EU foreign ministers gathered in Brussels to add their weight to the growing international pressure on Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime. Welcoming the Arab League’s suspension of Syria, leaders agreed tougher sanctions, but shied away from any form of military action.
France’s Foreign Minister Alain Juppe said: ‘‘I think armed intervention of the kind that took place in Libya is not the order of the day; in any case it’s not what we want now. Nevertheless, we can envisage ways of protecting the civilian population, namely through observers, for example, through the United Nations.’‘
In addition to extending sanctions to 18 more individuals linked with Syria’s violent crackdown, Europe’s top diplomats also agreed to block Damascus accessing funds.
That is thought to be several hundred million euros from the EU’s European Investment bank.
Despite the latest moves, Syrian opposition figure Bassem Hatahet called on the EU for tougher action.
‘‘We would like the EU to make solid progress, similar to the significant steps taken by Turkey. The Syrian National Council has been recognised by Turkey’s foreign minister and we want the EU to advance along these lines. That it recognises and holds talks with the National Council to find definitive solutions to the Syrian crisis.’‘
Although the EU appears reluctant to back Syria’s fragmented pro-democracy movement, ministers issued a joint statement saying they were ready to ‘‘engage with representative members of the opposition which adhere to non-violence and democratic values, such as the Syrian National Council.’‘