EU steps up sanctions against Syria, Iran


EU FOREIGN ministers stepped up financial sanctions against Syria, intensifying their protest against the Assad regime’s violent clampdown against the rebel movement in the country.

At a meeting yesterday in Luxembourg, the ministers also imposed a new swathe of tough sanctions against Iran and denounced its nuclear programme. The latest sanctions stand as the 19th round of penalties against President Bashar al-Assad and his supporters.

As the death toll mounts, an EU travel ban and asset freeze is being imposed on a further 28 regime figures who are deemed responsible for violent repression against civilians. The number of Syrian individuals now targeted by such penalties now stands at 181.

The EU assets of another two Syrian entities are being frozen, bringing the total to 54. The ministers also banned any EU nationals or companies from supplying financial services – including insurance and reinsurance – to Syrian arms exports.

The import of arms into the EU from Syria is being banned, as is any EU involvement in the transport of Syrian arms. “The EU warns against further militarisation of the conflict,” said EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton. “We call on all states to refrain from delivering arms to Syria and to follow the EU in stopping the supplies.”

Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs Eamon Gilmore attended the talks but left without speaking to Irish reporters who had travelled to Luxembourg in the expectation that he would.

In advance of their talks, the European ministers dined on Sunday with Russian minister Sergei Lavrov. There was no suggestion, however, that Russia would abandon its resistance to measures being taken by the United Nations Security Council against Damascus.

“He was quite strong in his insistence that Assad is there to stay,” said Minister of State for Europe Lucinda Creighton.

“There’s a very strong difference of opinion obviously. There’s mounting pressure on Russia. The key thing is that we continue talking to them,” she told journalists in Luxembourg.

Ms Creighton disputed the contention that sanctions against Syria were not working and said the question of military action was not on the table.

“Sanctions can work and do work and we see even in Iran that ... economic sanctions are really beginning to have effect. There’s no reason why that can’t also be the case in Syria,” she said.

The European ministers said the new sanctions against Iran prohibit all transactions between European and Iranian banks “unless they are explicitly authorised in advance by national authorities under strict conditions”.

The ministers took further measures against the Iranian central bank and banned exports of material that could be used in the nuclear programme. “This concerns in particular graphite, raw or semi-finished metals, such as aluminium and steel, as well as software for integrating industrial processes,” the ministers said.