EU governments agree new financial sanctions on Syria


European Union governments agreed yesterday to impose additional financial sanctions on Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s government over a crackdown on pro-democracy protests, an EU diplomat said.

The EU will add 12 persons and at least 11 more institutions and companies to a list of those targeted by EU asset freezes and travel bans and ban financial support for trade and loans to the government, both bilateral and through international financial institutions.

The new measures, to be approved formally by EU foreign ministers on Thursday, will prohibit EU firms from trading in Syrian state debt and banks from Syria will be banned from opening branches in EU countries or investing in European banks.

The sanctions will also include a ban on exporting equipment for the Syrian oil and gas industry, including refining and exploration, and EU companies will no longer be able to invest in firms constructing new power plants in Syria.
“All these measures are aimed at cutting off the financial flows to the Syrian government,” said the diplomat, speaking on condition of anonymity.

The steps will include a ban sales of software or equipment that can be used for internet or telecommunications surveillance and an EU statement will call for “restraint” on shorter-term trade support.

Support for trade for humanitarian purposes, covering food, agriculture and medicine, will not be affected.

EU countries have imposed several rounds of sanctions against Assad since May, including an embargo on Syrian oil and a ban on new investment in the energy sector.

The new moves are part of a renewed international effort to put pressure on Assad who has shown no sign of bowing down, and will follow unprecedented sanctions by the Arab League, announced on Sunday.

Separately, EU states will add 180 names to a sanctions list on Iran aimed at pressing Tehran to abandon what the West believes are plans to develop nuclear weapons, the EU diplomat said. These will include 143 companies or institutions and 37 individuals.

At their meeting on Thursday, EU foreign ministers will discuss extending the measures against Iran further, the EU diplomat said.

Their discussions on additional steps will come after Britain last week banned all its financial institutions from doing business with Iran, including the Iranian central bank, and France said it was pushing for a unified Western response to sanction the central bank and stop imports of Iranian oil.