European Union states agreed on Thursday to further extend sanctions on Syria as Russia warned that President Bashar Al Assad risked a “sad fate.”
The EU states stopped short of targeting Syria’s oil industry and banks, which dissidents say would be the only way to choke off funds fuelling repression in the country, according to Reuters.
EU officials said EU ambassadors meeting in Brussels agreed that more names should be added to a sanctions list that already targets President Assad and 34 other individuals as well as military-linked firms associated with the suppression of dissent.
They also agreed that the possibility of extending sanctions to the oil industry should be considered, but stopped short of a decision, the officials said. How far the sanctions list should be extended would depend on recommendations from the EU delegation in Damascus and EU states, they said.
Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, meanwhile, called the situation in Syria “dramatic” and expressed “enormous concern” over the deadly violence in the country.
“Unfortunately, people die there in large numbers. This arouses enormous concern from us,” the Russian leader said in an interview given to Russian media in the southern resort Sochi, according to AFP.
Syria’s President Assad needs to “carry out urgent reforms, come to terms with the opposition, restore peace and create a modern state,” Mr. Medvedev said as quoted by the Interfax news agency.
“If he cannot do this, a sad fate awaits him, and in the end we will have to take some decision. We are watching the way the situation develops. As it changes, some of our perspectives also change.”
Mr. Medvedev’s remarks follow a foreign ministry statement Monday strongly criticizing the Syrian government's crackdown on demonstrations in a sign of a possible shift in Russia’s rigid position on the conflict in the UN Security Council.
Russia supported the Security Council statement Wednesday which condemned “the widespread violations of human rights and the use of force against civilians by the Syrian authorities.”
However, it did not support stronger action rebuffing efforts by Western powers to agree on a resolution over fears that it might pave the way for another military intervention like the one against Muammar Qaddafi’s regime in Libya.
Mr. Medvedev stressed the need to “watch the way the situation develops. Colonel Qaddafi at some point gave extremely harsh orders on wiping out the opposition. The current Syrian president did not give such orders.”
He added that Colonel Qaddafi is not likely to give up power willingly. “The whole world is trying to convince Colonel Qaddafi, did they succeed? And they won’t, he’s likely to die there, in his hut,” Mr. Medvedev said.
Russia, which abstained from a resolution on the Libyan intervention, holds veto power in the UN Security Council and has persistently blocked a Western-drafted resolution on Syria to the irritation of other world powers.
Moscow has repeatedly stressed that it was firmly opposed to foreign interference in Syria, its ally since Soviet times, and believes Damascus could find a political solution to its crisis.