Saturday 18 November 2017

Assad's wife is added to list of 'undesirables' banned from travelling to Europe

Asma al-Assad wife of President Bashar al-Assad. Photo: Getty Images
Asma al-Assad wife of President Bashar al-Assad. Photo: Getty Images

Geoff Meade

THE British-born wife of Syria's leader has been added to an EU list of undesirables banned from travel to Europe.

Europe's foreign ministers put Asma al-Assad, 36, married to President Bashar al-Assad, on a register of more than 100 members of the ruling regime which already includes her husband.

As well as a European travel ban, they all face the freezing of their financial assets held in Europe.

But because the president's wife was born in the EU, there was still confusion after the decision about whether she could legally be denied access to her own country of origin.

The decision to add Mrs Assad, and about a dozen others to the existing list of those facing sanctions, was nodded through at talks in Brussels which included British Foreign Secretary William Hague.

The sanctions are being stepped up in the face of continuing government repression of popular opposition, with daily additions to the tally of deaths during the bombardment of anti-government strongholds in the country.

As well as the travel visa and asset bans on individuals associated with the regime, EU sanctions against Syria already include an arms embargo, and a ban on EU exports of oil and gas equipment to Syria.

The latest round of measures came in late February when the EU tightened the economic noose against President Assad's government, freezing the assets of the Central Bank of Syria and restricting the Syrian regime's access to the gold and precious metals market.

The aim was to help limit funding for the continuing violent crackdown against President Assad's growing public opposition.

Today's measures - the thirteenth round of EU sanctions against Syria - reflect fury at Mrs Assad's declaration in a letter to The Times earlier this year that her husband remained the right man to run Syria.

Since then the previously low-profile presidential wife, originally from west London, has been spotlighted as continuing to enjoy the high life despite the assault on entire communities in Syria which has resulted in thousands of deaths.

Mr Hague has vowed to continue working with the rest of the EU and with the Arab League in efforts to end the violence and steer a Syrian-led transition to "a peaceful and more open political system."

A meeting Mr Hague attended in Tunis a few weeks ago of the 60-nation Friends of Syria group called for the setting up of a UN peacekeeping force and demanded that the Syrian leader step down.

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