SYRIA: Britain, France and Germany pursue EU sanctions against regime

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Britain is working with European allies to impose limited sanctions on Syrian leaders in response to the ongoing government suppression of pro-democracy protesters, Foreign Secretary William Hague told Parliament on Tuesday.

“We are now working with our European partners on targeted sanctions, on asset freezes and travel bans,” Hague said in comments broadcast by the BBC. He promised further discussions with the French foreign minister during an evening meeting and with United Nations Security Council members.

‘Syria is a difficult issue at the U.N. Security Council and some of the members, including the permanent members, require a good deal of convincing that the U.N. should be taking any action,’ Hague said.

Hague, during meetings with the Egyptian foreign minister in Cairo on Monday, had spoken of the ‘grave and unacceptable situation in Syria.’


‘What the Syrian authorities are doing is wrong, it is counter-productive and it is against the interests of stability in Syria,’ he said. ‘The international community must send a firm message to that effect.’

Earlier Tuesday, French and German officials announced plans to urge the European Union to impose sanctions on Syrian leaders including President Bashar al-Assad.

‘We are trying to act through the European Union,’ Foreign Minister Alain Juppe said in a Tuesday statement to reporters. Asked if Assad should be included among targets of sanctions, he said: ‘That’s what France wants.’

German Deputy Foreign Minister Werner Hoyer also said it was time for action.

‘The Syrian government’s continuing brutal actions leave the European Union no choice but to press firmly ahead with targeted sanctions against the regime,’ Hoyer told Reuters.

The 27-member European Union agreed Friday to impose an arms embargo on Syria and is considering added measures.

Meanwhile, the International Committee of the Red Cross on Tuesday called on Syria to lift restrictions on the aid organization’s ability to access those injured during the ongoing clashes between police and anti-government protesters.

‘It is urgent that emergency medical services, first-aid workers and others performing lifesaving tasks swiftly reach those in need,’ Marianne Gasser, head of the ICRC delegation in Damascus, said in a Tuesday statement. ‘The violence has resulted in a large number of casualties, and we fear that if the situation worsens more lives will be lost.’ Red Crescent volunteers and other medical personnel have been providing first aid and evacuating victims, according to the ICRC, but the group noted, “It is everyone’s responsibility to ensure that they can carry out their work in safety and that their ambulances and other vehicles are respected.”

Gasser said the ICRC was prepared to render aid despite the ongoing violence, and that, ‘We also stand ready to provide expertise and assistance in matters relating to detainees, including those held in connection with the recent events.’

The ICRC statement called upon Syrian authorities to ensure that detainees are “treated humanely and held in decent conditions.”

-- Molly Hennessy-Fiske in Cairo