Tuesday

16th Jul 2019

Syrian leader kept off EU sanctions list

  • Al-Assad poster in Damascus - the crackdown has already claimed at least 600 lives (Photo: Travel Aficionado)

EU countries have agreed to impose a travel ban and asset freeze on 13 high-level Syrian regime members. Tycoon Rami Makhlouf is on the list, but President Bashar al-Assad is off the hook for now.

The sanctions package also includes an embargo on sales of weapons and equipment which could be used for internal repression and is due to legally enter into force on 10 May.

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 list of 13 is designed to target people responsible for the slaughter of several hundred protesters in recent weeks, while keeping open diplomatic channels and leaving President al-Assad an incentive to stop the killing.

The country's defence minister, Ali Habib Mahmud, and its foreign minister, Waled al-Muallim, were also kept out of the register.

But Rami Makhlouf is in. The 41-year-old is President al-Assad's cousin and childhood friend. He controls up to 60 percent of Syria's economy via holdings in the telecoms, oil, construction, banking and retail sectors and is widely described as the al-Assad "family banker."

An internal document drawn up by EU ambassadors in Brussels on Friday (6 May) says diplomats will next week look into adding more names as well as commercial entities to the list and "in particular to give consideration to the highest levels of [Syrian] leadership."

The promise to keep the president in the crosshairs comes after French foreign minister Alain Juppe earlier said "France wants al-Assad" on the list, but did not get his way.

A EU diplomatic source noted that if Paris had stuck to its position, the sanctions decision might have had to wait until a foreign ministers' debate due at the end of May.

The contact noted "the chance is very small" that the preliminary set of sanctions will make al-Assad change track.

Another EU diplomatic contact told this website that Cyprus, Greece, Italy and Spain were the main opponents of the French line. "The British supported France but they did not really push for it," he added.

The latest news coming out of Syria on Friday afternoon is that al-Assad forces killed seven people in the city of Homs but that some soldiers opened fire on secret service officers in order to protect civilians.

A report published by the Paris-based International Federation for Human Rights and the Damascus Center for Human Rights Studies on Wednesday said the past 10 days of violence in the southern town of Daraa amount to a "massacre."

The paper says: "Snipers have been stationed on the rooftops of high buildings and are targeting any moving persons, and units ... have been using anti-aircraft machine guns to target densely populated neighbourhoods."

Out of a batch of of 81 dead bodies brought to the Tishreen Military Hospital in Damascus in recent days "most of them [had been] killed by a gunshot bullet to the back. It is strongly suspected that these soldiers have been killed for their refusal to shoot civilians."

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.

News in Brief

  1. Ansip's ex-cabinet chief to head EU cybersecurity agency
  2. Malta starts trial of journalist murder suspects
  3. Full text of von der Leyen candidacy speech to MEPs
  4. Von der Leyen open to further Brexit delay
  5. Von der Leyen promises carbon border tax
  6. Brexit: both UK PM candidates say Irish backstop is 'dead'
  7. Mogherini: Iran's nuclear enrichment 'reversible'
  8. Report: Selmayr to leave 'next week'

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. Son: Malta trial for murdered journalist 'not enough'
  2. Von der Leyen's final appeal to secure top EU post
  3. EU talks tough on Turkey, but arms sales go on
  4. The Abortion Exodus - more Poles and Croats going abroad
  5. Poland's ex-PM loses EU parliament chair again
  6. Von der Leyen reaches out to left and liberal MEPs
  7. Farmers among new MEPs deciding on EU farming money
  8. Von der Leyen's EU vote far from sure

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us