BRUSSELS (EJP)---A meeting of EU Foreign Ministers on Monday opted to impose further sanctions on the Syrian regime, in a move that froze two entities charged with enabling the regime as well as enforcing a travel ban and asset freeze on three more individuals.
The EU ministers were firm in noting that this fifteenth set of sanctions since the start of the Syrian administration’s violent repression of its people was a measure designed “to put pressure on those responsible for it”.
The move brings the total number of people affected by sanctions to 128, with 43 entities also being subject to an EU asset freeze.
Speaking ahead of Monday’s meeting, EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton claimed the “ultimate goal” for discussion and action regarding Syria was “a peaceful, Syrian-led and inclusive dialogue which meets the democratic aspirations of the people”.
The EU Council deplored continuing acts of violence in the region and described recent bomb attacks, including the Damascus attacks of 10 May as “acts of terrorism”:
“The EU is deeply concerned about the continued violence in Syria...Acts of terrorism cannot be justified in any circumstances.”
“The EU underlines that a complete cessation of violence by all parties is an essential step in the full implementation of (UN-Arab League envoy to Syria) Kofi Annan’s Plan, whose crucial goal is to facilitate a peaceful Syrian-led and inclusive dialogue leading to a political solution that meets the democratic aspirations of the Syrian people on the basis of the relevant resolutions of the UN Security Council, UN General assembly and League of Arab States”, the council concluded.
The Foreign Ministers cndemned in the strongest terms the human rights violations being committed by the regime, in particular by the use of targeted assassinations, holding political prisoners and imprisoning human rights workers and called for the authorities to allow aid into the region:
“The EU reiterates its call on the Syrian authorities to grant immediate, unimpeded and full access of humanitarian organisations to all areas of Syria in order to provide relief to the one million people identified as in need of humanitarian assistance. The UN Humanitarian Response Plan needs to be implemented immediately and humanitarian capacities in the country strengthened.”
The council furthermore urged the wider global community and Syrian citizens themselves to help to invoke change, citing the recent memory of the Arab Spring uprisings in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya, where ‘people power’ helped to bring a change in administrations:
“The EU will also continue to urge the international community to join its efforts, in taking steps to apply and enforce restrictive measures on the Syrian regime and its supporters. It calls on all Syrians to dissociate themselves from the repressive policy of the regime in order to facilitate a political transition.”
Despite Ashton giving her full backing to Kofi Annan’s six-point plan for the region, it has not had any immediate impact in stemming violence in Syria and has been criticized in the Arab world, with calls for a political solution to address the crisis:
“The violence is still continuing, the bloodshed is still continuing. Nothing has been accomplished except the violence has lessened. The violence continues…nobody is satisfied”, stated Saudi foreign minister Prince Saud al-Faisal at a news conference in Riyadh, following a meet of Gulf Arab leaders.
Meanwhile, not all foreign representatives present for the talks gave the sanctions their backing, with Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Gennady Gatilov claiming that it is unethical to leave the Syrian government unarmed while providing weapons to the opposition, and pledging a commitment to cooperate militarily with the Syrian administration:
“Everything which is shipped to Syria (from Russia) has been done on legal ground. We do not dispatch offensive arms there, only defensive ones”, he said. Gatilov also committed to opposing an UN resolution proposed military intervention in Syria.