Skip to main content

EU slams Syria's al-Assad, slaps sanctions on Iran

By the CNN Wire Staff
updated 12:05 PM EDT, Mon October 10, 2011
Syrians demonstrate in support of President Bashar al-Assad (poster) in central Damascus on August 23, 2011.
Syrians demonstrate in support of President Bashar al-Assad (poster) in central Damascus on August 23, 2011.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: The European Union expands sanctions against Iran over human rights
  • EU ministers accuse Syria of possible crimes against humanity
  • They extend sanctions against Belarus for its crackdown on the opposition
  • Libya and Yemen are also on the agenda

(CNN) -- Syria's President Bashar al-Assad "must step aside," European Union foreign ministers said in a blistering statement Monday, adding the Syrian government's crackdown on anti-government protesters may amount to crimes against humanity.

The EU also expanded sanctions on Iran and Belarus to protest their crackdowns on their citizens, it announced.

But the 27 foreign ministers of the union reserved their sharpest criticism for Syria and its president.

"The EU condemns in the strongest possible terms the ongoing brutal repression led by the Syrian regime," they said after a meeting in Luxembourg.

Syria's leader must resign "to allow a political transition to take place in Syria," they said.

And they welcomed the creation of the umbrella opposition Syrian National Council, a day after Syria's foreign minister warned other nations against recognizing it.

Syrian activists burn Russia, China flag
Syria woman feared dead turns up alive
U.S, Europe frustrated by U.N. failed vote

The ministers said they were "deeply disappointed" that the United Nations Security Council failed to increase sanctions on Syria -- a milder statement than had been expected.

EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said the union would continue to press for strong action on Syria.

The harsh words on Syria follow last week's failure by the U.N. Security Council to agree on a resolution calling for an immediate end to a military crackdown against opponents of President al-Assad.

China and Russia opposed the resolution, which was supported by the EU's Great Britain and France as well as the United States.

Al-Assad has been under international pressure to end a seven-month crackdown on demonstrators calling for the end to his regime.

The European Union has slapped Syria with a number of sanctions, including barring the import of Syrian oil and banning the delivery of Syrian currency produced in the EU to the Syrian Central Bank. It also has placed travel restrictions on and frozen the assets of officials it says are involved in the attacks on the opposition.

The European Union is also expanding its sanctions on Iran in light of "growing concern about the human rights situation" there, Ashton announced Monday.

She expressed concern about "repression of citizens and human rights defenders, journalists, women activists, minority groups, members of the opposition."

She called on Iran to "fully respect the rights of their people."

Iran was already under EU economic and trade sanctions related to its nuclear program.

Ashton said the union was continuing to talk to Tehran about its controversial nuclear ambitions.

The EU also renewed and expanded sanctions on Belarus.

Nearly 200 people were already subject to an asset freeze and travel ban over the "crackdown on civil society and democratic opposition" after the last two presidential elections.

The EU added three companies and 16 individuals to the list of those facing restrictions, and it extended the existing restrictions until the end of October 2012, it announced. It is expected to name them on Tuesday.

The ministers extended the visa ban and asset freeze on 192 people in Belarus who the EU maintains are responsible for political repression and "violations of the international electoral standards" in the former Soviet republic's 2006 and 2010 presidential elections.

The sanctions were imposed against Belarus following the December 2010 presidential election that saw the re-election of President Alexander Lukashenko amid allegations of widespread electoral fraud.

The government cracked down on mass protests following the election, including the beating and jailing of former presidential candidate Uladzimir Nyaklyaeu. Other political figures and journalists also were jailed.

The ministers also expressed support for Libya's interim government.

Ashton said the existing EU office in Tripoli would soon become "a fully-fledged EU delegation."

CNN's Chelsea J. Carter contributed to this report.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
Syrian crisis
updated 8:43 AM EDT, Thu June 26, 2014
Jihadists have kidnapped over 140 Kurdish boys to "brainwash" them. But a few boys made a daring escape.
updated 8:48 AM EDT, Thu June 26, 2014
Reports that Syrian warplanes carried out a cross-border attack on Iraqi towns is further evidence of the blurring of the two countries' borders.
updated 5:33 PM EDT, Tue June 24, 2014
CNN's Atika Shubert speaks to a father whose teenage son joined the Jihad movement in Syria.
updated 7:41 AM EDT, Mon June 23, 2014
At the start of Syria's civil unrest, Omar would rally against the government alongside his schoolmates, later taking to the streets in his hometown of Salqin.
updated 5:17 PM EDT, Mon June 23, 2014
Atika Shubert looks at the rise of European jihadists traveling to Syria and whether they soon could join ISIS in Iraq.
updated 10:53 AM EDT, Mon June 23, 2014
The final stockpile of Syria's chemical weapons has been shipped out of the country, according to the OPCW, the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons.
updated 4:25 PM EDT, Wed June 25, 2014
The US isn't doing airstrikes in Iraq. Is there a vacuum for Syria and Iran to step in? CNN's Fareed Zakaria weighs in.
updated 4:04 AM EDT, Tue June 10, 2014
CNN's Nick Paton Walsh reports on Syrian rebels using underground explosions against the better-equipped regime.
updated 7:51 AM EDT, Mon June 9, 2014
CNN's Nick Paton Walsh returns to the besieged rebel areas of Aleppo, a pale skeleton of a city that has had the life bombed out of it.
updated 7:51 AM EDT, Mon June 2, 2014
Syria may be embroiled in a brutal three-year civil war, but that's not stopping the government from holding presidential elections.
updated 7:23 AM EDT, Tue June 3, 2014
CNN's Nick Paton Walsh meets an ISIS defector in hiding and gets a rare look into the group's recruitment process.
updated 12:10 PM EDT, Thu June 5, 2014
Over a thousand Syrian refugees have turned an abandoned shopping mall in Lebanon into makeshift living quarters.
updated 5:19 PM EDT, Wed May 28, 2014
What caught our experts' ears was as much about what he didn't address as much as what he did.
updated 6:19 AM EDT, Tue May 20, 2014
The three-year war in Syria has claimed 162,402 lives, an opposition group said Monday, as the raging conflict shows no signs of abating.
updated 9:41 PM EDT, Fri May 30, 2014
Official: The U.S. believes a jihadi featured in a suicide bombing video in Syria is Moner Mohammad Abu-Salha who grew up in Florida.
updated 10:37 AM EDT, Tue May 20, 2014
For the first time, Britain has convicted someone of a terrorism offense related to the Syrian civil war.
ADVERTISEMENT