1. Skip to content
  2. Skip to main menu
  3. Skip to more DW sites

Targeted sanctions

May 23, 2011

EU foreign ministers have agreed on direct sanctions against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in the wake of the brutal clampdown on anti-government demonstrations. Fresh sanctions will also hit Belarus, Libya and Iran.

A pro-government rally in Syria
Syria has been gripped by clashes between pro- and anti-Assad groupsImage: dapd

The European Union has directly targeted Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko with new sanctions on Monday.

The EU’s 27 foreign ministers agreed in Brussels to slap a travel ban and assets freeze against the Syrian ruler and a dozen senior Syrian officials until the crackdown on anti-government demonstrators comes to an end.

British Foreign Secretary William Hague said extending sanctions to Assad was the right thing to do. "The repression in Syria continues and it is important to see the right to peaceful process and the release of political prisoners and taking the path of reform, not repression," he said.

The EU had been criticized for not imposing sanctions against Assad earlier. However, EU foreign ministers wanted to give Assad an opportunity to end the violence against protesters. Assad could have avoided sanctions if he had chosen the path of peaceful reform, German foreign minister, Guido Westerwelle said.

“Syrian President al-Assad did not choose this path, and failed to return to a politics of dialogue. This is why we must widen the sanctions. When somebody so represses his own people and responds to peaceful demonstrations with force, this can’t be left unanswered by the EU," Westerwelle said.

Human rights concerns

A rally in the Syrian city of Homs
Clashes and rallies continue in towns around SyriaImage: picture alliance/dpa

The EU had already imposed an arms embargo against the Syrian government, which has repeatedly used force to break up protests over the past two months.

Human rights groups estimate that around 700 people have been killed in clashes between anti-government protesters and security forces in towns across Syria.

The Syrian government, meanwhile, has blamed the violence on armed groups backed by Islamists and foreign powers who they say have killed 120 security force personnel.

Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moualem said the US and the EU are likely to take further punitive measures against Damascus. However, he does not believe his government faces an impending military intervention as in the case Libya.

"I am not worried," al-Moualem told Syrian state-run television. "Any political or economic measures won't reach a military solution. I assure that, but I expect more measures."

The US imposed sanctions against al-Assad last Wednesday.

Isolating Minsk

The EU on Monday also agreed to tighten sanctions against Belarus as the regime in Minsk continues to try leading members of the opposition. The new round of sanctions raises the number of blacklisted officials in Minsk to 188, including Lukashenko.

Westerwelle said the sanctions against Minsk are designed to target regime officials while sparing the Belarusian people.

"We want to punish those responsible for prison verdicts," Westerwelle said. "We are talking about sanctions, not a boycott or embargo."

The Belarusian government has accused leading opposition presidential candidates of disturbing public order during post-election protests last December.

EU foreign ministers also toughened existing sanctions against Iran by banning around 100 companies from doing business with the EU. The measures follow a range of earlier sanctions that are intended to pressure Iran's government to take part in talks on its disputed nuclear activities.

The ministers also reexamined the Middle East peace process and discussed developments in Tunisia, Libya, Egypt and Sudan.

Author: Darren Mara, Spencer Kimball (AFP, Reuters, dpa, AP)
Editor: Andreas Illmer

Skip next section Explore more
Skip next section DW's Top Story

DW's Top Story

A missile explodes over Kyiv, May 16, 2023
Skip next section More stories from DW
Go to homepage