EU imposes fresh sanctions on Syria
Published Monday, October 15, 2012
The European Union imposed fresh sanctions against President Bashar al-Assad's regime Monday while expressing concern over growing tensions between Syria and Turkey.
German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle called for moderation between the two neighbors, warning that "the danger of a massive spillover in the region is on the rise."
The EU, responding to pleas from Turkey to help it cope with an influx of more than 100,000 Syrian refugees, pledged to continue assisting but made no offer to take them in.
As violence intensified in Syria, the EU agreed on an assets freeze and travel ban against 28 Syrians and two firms, the bloc's 19th round of restrictive measures against the Assad regime since the start of the conflict in March last year.
Diplomats said the sanctions target people linked to violence against protesters, or firms accused of supplying equipment used by the regime to repress a protest movement now entering its 20th month.
The latest sanctions bring to 181 the number of people and to 54 the number of companies on an EU blacklist, many of them members of Assad's inner circle.
The new measures were accompanied by a ban on EU residents buying, shipping, insuring or assisting in any way Syrian companies that trade or transport arms.
UN envoy seeks truce
Meanwhile, the UN's peace envoy Lakhdar Brahimi appealed to Iran to help arrange a ceasefire in Syria during the Islamic holiday of Eid al-Adha as rebels and government forces continue to fight street by street and village by village.
Brahimi made the request in talks with Iranian leaders on Sunday in Tehran, Assad's closest regional ally in his campaign to crush the uprising.
The veteran Algerian diplomat said the civil war in Syria was getting worse by the day and stressed the urgent need to stop the bloodshed, his spokesman said on Monday.
He suggested the truce be held during the Eid holiday, which starts around October 25 and lasts several days. It would "help create an environment that would allow a political process to develop."
There was no immediate response from either side and with fighting raging on Monday in several Syrian cities and in the countryside, it was not clear if they would want to put the brakes on any battlefield advantages.
Rebel-held districts in northeast Aleppo, al-Shaar and Karm al-Jabal, came under heavy bombardment from government forces on Monday, the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.
The pro-opposition group also reported fierce clashes in the district of Jdeideh, just north of the ancient citadel in Syria's biggest city.
Syrian television showed footage of soldiers inside Aleppo's Great Mosque, which dates back to the 8th century and was badly damaged in fighting between government forces and rebels battling for control of the Old City.
The mosque's medieval arches were charred, its elaborate wooden panels smashed and metal filigree lanterns lay broken in the courtyard. The sound of nearby gunfire could be heard.
Assad issued a decree on Monday establishing a committee to restore the mosque, though it was not clear how that would happen with fighting still raging in Aleppo.
In northwestern Idlib province, government warplanes bombed several towns on Monday, the Observatory said.
Rebels said they had surrounded an army garrison on Sunday close to a northwestern town in the latest push to seize more territory near the border with Turkey.
Several hundred soldiers were trapped in the siege of a base in Urum al-Sughra, on the main road between Aleppo, Syria's commercial and industrial hub, and Turkey.
Government forces still control the city of Idlib on a main highway linking Aleppo to the port of Latakia, making the route an important rebel target.
On the border with Turkey's Hatay province, the rebels appeared to have a tentative hold after four days of heavy fighting in the town of Azmarin and surrounding villages.
Refugee numbers rise
The UN recently estimated that over 340,000 Syrians have fled their homes and are taking refuge in bordering countries since the uprising began.
Turkey's disaster management agency said on Monday the number of Syrian refugees housed in camps in southern Turkey has exceeded 100,000, reaching the limits of its ability to cope.
Jordan said Monday it is planning to open a second camp for Syrian refugees, whose numbers are expected to climb to 250,000 by the year's end.
Government spokesman for Syrian refugee affairs Anmar Hmoud said the proposed site is at Marajeeb al-Fahood, 27 miles (44 kilometers) east of the capital Amman. He did not say when it would open.
Hmoud said that the new camp could initially house 5,000 but expand to hold 45,000 residents.
(Reuters, AFP, AP, Al-Akhbar)