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EU Foreign Ministers Slap More Sanctions on Syria

EU foreign ministers have slapped more sanctions on Syria after a meeting in Luxembourg, including a ban on the export of further goods and technology which could be used to produce chemical or biological weapons.

The foreign ministers gave their full support to the deployment of a UN Supervision Mission in Syria (UNSMIS) of up to 300 unarmed observers, said UK Foreign Secretary William Hague.

"We supported the unanimous call from the UN Security Council for the Assad regime to end immediately its use of violence against civilians and implement fully its commitments under Kofi Annan’s Plan. Recent reports of the continuing use of brutal military force are deeply concerning and it is vital the EU and its international partners keep up the pressure on Syria until we see a visible and sustained change in the regime’s use of military force, and implementation of the Annan Plan," said Hague.

“Despite the urgent need for Assad to end the violence immediately, he and his close supporters continue to lead comfortable lives. Today the EU has also agreed to ban the export of luxury goods to Syria," he added.

The UK will continue to push for the EU and international partners to maintain the pressure on the Syrian regime, including through the Friends of Syria group, said Hague.

A ceasefire was begun on April 12th, but has been marred by reports of shelling by government troops in the city of Homs.

Embassies Closed

Turkey has recalled Ambassador Omer Onhon from Damascus, Syria, and suspended all diplomatic operations in the country amid shelling and violence between President Bashar al Assad's troops and armed protestors. Other countries, including the UK and USA, have already closed their embassies, fearing attacks on their staff as the violence worsens.

Existing sanctions include an oil embargo, a freeze on the Syrian central ban assets and the EU is resolved to continue restricting Assad's regime as long as the repression continues.

Several foreign journalists and an estimated 9000 Syrians have been killed in anti-government demonstrations that over the last year have turned into a civil war. At the end of February 2012, the EU formally recognised the Syrian National Council and urged the Arab League to work with it for an orderly and peaceful transition to a democratic, stable Syria.

The situation has worsened in Syria since the beginning of the year and in March and April the city of Homs has come under heavy attack from military forces. Respected US war reporter Marie Colvin and photographer Remi Ochlik were killed during the rocket attacks in Homs in February.

Although the UK and EU have been pushing for a regime change in Syria, their efforts have been resisted by Syrian allies Russia and China which have blocked two successive UN Security Council resolutions essentially calling for Assad's replacement. But the conflict continued even after the country was kicked out of the Arab League and President Bashar al-Assad's relations with the international community are going from bad to worse. Assad's crackdown on his political opposition has resulted in the deaths of many civilians and children, a fact that has been deplored by the UN and international leaders.

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