EU imposes additional sanctions on Syrian government

Measures target seven ministers recently appointed to the Syrian government and blamed for playing a role in the continued crackdown on civilians in the war-ravaged country.
Saturday 17/10/2020
A May 2020 file picture shows Syrian President Bashar al-Assad (L) chairing a cabinet meeting. (AFP)
A May 2020 file picture shows Syrian President Bashar al-Assad (L) chairing a cabinet meeting. (AFP)

BRUSSELS – The European Union on Friday imposed sanctions on seven ministers recently appointed to the Syrian government, blaming them for playing a role in the continued crackdown on civilians in the war-ravaged country.

Asset freezes and travel bans in Europe were imposed on the seven, who include the ministers for justice, finance, transport, education and culture.

Most are accused of sharing “responsibility for the Syrian regime’s violent repression of the civilian population,” the EU said.

With the new sanctions the number of people targeted by EU measures has increased to 280.

A further 70 “entities,” including organisations, banks and companies, are also on the blacklist, usually for benefiting from their ties with the regime.

The EU first started imposing the sanctions in 2011.

The measures also include a ban on oil imports, investment restrictions, a freeze on central bank assets held in the EU, and export limits on equipment and technology that could be used to crack down on civilians or monitoring their phones and internet.

The Syrian conflict is now in its 10th year. The United Nations says that over half the population has been forced to flee their homes, more than 11 million people — nearly 5 million of them children — need humanitarian assistance, and almost eight million people don’t have reliable access to food.

Since the outbreak of war, Syria’s economy has been devastated by conflict, government corruption and sanctions.

The country’s currency has also spiralled downward, sending prices of basic commodities soaring while economic activity has been hurt even more by recent efforts to curb the coronavirus outbreak.

Eight out of 10 Syrians live below the poverty line, making less than $100 a month.

The EU says sanctions are designed to avoid hindering the delivery of humanitarian aid. No food or medical equipment are targeted.

Whether the sanctions will have any effect on the Assad regime remains to be seen.