Friday

19th Aug 2022

EU ministers set to beef up Syria arms embargo, sanctions

  • A suicide bomber killing Syria's defence minister may be the beginning of the end for the Assad regime (Photo: anjci)

EU foreign ministers meeting in Brussels Monday (23 July) are expected to extend sanctions on Syria while trying to clamp down on weapons making their way to the Bashar Assad government.

A couple of dozen people and entities are expected to be added to an EU-sanctions list already containing 43 companies and 128 people.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

The move is in part to show the EU's determination to press ahead with being tough on Damascus even after China and Russia on Thursday (19 July) refused to endorse global sanctions through a UN resolution.

But EU officials also believe the sanctions are having an effect.

"Our analysis and reporting from sources in Syria suggest that this causes significant anxiety and concern to the Syrian regime. This is not something they are blasé about, they really don't like these measures," said one EU diplomat.

"It can't be categorically proven but it seems to make the functioning of the government more difficult," the diplomat added.

The freezing of assets is also thought to hit the standing of the regime among its supporters used to the government's largesse and unhappy at seeing it dwindling.

EU ministers will also try to strengthen its arms embargo against the war-torn nation. A ban on arms exports has been in place since May 2011 but member states at the time did not agree the tools to enforce it.

They are set to remedy this by agreeing to examine ships and aircraft carrying suspicious-looking cargo to Syria.

"It's important to be clear about what we are aiming to do. We are looking to reduce the ease by which arms can go to Syria" said the EU diplomat.

The porous arms embargo came to attention early in the year when a Russia ship carrying arms docked in Cyprus to refuel. The ship was allowed to leave again after its Russian owners said it would no longer be going to Syria.

But events are moving quickly on the ground, so much may be changed by Monday. The killing of the defence minister in a suicide attack on Wednesday is widely seen as big blow to the regime.

There was extra confusion Friday when Russia appeared to exercise some political pressure. Its ambassador to France told Radio France International that Assad is ready to step down "in a civilized way" - the remarked was later dismissed by both Syria and Russia as out of context and incorrectly interpreted.

Zimbabwe

Ministers are also expected to back a UK-pushed proposal to encourage further reforms in Zimbabwe. They are likely to agree to suspend the current prohibition on aid going directly to the government.

This is hoped to have a strong "signalling effect" as money will not start flowing immediately but only once the EU's new budget framework kicks in from 2014. This can be "rescinded" at any time, said a diplomat.

They are also expected to say that if there is a fair constitutional referendum later this year then there should be a suspension of the asset freeze and travel ban on all but President Robert Mugabe and the core people around him.

Meanwhile ministers may also name the EU special representative on human rights at their Monday meeting. Among the frontrunners for the post are Finland's Astrid Thors, a former MEP and Francois Zimeray, France's ambassador for human rights.

Feature

Back from hell, back from Syria

The West should give the Free Syrian Army food and anti-aircraft defences, one EU parliament official says after visiting the war torn country.

No breakthrough in EU-hosted Kosovo/Serbia talks

Serbia's president Aleksandar Vučić and Kosovo's prime minster Albin Kurti met in Brussels with the EU's foreign policy chief, Josep Borrell, in the hopes of finding a solution the recent spike in tensions between the two sides.

Opinion

Could the central Asian 'stan' states turn away from Moscow?

The former Soviet states of Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Turkmenistan have retained close ties with Russia since 1989. Yet this consensus may be shifting. At the UN, none of them supported Russia in the resolution condemning the Ukraine invasion.

Column

Is this strange summer a moment of change?

It is a strange, strange summer. The war in Ukraine continues, 60 percent of Europe is in danger of drought, and Covid is still around and could rebound in the autumn. At the same time, everyone is desperate for normalcy.

News in Brief

  1. China joins Russian military exercises in Vostok
  2. Ukraine nuclear plant damage would be 'suicide', says UN chief
  3. Denmark to invest €5.5bn in new warships
  4. German economy stagnates, finance ministry says
  5. Syria received stolen grain, says Ukraine envoy
  6. Truss still leads in next UK PM polling
  7. UN chief meets Zelensky and Erdogan over grain exports
  8. Fighting stalls ahead of UN visit, Ukraine says

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic prime ministers: “We will deepen co-operation on defence”
  2. EFBWW – EFBH – FETBBConstruction workers can check wages and working conditions in 36 countries
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic and Canadian ministers join forces to combat harmful content online
  4. European Centre for Press and Media FreedomEuropean Anti-SLAPP Conference 2022
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers write to EU about new food labelling
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersEmerging journalists from the Nordics and Canada report the facts of the climate crisis

Latest News

  1. European inflation hits 25-year high, driven by energy spike
  2. No breakthrough in EU-hosted Kosovo/Serbia talks
  3. Letter to the Editor: Rosatom responds on Zaporizhzhia
  4. Could the central Asian 'stan' states turn away from Moscow?
  5. Serbia expects difficult talks with Kosovo at EU meeting
  6. How scary is threat to Ukraine's Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant?
  7. Slovakia's government stares into the abyss
  8. Finland restricts Russian tourist visas

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us