Syrian sanctions toughened after EU foreign minister summit

Damascus officials have assets frozen with more sanctions against central bank and ban on cargo flights from Europe

European foreign ministers have increased the pressure on Syria’s regime to halt its crackdown on opponents, freezing the assets of several Syrian government officials and imposing sanctions on the central bank.

They also banned the purchase of gold, precious metals and diamonds from the country, and banned Syrian cargo flights from the European Union.

The EU had previously imposed several rounds of sanctions on Syria, freezing the assets of 100 people and 38 organisations, and trying to cut the country’s supply of equipment for its oil and gas sectors.

So far the EU sanctions have had little effect on the regime of Syrian president Bashar al-Assad. Activists estimate nearly 7,500 people have been killed in 11 months of unrest.

As he left the meeting, the French foreign minister, Alain Juppé, said he thought the imposition of new sanctions would be effective as part of a broader effort to pressure the Assad regime.

“It will not be enough, of course, but it is a new step,” he said.

The foreign ministers had recognised the Syrian National Council, one of two main opposition groups, as one legitimate party to talk with, he added. But he acknowledged there were other elements opposed to Assad’s rule and said it was important to push the opposition to become more organised.

Juppe said that humanitarian access to those in need in Syria was “an absolute priority”.

The names of affected Syrian officials will be made public on Tuesday in the EU’s official journal. The new sanctions were adopted on Monday morning by the foreign ministers of the 27 EU countries, who are meeting in Brussels.

The officials are also expected to discuss Egypt’s transition to democracy, and to urge a complete transfer of power to civilian rule as soon as possible.

In addition, the foreign ministers are expected to ease sanctions on Ivory Coast, lifting visa bans on all but 15 people but keeping in place an arms embargo. The country erupted in violence last year when the incumbent president, Laurent Gbagbo, refused to leave power after losing an election to Alassane Ouattara.

Gbagbo has since been arrested and is in custody at the international criminal court in The Hague, Netherlands, where he faces charges including murder and rape. © 2012 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds

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