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Ban on Syrian oil: EU tightens the noose

The EU announced the embargo on oil imports amid the continued repression of pro-democracy forces in Syria. Western diplomats see renewed efforts at the UN to adopt a resolution on sanctions.

By Staff writer / September 2, 2011

Participiants pose for a family photo at the Informal Meeting for Ministers of Foreign Affairs (GYMNICH) in Sopot, northern Poland on Friday, Sept. 2.

Kacper Pempel/Reuters

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Washington

Offering another sign of the international community’s tightening noose on the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, the European Union on Friday announced an embargo on all imports of Syrian oil.

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The move will not be music to the ears of Mr. Assad, whose coffers rely on the proceeds from about 150,000 barrels of exported oil a day, most of which goes to Europe.

The EU imposed its oil import ban as Western diplomats suggested that Assad’s continuing repression of pro-democracy forces in Syria was resurrecting efforts to adopt a United Nations resolution of international sanctions against Syria. French officials said Friday that another try at approving a Syria resolution would be launched in the coming days.

Earlier hopes of international action against Syria were dashed when China and Russia, both veto-wielding members of the UN Security Council, balked at a proposed sanctions resolution. Instead, the council in early August adopted a weaker “presidential statement” that condemned the Syrian state’s violence against its own people but included no punitive measures.

One reason for renewed optimism over prospects for a UN resolution was the stark reality that Assad has neither curtailed the state-sponsored violence nor proceeded with promised political reforms.

In an interview with the BBC Friday, British Prime Minister David Cameron noted that Arab leaders who had earlier shown no interest in condemning Assad were now realizing that the intransigent Syrian leader was in growing peril.

Mr. Cameron said a number of Arab leaders he spoke with at an international conference on Libya in Paris Thursday “are toughening their stance because they realize that what he is doing is appalling. They realize that he had a chance to demonstrate he was in favor of reform,” he added, “and he has completely failed to do that.”

Also last week, Turkish President Abdullah Gul, who had for weeks attempted to engage Assad and encouraged him to proceed with political reforms, said he had “lost confidence” in the Syrian leader and that any efforts now would be “too little too late.”

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