EU 'consensus' to beef up Syria sanctions

2012-09-08 15:44
(File, AFP)

(File, AFP)

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Paphos - EU foreign ministers agreed on the need to beef up sanctions against Syrian President Bashar Assad's regime at talks in Cyprus on Saturday, said Cypriot Foreign Minister Erato Kozakou-Marcoullis.

"There is consensus also on the increase of sanctions in Syria," she said, after announcing that the bloc's 27 ministers were agreed on the need to massively strengthen humanitarian aid.

Meeting on an island as close as 100km from Syria for their first talks since the summer break, the ministers also urged the fractured Syrian opposition to unite and agreed to try to work with Russia in efforts to find a peaceful solution to the 18-month conflict.

The Cypriot minister said European nations believed it was important to work with Moscow, Assad's main diplomatic and military supporter, despite anger over Russia and China vetoing three UN Security Council attempts to exert more pressure on Syria.

"We have to continue to work with Russia because we want to have them on board," she said.

Belgium's foreign policy chief, Didier Reynders, suggested one way of working with Russia would be to set up an international observer mission to ensure Syrian hospitals were kept open to the injured from both sides of the conflict.

In remarks to journalists at the close of two days of informal talks, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius too insisted on the need to respect humanitarian rights by maintaining hospital care open to all Syrians.

Regarding punitive action against the regime, Fabius said "if we want things to move, we must reinforce sanctions against the clan of [President] Bashar Assad".

Details on new measures would be worked out by the office of EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, he said.

"There is a general feeling that more pressure must be placed on the regime in order to end the violence and enable the distribution of humanitarian aid throughout the country," added Spanish Foreign Minister Jose Manuel Garcia Margallo.

Brussels on Friday announced an extra €50m for civilians trapped in the conflict, bringing the EU contribution in all to €200m, half of all international help.

"Humanitarian needs are rising rapidly," said British Foreign Secretary William Hague. "We need additional contributions to the human effort urgently."

The United Nations on Friday almost doubled its humanitarian appeal for Syria to $347m, estimating that more than 2.5 million people need food and medical help in the country.

More than 1.2 million, more than half of them children, have become internally displaced in Syria, and some 200 000 refugees are massed in neighbours Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey and Iraq.

Read more on:    eu  |  william hague  |  bashar assad  |  cyprus  |  syria  |  syria conflict  |  uprisings
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