SOPOT (POLAND): The European Union imposed a ban on purchases of Syrian oil on Saturday and targeted three Syrian firms in an expanded sanctions list meant to intensify pressure against President Bashar al-Assad’s government. The new round of sanctions against Syria marks the first time Europe has targeted Syrian industry as it seeks to cut off Assad’s access to funds and force him to end a five-month-old crackdown on pro-democracy protesters which the United Nations says has killed more than 2,000 civilians. Industry experts have said the 27-member bloc will have to overcome reluctance among some capitals, given that European firms like Anglo-Dutch Royal Dutch Shell and France’s Total are significant investors in Syria. The new sanctions target Syria’s Real Estate Bank, which provides mortgage finance, as well as Mada Transport and Cham Investment Group, two arms of a Syrian investment firm which the EU says provides funds to Assad’s government, according to the EU’s Official Journal.
Published in The Express Tribune, September 4th, 2011.