BRUSSELS -- The European Union is prolonging for another year its sanctions against Syrian President Bashar Assad and other top political officials, military officers and business people over the regime's continued crackdown on civilians in the conflict-torn country.
The European Council, headquarters of the 27 EU countries, said in a statement Thursday that the sanctions would be extended until June 1, 2021, more than a decade after the conflict began, “as the repression of the civilian population continues.”
“The Syrian people have had to draw on extraordinary reserves of resilience,” EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said, and he added that the bloc “remains committed to use every tool at its disposal to push for a political solution to the conflict that would benefit all Syrians and put an end to the ongoing repression.”
The Syrian conflict is now in its 10th year. The United Nations says that over half the population has been forced to flee their homes, more than 11 million people — nearly 5 million of them children — need humanitarian assistance, and almost eight million people don’t have reliable access to food.
Eight out of 10 Syrians live below the poverty line, making less than $100 a month, and the country is mired in an economic crisis. Syria’s currency has spiraled downward, sending prices of basic commodities soaring. Economic activity is also being hurt by restrictions imposed to combat the coronavirus.
The EU first imposed its sanctions in May 2011. They include travel bans, asset freezes and measures targeting operations like oil imports, certain investments, and the trade in equipment that could be used for any crackdown on civilians.
The sanctions list now includes 273 people, including members of Assad’s family, close associates and top military brass, and 70 “entities” like organizations and companies. The EU says the measures are designed to avoid hindering the delivery of humanitarian aid. No food or medical equipment are targeted.