Syria: EU extendes further sanctions against Syrian officials in the wake of the attack on Hama

EU announced today that the sanction list will be extended to include another five Syrian nationals, bringing the number to 35 indivdiuals and four entities, i.e. companies. The names will be published tomorrow, and as soon as I get my hands on them they will be published on the blog. The decision that was taken today is a direct reaction to the attack on Hama, On 31 July Catherine Ashton, EU High Representative for Foreign and Security Policy had this to say:

“I am shocked at the latest reports from Syria that large numbers of civilians have again been killed in a totally unjustified assault by Syrian security forces on the town of Hama, using tanks and other heavy weapons against citizens exercising their right to peaceful protest. This attack and the continuing crackdown in other Syrian cities is even more unacceptable coming on the eve of the holy month of Ramadan.

The Syrian army and security forces have the duty to protect citizens, not to massacre them indiscriminately. Those responsible for these attacks must be held accountable and brought to justice.

These latest developments once again show the hollowness of the promises of reform made by the government. The only way out of this crisis is through a genuine inclusive national dialogue with the opposition.”

According to a news report by BBC’s with analysis by Lina Sinjab activits in Hama claim that around 130 people were yesterday by the army, security forces and para-military gangs loyal to the regime. Other sources have made come with lower estimates – 70, 45 or 24 people killed. But one person murdered by the Syrian regime is one to many. It is in this context that the addition of five Syrian nationals to the sanction list is nothing but a sign of weakness from the EU. If EU want their sanctions to, in any view, shape or form, influence the Syrian regime EU will have to hit Syria where it hurts. We are talking about trade sanctions. Oil, olives, cotton, vegetables etc. But for this to happen countries like Italy, Greece, Cyprus, The Netherlands and Germany will have to make some sacrifices, something I doubt they are willing to do in the current economic climate.

Ashton has stated that the UN security council should take a “clear stand on the need to end the violence”. This statement of course aimed at Russia and China – who so far have threatend to veto any resolution condemning the violence by the Syrian regime. Yes, we are talking about a statement by the UN Security council. A statement!

If EU and USA want to be taken seriously by Russia and China they must now up the ante. They must show by serious actions, not only words (and sanctions targeting individuals), that they willing to go far if need be. No, I am not talking about a military intervention, but across the board trade sanctions. Throw down the gauntle…glove. And follow up with a draft of a resolution that goes far beyond mere words. After such a move Russia and China will be more willing to listen to EU and USA in the UN Security council.

And maybe, just maybe the Russian statement that the “repression” in Syria must come to an end mean a shift of position…

About Leif Eriksson

Leif Eriksson has worked in the field of asylum at the Swedish Migration Agency specializing in the Middle East, Schengen and the Dublin Regulation, as Migration Attaché and head of the migration section at the Swedish Embassy in Damascus 2005 - 2008, as a resettlement consultant at the UNHCR branch office in Damascus 2008 - 2009, Consul at the Swedish Consulate General in Jerusalem 2012 - 2013 and associate RSD/RST officer at UNHCR in Beirut 2013 - 2014. He currently lives in Tbilisi, Georgia.
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