The European Union imposed an arms embargo on Syria on May 9 and listed 13 Syrian officials on its sanctions list, including a brother of President Bashar al-Assad, a first step aimed at forcing Syria to end violence against anti-government protesters.
The measures, asset freezes and travel bans, were part of a package of sanctions, including an arms embargo which took effect Tuesday. The embargo applies to weapons, military vehicles and equipment, paramilitary equipment, spare parts and ammunition. It also covers equipment that may be used for internal repression, Defense News reports.
“The EU has decided to impose restrictive measures against Syria and persons responsible for the violent repression against the civilian population in Syria. These measures include an embargo on arms and equipment that may be used for internal repression, as well as an asset freeze and a travel ban targeting a list of thirteen individuals,” Catherine Ashton, the EU’s high representative for foreign affairs, said in a May 9 statement.
“The EU calls on President Bashar Al-Assad to choose the path of reform and national inclusive dialogue and avoid further bloodshed whilst the door remains open,” she said, adding that EU foreign ministers will discuss the situation in Syria at their meeting later this month.
The measures stopped short of French calls to add Assad to the blacklist. EU governments decided not to include the president for now, in what diplomats said was a move to introduce punitive measures gradually. Assad, grappling with the most serious challenge to his 11-year rule, might face EU sanctions soon, they said.
Failure to put Assad himself on the list underlined divisions in the EU over the effectiveness of an embargo in restraining his government’s actions. EU sources said Germany and Spain opposed adding the president.
French Foreign Ministry spokesman Bernard Valero said on Tuesday that Paris would press for wider EU sanctions, including against Assad himself, saying the EU risked being a “passive and powerless witnesses” to events.
“The EU will continue working on the expansion of sanctions, including at the highest level, and we are for expanding the sanctions to President Assad,” Valero said. “We are continuing because we continue to see repression and violations of human rights.”
The sound of heavy gunfire was heard Tuesday in the southwestern Damascus suburb of Mouadhamiya, where there had been intensifying demonstrations against Assad’s rule, a witness said.
“There is no consensus within the EU on whether to include Assad on the sanctions list,” said one Western diplomat who declined to be identified. “France and Britain are on one side and others are opposed to it because they do not want to break contact with the regime and push Assad into a corner.”
Included in the sanctions was Rami Makhlouf, a cousin of Assad’s, who owns Syria’s largest mobile phone company, Syriatel, and several large firms in the construction and oil sectors.
The EU said in its official journal that he “bankrolls (Assad’s) regime, allowing violence against demonstrators.”
In 2008, the United States imposed sanctions against him because of corruption allegations.
The list also included the president’s brother, Maher al-Assad, who commands Syria’s Republican Guard and is the second most powerful man in Syria.
Also affected was Ali Mamlouk, head of the General Intelligence Service, and Adulfattah Qudsiyeh, who runs military intelligence.
Syria’s upheaval began on March 18 when protesters, inspired by revolts across the Arab world, marched in the southern city of Deraa. Assad initially responded with vague promises of reform and last month lifted a 48-year-old state of emergency.
When the demonstrations persisted, he sent the army to crush dissent.