The European Union on Monday slapped new sanctions on the regime of President Bashar al-Assad in Syria over its continued repression of the opposition and pro-democracy activists in the unrest-hit Middle East nation.
In response to the escalating violence in Syria, the European Council on Monday froze the assets of six entities supporting the Assad regime and targeted one additional person with a travel ban and an asset freeze.
EU's sixteenth round of sanctions on Assad's regime since the popular uprising began in March 2011 brings the total number of persons subject to EU sanctions to 129. Also, 49 entities are now affected by an EU asset freeze.
"I am gravely concerned by the escalating violence in Syria. As long as the repression continues, the EU will continue imposing sanctions against the regime. They target those responsible for the violence, not the civilian population," EU's foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said in a statement.
The latest legal acts by the European bloc against the Syrian regime, including the list of additional designations, will come into force once published in the EU Official Journal of June 26, 2012.
The development come just days after Syrian forces shot down a Turkish military reconnaissance jet on June 22. Search operations are still continuing to trace the two pilots missing after Friday's incident. Although Ankara insists that the incident took place in international air space, the Syrian government claims that the targeted aircraft had violated its air space.
Earlier in the day, Ashton had expressed the European Union's concerns over the aircraft downing incident and said she hoped Turkey would be "restrained" in its response.
Incidentally, Turkey is a NATO member awaiting entry into the EU. Although Turkey has not demanded a military response from the western alliance over the incident, NATO ambassadors are due to meet at Ankara's request on June 26 for consultations.
Also, the Turkish Cabinet is due to discuss the crisis late on Monday, a day before NATO envoys in Brussels meet to consider their response. Turkey has invoked Article 4 of NATO's charter, under which consultations can be requested when an ally feels its security is threatened.
Turkey has so far openly supported the Opposition-backed Free Syria Army, an armed rebel group largely made up of army defectors. Turkey claims that several high-ranking Syrian military officials as well as dozens of soldiers have defected to the country in recent weeks.
The UN estimates that more than 10,000 people have been killed in Syria since the uprising against the regime of President Bashar al-Assad broke out 15 months ago. Nonetheless, the Opposition claims that the actual death toll to be much higher.
The Assad government continues to blame "armed terrorist gangs" backed by Islamists and foreign mercenaries for the violence. Assad came to power in Syria eleven years ago after the death of his father Hafez al-Assad, who ruled the Middle East country with an iron fist for more than three decades.
by RTT Staff Writer
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