Sunday

21st Jul 2019

EU countries agree on Syria sanctions

  • EU council working room in Brussels. Lists of names will be prepared in the run-up to 12 May (Photo: consilium.europa.au)

Six weeks of violence and some 500 deaths later, EU countries on Friday (30 April) agreed to impose a broad array of sanctions against Syria.

The measures are to include a travel ban and asset freeze on members of President Bashar al-Assad's regime considered responsible for the crackdown, but not the president's family or officials' family members.

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EU countries also agreed to stop arms exports and exports of non-lethal equipment which can be used for internal repression.

The EU is to freeze any direct payments going to the al-Assad regime from its €40 million-a-year aid programme to the country and to freeze negotiations on an EU-Syria political 'association' agreement.

An EU diplomat said France, Germany and the UK wanted to impose the most far-reaching sanctions, including a block on "the big money" - the €1.3 billion worth of European Investment Bank (EIB) funds slated for infrastructure projects. Denmark, Poland and most northern EU countries were in the hawkish camp. But Cyprus led opposition among southern EU countries to the EIB step.

Mid-ranking EU diplomats are to start work "immediately" on drawing up lists of names to be covered by the punitive measures, which are to be rubber-stamped by EU foreign ministers on 13 May.

In a parallel development, the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) in Geneva the same day opted to send a fact-finding mission to Syria as a prelude to possible criminal investigations against regime officials. The UN body also decided to hold off on admitting Syria as a member.

"It's a diplomatic success. But it doesn't change the events on the ground, which are still going in a very bad direction," one EU diplomatic contact said.

"Even those countries dragging their feet, like Cyprus, agreed that something had to be done for the EU to remain credible," another diplomatic contact said.

"There is no talk of military intervention at all. The Libya option is not on the table," the source added.

The latest information coming out of Syria on Friday says 24 more people were killed in protests in various locations around the country.

Stealing the march on the EU, US leader Barack Obama on Friday signed an executive order naming people in a Syria asset freeze.

According to Israeli media, the list includes Mahir Assad, the president's brother, Atif Najib, his cousin, and Ali Mamluk, his secret service chief, but not the president himself. Mahir Assad and Najib are said to have played a leading role in the crackdown in the worst trouble spot, the southern city of Daraa.

An attached US ban on equipment transfers to Syria is to block the sale of a luxury jet designed for President al-Assad's personal use, Israeli daily Haaretz reports.

Correction: the original story cited a foreign ministers' meeting on 12 May. The meeting is to take place on 13 May

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