THE HAGUE — The “Friends of Syria” group is to meet in the Netherlands next week to broaden the scope of sanctions and sharpen specific measures against the Damascus government, the Dutch foreign ministry said yesterday.
The September 20 meeting comes after the European Union agreed on Saturday on the need to beef up sanctions against President Bashar al Assad inner circle as the world struggles to resolve the bloody 18-month conflict.
“The meeting aims to adopt sanctions against Bashar al Assad’s government by a growing number of countries,” a ministry statement said.
“The application of such measures in the financial sector will be one of the main topics of discussion.”
Dutch Foreign Minister Uri Rosenthal will open the meeting, to be attended by “around 50 to 60 nations, including Syria’s neighbours and Arab League representatives,” the statement said.
“Sanctions, on top of humanitarian aid and support for the opposition, are an essential means to end the violence in Syria and allow for the start of a political process,” the statement said.
“Rosenthal hopes to increase the pressure on the Syrian government by broadening sanctions and by ensuring they are supported and applied by the most countries possible,” it added.
French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said on Saturday at EU talks in Cyprus that “if we want things to move, we must reinforce sanctions against the clan of Bashar al Assad.”
His Spanish counterpart Jose Manuel Garcia Margallo said there was “a general feeling that more pressure must be placed on the government in order to end the violence and enable the distribution of humanitarian aid throughout the country.”
More than 27,000 people have died since the uprising against the Assad government began in March last year, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. The United Nations puts the overall death toll at 20,000.
The international community has struggled to find common ground on ways to halt the bloodshed, with Russia and China vetoing three UN Security Council resolutions providing for sanctions against the Assad government. — AFP