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EU Calls For More Sanctions On Syria But Little Else
EU leaders called on Friday for increased sanctions on members of the Syrian government but came up with no other new means to pressure on President Bashar al-Assad apart from a plan to gather evidence against those responsible for atrocities.
March 3, 2012 5:24 by Reuters
The EU said it supported efforts by the Arab League to end the violence in Syria, and recognised the Syrian National Council as a legitimate representative of the Syrian people.
“The European Council confirms its commitment to further increasing the pressure on the Syrian regime as long as the violence and human rights abuses continue, and invites the Council to prepare further targeted restrictive measures against the regime,” the Council, a gathering of EU heads of state and government, said in a statement.
The EU leaders emphasised the importance of access for independent aid agencies so that assistance may be provided to those in need in line with humanitarian principles.
The International Committee of the Red Cross had said it would bring aid to the shattered district of Baba Amro in Homs on Friday, having finally received a “green light” from Syrian authorities.
The EU statement came at a summit in Brussels a day after defeated Syrian rebels left their stronghold of Homs. It showed the struggle western governments are facing in trying to find non-military means to bring an end to the year-long violence.
The EU has over past months added names to a list of people it sanctions with travel bans and asset freezes.
In the most recent move, the bloc on Tuesday imposed sanctions on the Syrian central bank and seven cabinet ministers it said were providing material help for the violence. They included Health Minister Health Minister Wael al-Halki because of his role in denying protesters medical care.
However, western powers have come up with few other ideas for how to topple Assad. They are opposed to military intervention and struggle to step up support to the Syrian opposition because of concerns over sectarian divisions.
France in November proposed a humanitarian corridor to help civilians caught up in the violence.
But this has so far proved impossible, in part because of opposition by Russia and China to a United Nations Security Council resolution to enable such an action.
But European Council President Herman Van Rompuy warned that Russian and Chinese views could undermine their own standing in the region.
“We are seeing signals that there is movement of positions of both countries,” he said.
“It is not sustainable to let things happen as they happen in Syria and those big countries are step by step aware of the situation on the ground … It is dangerous for their positions in the Arab world to continue to be completely isolated.”
The EU’s suggestion to gather evidence against Assad and members of his government is aimed at weakening their resolve.
“We are going to make the Syrian authorities more accountable for the current situation, as we have asked to have evidence put together so that one day or another justice is done,” Van Rompuy told a news conference.
“One day, they will have to defend themselves in court.”
British Prime Minister David Cameron called for a future “day of reckoning”, and said he hoped members of Assad’s government would be caught in the same way as Serbian war criminals were captured years after fighting stopped in the western Balkans.
One diplomat said Britain was already preparing to send a mission to Syria’s border region to gather evidence. (Reporting By Sebastian Moffett Editing by Maria Golovnina)
By Sebastian Moffett and Justyna Pawlak