LONDON -- With the bloody uprising against the regime of President Bashar Assad now at a “critical juncture,” the European Union announced Monday that it was slapping sanctions on more Syrian individuals and organizations and stepping up enforcement of its 14-month-old arms embargo.
Starting Tuesday, the EU’s 27-member nations will stop and search any ship or aircraft in their ports, airports and territorial waters if there is reasonable suspicion that the vessels are transporting weapons to Syria. Any item found that could aid Syrian security forces “must be seized.”
“The EU is deeply concerned about the recent intensification of violence, including in Damascus, which demonstrates the urgent need for a political transition that would meet the democratic aspirations of the Syrian people and bring back stability in Syria,” EU foreign ministers said in a statement following a meeting in Brussels.
Also Tuesday, the list of Syrians under economic sanction will be expanded to include 26 more people and three entities associated with the government crackdown. Their assets will be frozen, and the individuals will be banned from traveling to the EU.
The added names, to be published Tuesday, constitute the 17th time that Europe has widened its sanctions regarding Syria. In all, 155 people and 52 organizations have been targeted.
The new measures come amid escalating bloodshed between the government and rebel fighters, who scored a stunning coup last week by assassinating four senior officials of Assad’s inner circle. The increased violence engulfing Damascus, the capital, has led some analysts to believe that the endgame in the long-running conflict could be near.
The EU warned of wider regional instability as a result of the battle for control of Syria, which is flanked by Turkey, Iran, Iraq and other Middle Eastern nations. European diplomats reaffirmed their support for a peace plan put forward by Kofi Annan, the United Nations special envoy, but that plan looks increasingly irrelevant.
-- Henry Chu
Photo: Foreign ministers from European Union countries met in Brussels on Monday. Credit: Georges Gobet / Agence France-Presse / Getty Images.