France says EU sanctions should target Syria's Assad

3rd May 2011, Comments 0 comments

EU sanctions being drawn up against Syria over its bloody crackdown on protests should target its president, Bashar al-Assad, France's foreign minister said Tuesday.

Asked whether France wanted Assad to be specifically named in the measures being discussed in Brussels, Alain Juppe told reporters: "France wishes so."

President Nicolas Sarkozy was later quoted as saying that "for Syria we are going to push for the adoption of the harshest possible sanctions," in an interview published in L'Express magazine, reiterating that the regime's crackdown was "unacceptable".

The European Union on Friday launched preparations for an embargo on the sale to Syria of weapons and equipment that might be used for internal repression.

The bloc will also "urgently consider further appropriate and targeted measures with the aim of achieving an immediate change of policy by the Syrian leadership", said EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton.

EU diplomats said other measures that could be imposed on the regime include an assets freeze and travel bans against officials blamed for the violent repression of anti-government protests.

Juppe said European powers were "unable to succeed" in having a sanctions resolution against Syria passed by the UN Security Council since the measure did not have the necessary support and Russia and China were likely to veto it.

"We are trying to act through the EU" instead, he said.

In Brussels, EU advisers held meetings Monday and Tuesday to fine-tune the sanctions but diplomats told AFP that while there was general agreement on slapping an arms embargo on Syria, there were divisions concerning targeted measures against Syrian officials.

"Not all the member states have the same vision," said a diplomat who asked to remain anonymous. "Some want to act quickly and forcefully, others favour step-by-step action without immediately targeting Bashar al-Assad.

"Either we go for compromise and a quick list or we go for a more complete list but it will take longer."

A large minority of states opposed sanctions against the Syrian leader, other diplomatic sources confirmed.

Among nations reticent to target Assad were Cyprus, Greece, Portugal, and even Estonia, due to fears for the safety of seven Estonian cyclists kidnapped in Lebanon.

A Brussels-based think-tank, the International Crisis Group, said in a lengthy analysis Tuesday that there was little scope for the international community to influence Syria.

"Outside actors possess little leverage, particularly at a time when the regime feels its survival is at stake. It has survived past periods of international isolation and likely feels it can weather the storm again," the ICG wrote.

"The sanctions targeting individual officials involved in acts of repression that have been announced are unlikely to have any effect," it added.

"Broader sanctions run the dual risk of serving the regime by bolstering the claim that it is facing a foreign conspiracy and of harming ordinary citizens."

© 2011 AFP

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