EU harshly condemns worsening violence in Syria, threatens new sanctions against regime

LUXEMBOURG – The European Union condemned in the strongest terms Monday the worsening violence in Syria and said it was preparing to expand its sanctions against the regime.

But it stopped short of announcing new penalties, and it did not call for President Bashar Assad to step down. Any new sanctions would be an effort to bring about “a fundamental change in policy by the Syrian leadership without delay,” it said.

The sanctions in place so far have not had that effect. In late May, the EU expanded sanctions to include Assad himself after earlier travel bans and asset freezes on 13 people with links to the regime failed to stop the killing of anti-government protesters.

Monday’s statement gave no indication of who might be targeted next, other than to say that they would “target individuals and entities responsible for, or associated with, the violent repression against the civilian population.”

The statement made no mention of Assad’s televised speech Monday, in which he said his regime would consider political reforms but also said that “saboteurs” were exploiting legitimate demands for reform.

On the way into the foreign ministers meeting in Luxembourg, British foreign secretary William Hague said Syria’s leader had to reform or go.

Hague also said he hoped that Turkey, Syria’s northern neighbour, would play an influential role in conveying to Assad the will of the international community.

“I hope our Turkish colleagues will bring every possible pressure to bear on the Assad regime with a very clear message that they are losing legitimacy and that Assad should reform or step aside,” Hague said.

The opposition estimates more than 1,400 Syrians have been killed and 10,000 detained as Assad unleashed his military, pro-regime gunmen and the country’s other security forces to crush the protest movement that erupted in March, inspired by the revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt.


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