West set to im­pose new Syria sanc­tions

EU TO HOLD OFF ON IM­POS­ING MEA­SURES AGAINST RUS­SIA

Gulf News - - Middle East -

Euro­pean Union for­eign ministers yes­ter­day threat­ened new sanc­tions on Syria over what the West says were chem­i­cal at­tacks on its own peo­ple, but held off from join­ing ex­pected new US puni­tive mea­sures against Rus­sia.

Af­ter Bri­tain and France joined the United States in mis­sile salvoes meant to knock out Syr­ian chem­i­cal arms fa­cil­i­ties, EU for­eign ministers eyed steps to deepen the iso­la­tion of Syr­ian Pres­i­dent Bashar Al As­sad.

“The Euro­pean Union will con­tinue to con­sider further re­stric­tive mea­sures against Syria as long as the re­pres­sion con­tin­ues,” all 28 for­eign ministers said in a state­ment af­ter their talks in Lux­em­bourg, re­fer­ring to eco­nomic sanc­tions.

Air strikes en­dorsed

They also en­dorsed the US, Bri­tish and French air strikes car­ried out on Satur­day that Western pow­ers said were a re­sponse to an April 7 poi­son gas at­tack on the rebel en­clave of Douma and were seen as a way to stop the use of chem­i­cal weapons.

“It is very im­por­tant to stress (the strikes are) not an at­tempt to change the tide of the war in Syria or to have a regime change,” Bri­tish For­eign Sec­re­tary Boris Johnson told re­porters on ar­rival at the meet­ing.

“I’m afraid the Syr­ian war will go on in its hor­ri­ble, mis­er­able way. But it was the world say­ing that we’ve had enough of the use of chem­i­cal weapons,” he said.

Any new sanc­tions on Al As­sad would build on a se­ries of such EU mea­sures since 2011, rang­ing from an arms em­bargo and a ban on deal­ings with the Syr­ian cen­tral bank to travel bans and as­set freezes on Syr­ian of­fi­cials, mil­i­tary, busi­ness peo­ple and sci­en­tists ac­cused of de­vel­op­ing chem­i­cal weapons.

But EU diplo­mats said there was no dis­cus­sion yes­ter­day to tar­get Rus­sian mil­i­tary fig­ures who, along with Iran, have al­lowed Al As­sad to re­gain re­bel­held ter­ri­tory in Syria’s sev­enyear war.

The West ac­cuses Al As­sad of war crimes aris­ing from aerial bom­bard­ments and gas at­tacks on civil­ians and hos­pi­tals.

The United States is due to an­nounce new eco­nomic sanc­tions on Rus­sia aimed at com­pa­nies it al­leges were deal­ing with equip­ment re­lated to chem­i­cal weapons, ac­cord­ing to US am­bas­sador to the United Na­tions Nikki Ha­ley.

Look­ing to US

How­ever, EU diplo­mats cau­tioned that un­til Euro­pean gov­ern­ments had more idea of what the United States was plan­ning, it was not pos­si­ble to quickly fol­low suit.

In the past, EU mea­sures have some­times come months af­ter Wash­ing­ton’s.

Mean­while, in­ter­na­tional in­spec­tors were pre­vented from ac­cess­ing the site of the sus­pected gas at­tack which height­ened the diplo­matic con­fronta­tion be­tween the West and Al As­sad’s main ally Rus­sia.

The US en­voy to the global watch­dog yes­ter­day said Rus­sia may have tam­pered with the site of the in­ci­dent on April 7 in Douma out­side of Da­m­as­cus.

“It is long over­due that this coun­cil con­demns the Syr­ian gov­ern­ment for its reign of chem­i­cal ter­ror and de­mands in­ter­na­tional ac­count­abil­ity those re­spon­si­ble for these heinous acts,” US Am­bas­sador Ken­neth Ward said in com­ments seen by Reuters.

In Lon­don, Bri­tish Prime Min­is­ter Theresa May was fac­ing crit­i­cism over her de­ci­sion to by­pass par­lia­ment and take part in the air strikes against Syria.

The United States, France and Bri­tain launched 105 mis­siles tar­get­ing what the Pentagon said were three chem­i­cal weapons fa­cil­i­ties in Syria in re­tal­i­a­tion for the sus­pected poi­son gas at­tack.

The Western coun­tries blame Al As­sad for the Douma at­tack, which a Syr­ian med­i­cal re­lief group said killed dozens of peo­ple.

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