Foreign minister Villy Søvndal (Socialistisk Folkeparti) has expressed his approval of an intensified EU arms embargo against the Syrian government. Søvndal was interviewed following a meeting of 27 EU foreign ministers to discuss a clampdown on President Bashar al-Assad.
“It is essential that we act decisively against the regime’s continued violence and atrocities against its own population, Søvndal said. “It is unacceptable that they use highly destructive weapons in densely populated areas.”
The ministers also decided to ban 26 more people considered to be part of Assad’s inner circle from entering the EU. Assets belonging to the 26 would be frozen, along with the assets of three more companies. That brings the total EU Syrian blacklist to 155 individuals and 52 companies.
In addition, EU members can now inspect ships at sea if they suspect them of carring weapons bound for Syria; previously, it was only possible to conduct such inspections when ships were docked at a port in an EU country.
Søvndal also said that he regretted the decision by China and Russia to use their veto power to block similar sanctions in the United Nations Security Council. He felt UN sanctions would help ratchet up the pressure on the Syrian government to end the 16-month conflict now widely considered to be a full blown civil war.
Many observers have expressed the fear that Assad was preparing to use chemical weapons against the rebels. On Monday, a spokesperson for the Syrian foreign ministry appeared on state TV and said that the regime would only use them in the case of what he called “external aggression” from other countries.
“Syria will never use chemical weapons against Syrians,” said the spokesperson
Søvndal said he hoped the regime would keep that promise, but cautioned that “a regime that tortures its own people and clears out neighbourhoods by executing the residents has indeed shown that it is willing to go very far”.
A Syrian human rights group reported that fighting had started again on Monday in the conflict that has thus far resulted in the deaths of 19,000 people.