EU slaps arms embargo on Syria but spares President Bashar al-Assad ( Telegraph)
Europe bans travel and freezes assets of 13 officials of Syrian regime and holds them responsible for violent repression
Ian Traynor in Brussels
guardian.co.uk, Monday 9 May 2011 23.29 BST
-An EU arms embargo against Syria comes into force today as part of a sanctions package against Damascus that fails to penalise PresidentBashar al-Assad personally for overseeing the rising tide of repression and violence against his opposition.
Europe remained split last night over policy towards Assad, agreeing to a range of sanctions against 13 top figures in the president’s security apparatus, but exempting the president and his defence minister from the blacklist which entails a travel ban for the EU and a freeze on their assets.
The EU split broadly between the north and south, with Mediterranean countries arguing that channels should be kept open to Assad, while France led the campaign, with Germany, Britain, the Netherlands and Sweden, to blacklist the president.
Cyprus, backed strongly by Greece, was firmly opposed to sanctioning Assad personally and supported by Italy and Spain. Estonia, fearing retaliation against its nationals kidnapped in recent weeks in Lebanon and now believed to be in Syria, also pleaded for a more cautious approach towards Assad. Seven Estonian cyclists were kidnapped near the Syrian border in Lebanon in March.
The decision to target 13 officials while leaving Assad alone was a compromise.
The EU said in a statement that it had decided on “an embargo on exports to Syria of arms and equipment that could be used for internal repression, as well as a visa ban and an assets freeze targeting 13 officials and associates of the Syrian regime who have been identified as being responsible for the violent repression against the civilian population in Syria.”
The EU decision was taken by ambassadors in Brussels on Friday and was subject to three days of what is known as a “silent procedure”, meaning that it comes into force automatically if no one objects within three days.
The arms embargo and the selective blacklisting of leading regime figures will disappoint the human rights lobby which has been calling for stronger action against the Assad government as the violence in Syria escalates.
The head of the EU’s security policy thinktank, the EUISS, Alvaro de Vasconcelos, has pointed out that several figures in the regime have European or US citizenship and that they could be prosecuted in the relevant countries or have their passports revoked.