EU extends Syria sanctions but stops short of oil embargo


EU governments formally adopted sanctions on Tuesday against 15 more people and five businesses, but stopped short of concrete moves to impose a full oil embargo on Damascus.

The list of names covered by asset freezes and travel bans now runs to 50 people and nine businesses, with legal enforcement entering play when they are published in Wednesday's legislative log, the EU’s Official Journal.

But a diplomat told AFP on Tuesday that despite a first discussion in Brussels on the oil embargo, “no clear decision has yet been taken,” with London in particular determined to ensure that sanctions do not impact on the Syrian people.

The source said: “We are in a process of working through what further tools we want to use.”

“We are open to all options--the oil embargo, sanctions on banks and telecoms, in line with the Americans--but we want to make sure sanctions are targeted at the Assad regime.”

“We are acutely aware of the need to ramp up sanctions, but we don't want them to impact on the Syrian people,” he underlined.

Some 90 percent of Syrian crude oil is exported to the EU, where the main buyers are Denmark, Italy, France, the Netherlands, Austria and Spain, in that order.

US President Barack Obama and the leaders of Britain, France, Germany and Spain last week called publicly for Assad to quit power, a first-time demand dismissed by Russia and Turkey.

China and Cuba also opposed on Tuesday a resolution passed by the UN Rights Council to order a probe into violations committed by the Syrian regime during its crackdown on popular protests.

The UN’s rights chief Navi Pillay said that 2,200 people had been killed since mass protests began.

Syrian dissidents opposed to President Bashar al-Assad meanwhile founded a “national council” in a gathering in Istanbul on Tuesday, in what appeared to be an echo of opposition tactics in Libya.