| 10.7°C Dublin

Hague welcomes EU's Syria sanctions

Britain today welcomed the tightening of European Union sanctions on Syria in response to the brutal crackdown on protesters by the regime of President Bashar Assad.

The EU today agreed to ban investment in Syria's oil sector, block the delivery of banknotes to the Central Bank in Damascus and impose travel and visa bans on more officials linked to the regime.

Some 56 individuals and 18 entities will be subject to travel bans and asset freezes.

Foreign Secretary William Hague called on Assad to "step aside now", warning the Syrian leader that he is isolated internationally and cannot hope to see the situation in his country return to how it was before the uprising began in January.

"I strongly welcome the additional EU sanctions that were agreed today," said Mr Hague. "They show again that we will not stand by while President Assad and his regime violently suppresses the legitimate demands of the Syrian people killing thousands and arbitrarily detaining many more.

"International pressure will increase until the regime heeds the calls for an immediate end to violence, the release of political prisoners and genuine change."

He added: "Assad is isolated internationally and things will never return to the way they were. He should step aside now."

Mr Hague said that the UK will continue to push for a UN Security Council resolution on Syria as soon as possible.

"Sanctions are not aimed at the Syrian people but at those responsible for the regime's violent repression, and those who support or benefit from the regime," said the Foreign Secretary.

"These people must recognise the consequences of their actions and step away from the regime.

"Countries across the region have called for Assad to end the violence immediately. This week in New York, I made clear to Security Council members that they too must increase the pressure on Syria. The UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon has also made this clear."

Today's sanctions follow the imposition of a ban on Syrian crude oil imports agreed on September 2 by the EU, which normally buys the bulk of the country's production.

Announcing the new measures in Brussels, EU foreign affairs chief Baroness Ashton said: "Repression against the Syrian people must stop completely."

The UN has estimated that 2,600 people have died during the suppression of anti-government protests in Syria.

Independent News Service