foreign affairs, but the EU is also set to make a number of pledges on transparency and fighting diseases.

EU ends silence on Hong Kong protests

The EU, in league with Canada, has spoken out on the Hong Kong protests after months of silence in what one expert called "a clear expression of support for the protesters".

Analysis

Pentagon: ISIS is resurgent in Syria

The US department of defence warns that the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant is working on a come back in Syria. It is regrouping and supporting activities. This might trigger a new refugee displacement to Europe.

News in Brief

  1. Ocean Viking to disembark in Malta after ordeal
  2. Germany joins France in world outcry on Brazil fires
  3. British people lose faith in Brexit deal
  4. Brexit hardliners want further changes to EU deal
  5. German manufacturers confirm fear of recession
  6. Belgian socialists and liberals scrap over EU post
  7. Fall in EU migration leading to UK skills shortages
  8. Switzerland makes post-Brexit flight preparations

Opinion

Time to pay attention to Belarus

Belarus may be hosting the European Games, but Vladimir Putin is not playing games when it comes to Belarus' independence. The West needs to get serious as well.

Analysis

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. Spain heading for yet another general election
  2. EU to discuss Brazil beef ban over Amazon fires
  3. 'Our house is burning,' Macron says on Amazon fires
  4. What happens when trafficking survivors get home
  5. EU states and Russia clash on truth of WW2 pact
  6. EU considers new rules on facial recognition
  7. EU to pledge Africa security funds at G7 summit
  8. Letter from the EESC on per diem article

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