14th May, 2012
European Union foreign ministers have agreed fresh sanctions against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad on Monday and warned of more action to come if the regime fails to abide by a ceasefire.
An EU statement said ministers from the 27-nation bloc had agreed at a meeting to adopt “sanctions against the Syrian regime”, the 15th round so far. The ministers slapped an assets freeze and visa ban on two firms and three people believed to provide funding for the regime.
“The ceasefire is not being fully implemented,” said British Foreign Secretary William Hague. “There continues to be killing, torture, abuse in Syria. So it’s very important we keep the pressure on the Assad regime.”
“We must maintain political pressure,” agreed Luxembourg Foreign Minister Jean Asselborn.
With Syria still engulfed in violence after 14 months of protests, the last round of EU sanctions was adopted barely a month ago, targeting the high-end lifestyle of the Assad clique via a ban on exports of luxury goods.
Ministers also urged a quick deployment of ceasefire observers under the peace plan brokered by UN-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan, which the EU sees as the only possible way to avoid all-out civil war in Syria.
“I hope all of them will come in as soon as possible,” said Sweden’s Carl Bildt. “We do see that that leads to a sort of reduction in violence and repression in areas where they are able to be.”
A failure of the Annan plan would be “a rapid descent into sectarian civil war,” said Bildt.
“That would be profoundly devastating for Syria and the entire region.”
The bloc has offered to help the unarmed observers to monitor a truce brokered by Annan and is expected to finance 25 armoured vehicles to help the mission, EU diplomats said.
Further medical assistance might also be offered.
In all, the EU has blacklisted 126 people and 41 firms or utilities while also freezing central bank assets, banning cargo flights into the EU and restricting trade in gold and precious metals.