British Foreign Secretary William Hague today called for more sanctions against Syria in the wake of continuing “appalling” violence.
He urged EU foreign ministers meeting in Brussels to extend current financial sanctions against members of the Assad regime by freezing European-held assets of the Syrian Central Bank.
Mr Hague joined the talks following Friday’s Tunis meeting of the “Friends of Syria” group, where US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton renewed attacks on the veto by Russia and China of a United Nations Security resolution condemning Syria.
The lack of a Security Council declaration has weakened international diplomatic efforts to end the violence, and Mr Hague warned today that the actions of Russia and China were seen as wrong “in the eyes of the world”.
He said the issue would be taken up once more at the UN in New York later this week.
Meanwhile, the EU foreign ministers were trying to reinforce their economic measures against Syria, which already include an arms embargo, a ban on EU exports of oil and gas equipment to Syria, and visa and asset bans against more than 100 members of the ruling regime including President Assad.
Today’s expected freeze on assets of the Syrian central bank is intended to help limit funding the continuing violent crackdown on the regime’s opposition.
The EU foreign ministers will also endorse Friday’s Tunis statement calling on the Syrian leader to step down and urging the setting up of a UN peacekeeping force.
Mr Hague dismissed yesterday’s Syrian “referendum” as of no relevance to international efforts to impose a “diplomatic and economic stranglehold on the Assad regime” to “choke off support for its campaign of terror”.
But the Foreign Secretary is against arming the Syrian opposition.
Today, he welcome the Arab League’s support and its readiness to join peacekeeping efforts, but pointed out: “For that to work, there has to be a peace to keep.”