News / Middle East

EU Toughens Sanctions Against Syria

EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton (file photo)
EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton (file photo)
Lisa Bryant

The European Union has slapped new sanctions on Syria, targeting government officials and the country's central bank. The new measures add to mounting diplomatic and economic pressure against the rule of Bashar al-Assad.

The new European sanctions follow Friday's international meeting in Tunis that aimed to boost political and humanitarian assistance to Syria's population, while punishing the government.

European Union foreign ministers agreed to freeze the assets of a number of Syrian officials, along with Syria's central bank.

During the meeting in Brussels, EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said a list of those targeted would be published on Tuesday.

"We need to get the regime - Assad - to stop killing the population," said Ashot. "And we need to find ways in which, for the right reasons, that come about as swiftly as possible and we move forward.  In our perspective, it is very straight forward.  You cannot lead your people, murder them and remain in leadership."

Activists say nearly 7,500 people have died in the Syrian uprising during the past 11 months.  The United Nations estimates at least 5,400 people have been killed.

The European Union has already placed sanctions on Syria, freezing Syria's oil exports and the assets of more than 100 people - including President Assad.  British Foreign Secretary William Hague told reporters EU action is having an effect.

"We are intensifying our contacts with the opposition, particularly the national Syrian Council which I met on Friday," said Hague. "We are providing humanitarian assistance.  We are doing a great deal to try to address the situation in Syria."

There are indications international sanctions are hurting the Syrian government and the country's economy - but the crackdown and killings continue.  China and Russia have also blocked a tougher international response to Syria at the United Nations.  

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