Conflict & Justice

Australia slaps new sanctions on Syria ahead of EU meeting


A Syrian refugee stands on June 20, 2012 at the Kilis refugee camp near the Syrian border.


Adem Altan

Australia has announced it will slap new sanctions on Syria ahead of an EU foreign ministers meeting in Luxembourg today, which is also expected to impose sanctions on Assad's regime. 

The Australian sanctions restricting or prohibiting trade in oil and financial services are designed to increase pressure on President Bashar al-Assad's regime to end bloodshed in the country, Agence France-Presse wrote.

The Australian Associated Press cited Syrian activists as saying another 40 people were killed in violence around Syria yesterday.

According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, more than 15,000 people, mostly civilians, have been killed since the uprising against Assad's rule began in March 2011.

Assad has refused to abide by a six-point peace plan proposed by UN-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan.

The US has already imposed sanctions on Syria, as has the EU. The Australian sanctions would add to an existing arms embargo and expand the list of members of Syria's regime who have had financial and travel restrictions placed on them.

When Australia expelled Syrian diplomats in late May, several other countries followed suit, Fox reported.

"The Assad regime continues to show its unwillingness to negotiate a cease-fire and bring an end to Syria's bloodshed," Australia's Foreign Minister Bob Carr said in announcing the sanctions.

"These sanctions reflect Australia's condemnation of the Assad regime, and our continued efforts to help bring Syria to the negotiating table."

According to the Fairfax media, the Australian sanctions will have minimal if any direct impact.

Australia's total trade with Syria in 2011 totaled about $18 million and was made up mainly of pulp and paperboard, dairy products, and plastic, and an unspecified amount of natural resources.

Australian imports from Syria include vegetables, vegetable oils and fats and aluminum, Fairfax reported.

However, according to the AAP, Carr said Australia would continue to push for unified international action through the United Nations and would also consider additional humanitarian assistance for the Syrian people.

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