EU agrees on new financial sanctions on Syria

Syrian banks will be banned from operating in Europe; France invites Turkey to participate in EU meeting to approve measures.

European Union leaders Sarkozy, Merkel 311 (R) (photo credit: REUTERS/Thierry Roge)
European Union leaders Sarkozy, Merkel 311 (R)
(photo credit: REUTERS/Thierry Roge)
European Union governments agreed on Monday to impose additional financial sanctions on the government of Syrian President Bashar Assad over a crackdown on pro-democracy protests, an EU diplomat said.
The new measures include a ban on long-term financial support for trade, excluding food and medicine, and on loans to the government, both bilateral and through international financial institutions.
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France asked its European Union partners to invite non-member Turkey to this week's foreign ministers' meeting in Brussels on Thursday to discuss the next steps in dealing with Syria's crackdown on anti-government protests.
"We have proposed that Turkey be invited to the foreign affairs meeting to discuss the situation in Syria. This invitation, which is extremely important in our eyes, is being considered in Brussels," said a French Foreign Ministry statement.
Under the new measures, to be approved formally at Thursday's meeting, EU companies will also be prohibited from trading in Syrian state debt.
Banks from Syria will also be banned from opening branches in EU countries or investing in European banks.
"All these measures are aimed at cutting off the financial flows to the Syrian government," said the diplomat, speaking on condition of anonymity.
The decision will also extend the list of people, institutions and companies targeted by EU asset freezes and travel bans by 12 persons and at least 11 entities.
Earlier Monday the EU welcomed unprecedented Arab League sanctions imposed on Syria, casting them as a response to the "brutality and unwillingness to change course" of the Damascus government.
"We welcome and support the decision taken by the Arab League," said Maja Kocijancic, spokeswoman for EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton.
"Sanctions by the Arab League as well as the restrictive measures applied by the EU are a reaction to the regime's brutality and unwillingness to chance course," she said.
In an interview with French Info radio, French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe said Monday that the Syrian regime's days are "numbered."
Juppe added that efforts to stop the killing of Syrian protesters are moving slowly. However, thanks largely to Arab League sanctions, they are making progress. "The Arab League, which carries considerable political weight, has just decided on some sanctions which will isolate the Syrian regime a bit more."
The Arab League suspended Syria's membership in the organization earlier in the month, and on Sunday
agreed to impose economic measures on the Damascus-based regime. The sanctions - the toughest against a member state - include a travel ban on top Syrian officials and a freeze on assets related to the President Bashar Assad's government.