05/17/2019, 19.40
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European Union renews annual sanctions against Syria and Assad

EU sanctions target “Syrian regime and its supporters” for their ongoing repression of civilians. The sanctions regime covers 270 people and 70 entities. Oil is among the items under restrictions. In recent weeks, several Catholic figures criticised the sanctions against a people torn by conflict.

Damascus (AsiaNews/Agencies) – The Council of the European Union voted today to extend by a year (until 1 June 2020) sanctions imposed on Syria’s Assad regime and some of its leading figures.

The Council “decided to maintain its restrictive measures against the Syrian regime and its supporters as the repression of civilian population continues,” reads its statement. The names of five individuals who have died and two entities have been removed from the blacklist.

"The list now includes 270 persons and 70 entities targeted by a travel ban and an asset freeze for being responsible for the violent repression against the civilian population in Syria, benefiting from or supporting the regime, and/or being associated with such persons or entities."

EU sanctions were first imposed on 1 December 2011 and are subject to an annual review. They include an oil embargo, as well as "restrictions" on certain types of investments, a freeze on assets held by Syria’s central bank in the EU, and restrictions on exports to Syria of equipment and technology, such as those that could be used to monitor telephone and internet communications.

In recent weeks, AsiaNews heard the stories of a number Syrian Catholic religious (Trappist nuns in Azeir, the Maronite archbishop of Damascus and Aleppo Latin parish priest Fr Ibrahim Alsabagh), who all criticise European (and US) sanctions. Embargo and sanctions, Christian leaders note, only end up hurting civilians already battered by eight years of conflict.

European sanctions are compounded by those imposed by the United States against Syrian leaders and the Assad family, whose aim is regime change.

As a result of US sanctions, fuel imports are impossible and transport is paralysed. Going to school and university is hard, and patients are hard pressed to see a doctor. Although drugs and hospitals are not included in the embargo, health workers are idle and equipment is not used for lack of spare parts.

Sanctions come on top of the war and its devastations: almost half a million dead, more than three million permanently disabled, about 11 million – almost half of the population – forced to leave their homes. Over 80 per cent of Syrians live in extreme poverty, with less than two dollars a day.

Since 2009, just under 60 per cent of Syrian businesses have moved abroad with the net result that unemployment jumped from 10 per cent in 2010 to more than 50 per cent in 2015. GDP losses between 2011 and 2016 totalled US$ 226 billion.

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