'Friends of Syria' to sharpen sanctions

2012-09-20 20:34

The Hague - Diplomats from over 60 nations and the Arab League met in The Hague on Thursday to toughen and improve co-ordination of sanctions against the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad.

"We need vigorous implementation," Netherlands Foreign Minister Uri Rosenthal told the opening of the "Friends of Syria" sanctions working group.

"Sanctions will only have an impact if they are carried out effectively. That is how we can make a difference."

The meeting comes after the European Union agreed earlier this month on the need to beef up sanctions against Assad's inner circle as the world struggles to resolve the bloody 18-month conflict.

The European Union and the Arab League have slapped sanctions on the Syrian regime, with embargoes on oil and weapons as well as travel bans on members of Assad's family and his top brass.

"The regime and its trading partners try to get around sanctions," Rosenthal said. "So we need to work together with public and private partners, by sharing information and best practices."

Experts from the financial sector were also meeting in The Hague to discuss ways of bolstering economic sanctions, including through asset freezes.

"It's not a question of whether he will leave but when he will leave," Rosenthal said of Assad.

He added that besides embargoes and financial sanctions it was important to prevent Damascus from monitoring the Internet and using it to detain opponents and journalists.

Internet surveillance

"To you and me ICT (information and communications technologies) are innocent tools we use every day," the Dutch foreign minister said.

"But we need to ensure it can't be used to commit violence or oppress the Syrian people," he said.

According to the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), the Assad regime's control of the internet is "remarkably extensive" and allows the regime to keep tabs on mobile phones, e-mails, texting and other traffic.

A French firm is under investigation for allegedly providing computer surveillance equipment to Syria used to track and arrest regime opponents.

The Syria sanctions working group runs in parallel with a second working group on economic reconstruction in the war-ravaged country.

The "Friends of Syria" group has already held three meetings at ministerial level in Tunis, Istanbul and Paris. Another such meeting is planned in Morocco in October and another at a later date in Italy.

More than 27 000 people have been killed in violence across Syria since March last year, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. The United Nations puts the figure at more than 20 000.

The international community has struggled to find common ground on ways to halt the bloodshed, with Russia and China vetoing three UN Security Council resolutions providing for sanctions against the Assad regime.

  • tom.guy.37669528 - 2012-09-20 20:38

    Sanctions will only hurt the Syrian people.

      fred.fraser.12 - 2012-09-20 21:31

      Enablers and distorters of reality unite.

      AnthonyfromAfrica - 2012-09-21 04:46

      Tom, That is a lot of nonsense. How would these 'targeted sanctions' hurt the Syrian people, of which 60 percent are living on less than 2 dollars a day ????? These sanctions only make the high life style,of these assad thugs a bit more difficult. But like with that mugabe criminal, there are plenty ways around, and they now travel to Hong Kong and Malaysia, to sPend their STOLEN LOOT !!

  • fred.fraser.12 - 2012-09-20 21:08

    Sanctions are the least the freer world can do. It should be doing much more. Instead it is allowing the neo-Communist Russian and Chinese regimes to determine the world's response to the brutal oppression of the Syrian people by the unelected dictator Bashar Assad, who is in control of the Syrian state and its military. Imagine if sanctions were not imposed on the Apartheid regime. Imagine if more than sanctions had been imposed. How much sooner would Apartheid have ended?

  • fred.fraser.12 - 2012-09-21 06:16

    Look at that. Our own MTN, licensed by our post-Apartheid ANC government, is profiting from Assad's brutal regime. Having gone through Apartheid, with all its hurt and pain, it's very difficult to accept or understand how we can be doing this now. It is unconscionable, stupid really.

  • AnthonyfromAfrica - 2012-09-21 06:46

    MTN has no morals and standards !! They would have no problem doing business with the devil !!

  • fred.fraser.12 - 2012-09-21 08:56

    For anyone seriously wanting to know what is happening in Syria, here is an excellent video just published last night:

  • joseph.motloung.3 - 2012-09-21 14:04

    "That men do not learn much from the lessons of history is the most important of all the lessons that history has to teach." Aldous Huxley This is a very important and profound quote to help us analyse what is happening today. The continued meddling of foreign powers in the domestic affairs of other countries has brought devastating consequences for the indigenous people. The west intervened in Iraq to remove Saddam Hussein from power, the result was widespread and uncontrollable terrorism. They removed Muammar Gaddaffi from power in Libya now you have chaos in that country with a government that is failing dismally to maintain order. The west was heavily involved in the domestic affairs of Egypt during the tunure of Hosni Mubarak which had drastic consequences for the people of Egypt until they decided to get rid of the western backed dictator. The west is deeply involved in the affairs Saudi Arabia as a result the people are being oppressed and denied their basic rights. It was revealed in an Al-jazeera news insert that women in Saudi Arabia are not allowed to drive. The only viable solution is to bring all the opposing parties in Syria to the negotiating table to iron out their differences. We in South Africa did that and it worked for us

      fred.fraser.12 - 2012-09-21 14:08

      Unfortunately your "analysis" has nothing to do with what is actually happening in Syria.

      joseph.motloung.3 - 2012-09-21 16:29

      @fred I expected that you will not get the analysis but I am happy to enlighten you. Instead of supporting either side in this civil war it is a more mature stance for the so called "friends of Syria" to encourage the Al-qaeda affiliated terrorists to enter into dialogue to resolve the crisis faced by Syria. It is hypocritical for people to continue to encourage the people of Palestine to enter into dialogue with the neo Nazi Zionists regime after 30yrs of failed negotiations but refuse for the SNC to enter into dialogue after 18months

      AnthonyfromAfrica - 2012-09-21 18:10

      Joseph CHE` ""That men do not learn much from the lessons of history is the most important of all the lessons that history has to teach."" Aldous Huxley THAT is so true !! The most important lesson we should learn is, That history is facinating, and its great to have some beautiful history books on our shelves, but it tells us little about current political crises , nor its solutions. The world moves so fast, that who did what, and who said what, in 1960, or 1970 or 1980, or 1990,or even 2000, is totally irrelevant !!!!! To understand the realities of today, listen to what one says, today and tomorrow, and forget about yesterday !!! You most certainly have not done so, because you don't have a clue of whats happening TODAY , in N Africa or the ME!!!!!

      joseph.motloung.3 - 2012-09-21 20:39

      @Anthony If you have atleast half a brain or can atleast you will see that my comment makes no mention of what happened in the 1960's. To say that what happened in 2000 is totally irrelevant shows how narrow you're view of the world is

      fred.fraser.12 - 2012-09-22 18:43

      Again, you have twisted and distorted what is actually happening in Syria through immature and faulty anti-West lenses.

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