Last Updated: Sun Sep 04, 2011 09:54 am (KSA) 06:54 am (GMT)

EU sanctions target Syrian oil, Russia disapproves of ban

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov condemned the sanctions imposed on Syria. (Photo by AFP)
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov condemned the sanctions imposed on Syria. (Photo by AFP)

The European Union imposed a ban on purchases of Syrian oil on Saturday and targeted three Syrian firms in an expanded sanctions list meant to intensify pressure against President Bashar al-Assad’s government.

The new round of sanctions against Syria marks the first time Europe has targeted Syrian industry as it seeks to cut off Assad’s access to funds and force him to end a five-month-old crackdown on pro-democracy protesters. The United Nations says has killed more than 2,000 civilians.

But analysts say the sanctions, which do not go as far as the investment ban imposed by the United States last month, may have only a limited impact on Assad’s access to funds.

EU governments are expected to have more discussions on such a ban, but industry experts have said the 27-member bloc will have to overcome reluctance among some capitals, given that European firms like Anglo-Dutch Royal Dutch Shell and France’s Total are significant investors in Syria.

The new sanctions target Syria’s Real Estate Bank, which provides mortgage finance, as well as Mada Transport and Cham Investment Group, two arms of a Syrian investment firm which the EU says provides funds to Assad’s government, according to the EU’s Official Journal.

Four Syrian businessmen were also added to a list of people affected by EU asset freezes and travel bans.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov condemned the sanctions imposed on Syria by, saying they “will lead to nothing good.”

“We are against unilateral sanctions. Sanctions rarely solve anything in general,” Lavrov said at a regional summit in Dushanbe.

Moscow has consistently opposed Western calls for sanctions on Syria and along with China has boycotted UN Security Council talks on a Western proposal to impose sanctions on Assad, instead calling for him to implement reforms.

Russia has also said it is maintaining arms sales to long-term partner Syria despite pressure from the United States, with US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton telling Moscow to “get on the right side of history” and end supplies.

Russian deputy foreign minister Mikhail Bogdanov said after talks in Damascus on Monday that there was no change in Russia's policy towards Syria.

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