The European Union (EU) on Monday tightened sanctions on Syria and required member nations to board ships and airplanes carrying suspicious cargo to the country,as foreign ministers warned that the escalating violence there was sparking a refugee crisis for its neighbours.
The 27 EU ministers added 29 names to an existing list of over 170 Syrian individuals and companies believed to be associated with the repression,or benefiting from President Bashar Assads regime. They also endorsed a plan to enforce the blocs existing arms embargo,requiring inspections on the territory or in the territorial waters of EU states.
Our decisions will strengthen sanctions against the Assad regime and also help neighbouring countries,mainly Jordan and Lebanon,who will have to take in many of the refugees. Were doing both things, said French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius.
The EU banned weapons exports to Syria in May,2011. But until now,the 28 member nations had the right to decide whether or not to inspect cargos believed to be in breach of the embargo.
Syrias military arsenal is mainly of Soviet and Russian origin. Very little weaponry originates from Western nations,making it unlikely that the EU embargo will have a significant effect on the on-ground situation.
Sanctions are part of this whole way of trying to put pressure on the regime, said Catherine Ashton,EU foreign policy chief. They will prevent any arms from reaching Syria.
The UN said last week the number of Syrian refugees who had sought help from it since April has almost tripled to 112,000.
Separately,Russias Aeroflot on Monday said it was suspending flights to Damascus starting August 6 for commercial reasons.
Could use chemical arms against foreign intervention: Syria
BEIRUT: Syria acknowledged for the first time Monday that it had chemical and biological weapons and said it could use them if foreign countries intervened. Foreign Ministry spokesman Jihad Makdissi said the army would not use chemical weapons to crush rebels but could use them against outside forces.