The European Union is set to slap further sanctions on Syria, targeting 18 people and freezing credits as it piles further pressure on President Bashar al-Assad’s regime, diplomats said Monday, as Russia says it opposed the Arab League’s decision to suspend Damascus.
The measures will likely be agreed at talks between the EU’s foreign ministers Monday, with British Foreign Secretary William Hague stepping in to the meeting saying:
“It’s important that the EU consider additional measures” against the Syrian regime. “We have taken very strong measures. I think we can add to those,” according to AFP.
Hague also said he backed the Arab League’s weekend decision to suspend Syria until Assad implements a deal to end violence.
“They’re taking a leading role,” he said.
But asked whether the situation was ripe for international intervention as the civilian death toll mounts, he said it “is a different situation,” and a far more “complex” one, with no U.N. resolution to back up intervention.
French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe, meantime, said it was time to look at increased protection for Syria’s civilians and urged the U.N. Security Council to take a stand.
“Today the time has come to see how we can better protect the population. I hope the Security Council too will finally take a position,” Juppe said on arriving in Brussels for EU foreign ministers’ talks.
Russia opposes Arab League decision
Meanwhile, Russian news agencies quoted Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov as saying on Monday that Russia opposes the Arab League’s decision to suspend Syria and believes Western nations are inciting opponents of President Assad to seek his removal.
Lavrov also underlined Russia’s opposition to imposing new sanctions on Iran over its nuclear program and said nations were whipping up tension over Tehran to impose additional unilateral sanctions against it, the reports said, according to Reuters.
“Those who took this decision have lost a very important opportunity to make the situation more transparent,” Lavrov was quoted as saying.
“Someone really does not want the Syrians to agree among themselves.”
Lavrov also accused the West of instigating the Syrian opposition to seek regime change in the country.
“When these people hear tough statements from Washington and Brussels that it's impossible to conduct any dialogue with Assad and there's a need to let him know that he needs to go, this, of course, does not encourage them to have constructive dialogue,” he was quoted as saying.
Separately, Lavrov said that Russia on Tuesday would host one of Syria's top opposition leaders, Syrian National Council president Burhan Ghalioun.
“We will try to get them to understand our concern that the fight for power is a thing that can often become a goal in itself,” ITAR-Tass quoted Lavrov as saying. “But you have to think about your country, your people.”
China urges Syria to implement peace plan
China, meanwhile, pressed Syria Monday to implement an Arab League peace plan to end eight months of bloodshed.
“What is pressing now is to implement the Arab League’s initiative appropriately and earnestly,” Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Liu Weimin told journalists at a regular briefing, according to AFP.
“China once again urges the Syrian government and all relevant parties to cease violence, launch an inclusive and balanced political process and make unremitting efforts to realize the Arab League’s initiative.”
China, along with Russia, vetoed a Western-drafted resolution at the U.N. Security Council on Oct. 4 that would have threatened Assad’s regime with targeted sanctions if it continued its campaign against protesters.
But days later, Beijing urged Damascus to speed up the implementation of reforms, veering away from its longstanding policy of non-interference in the country's affairs.
Liu made his comments as diplomats said the European Union was preparing to slap further sanctions on Syria, targeting 18 people and freezing credits.