EU preparing more Syria sanctions
(BRUSSELS) - The EU is preparing to freeze the assets of 26 Syrians close to President Bashar al-Assad while readying plans to board vessels and planes suspected of transporting arms for his regime, diplomats said Thursday.
The diplomats told AFP that foreign ministers from the 27-nation bloc were likely to agree at talks on Monday to inspect planes and ships believed to be carrying arms or goods used by the Damascus regime to put down protests.
The sources said the ministers would add at least 26 individuals and two or three firms to an existing EU blacklist of 129 people and 49 entities when they meet in Brussels next week.
"Discussions are still continuing, final decisions will be taken Monday depending on the situation," said a diplomat close to preparatory talks who asked not to be named.
The sanctions would be the European Union's 17th round of targeted measures against the Assad regime since protests erupted in March 2011.
An export ban was imposed in May last year on arms and material which might be used for internal repression. But there is growing concern to ensure no weapons or goods get through.
Should a member of the EU suspect a vessel in its territorial waters to be carrying suspect cargo for Syria, it will be obliged to send inspectors. The same principle would be applied to air cargo.
As fighting intensifies in Syria, also high on the agenda of next week's foreign ministers talks will be how to prepare for a potential humanitarian crisis on Europe's doorstep.
More than 100,000 Syrians displaced by the conflict have been registered so far in Jordan, Lebanon, Iraq and Turkey, triple the number since April.
Cyprus, which currently holds the rotating EU presidency, has meanwhile raised the issue of the evacuation of up to 200,000 foreign nationals from Syria, many of them also holding Syrian passports.
Foreign Minister Erato Kozakou-Marcoullis has said the island-nation, which is only 100 kilometres (62 miles) from the shores of Syria and Lebanon, was preparing an operation on the lines of its evacuation of 65,000 foreign nationals from Lebanon in 2006 during the Lebanon-Israel war.
People displaced by conflict at the time merely passed through Cyprus.
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