A Syrian rebel runs in a street of Selehattin, near Aleppo, during an attack on the municipal building on July 23. Syrian rebels "liberated" several districts of the northern city of Aleppo, a Free Syrian Army spokesman in the country's commercial hub said. (Bulent Kilic / AFP via Getty)
BRUSSELS — European Union foreign ministers have bolstered their arms embargo against Syria.
“We have strengthened the enforcement of the EU arms embargo against Syria. European Union countries will be obliged to inspect vessels and aircraft heading to Syria if they suspect the cargo contains arms or equipment for internal repression. It applies in member states’ seaports and airports, as well as in their territorial waters, in accordance with international law,” said the EU’s foreign affairs chief, Catherine Ashton, at a July 23 meeting. “It will come into force on Wednesday this week.”
“Items that may not be exported to Syria under EU law must be seized. In addition, aircraft and vessels heading to Syria will have to provide additional pre-arrival and pre-departure information on their cargo,” said council conclusions.
An EU embargo on exporting to Syria arms and equipment used for internal repression has been in place since May 2011. There is also a ban on providing grants, loans, export credit insurance, technical assistance, insurance and reinsurance for exports of arms and of equipment for internal repression.
EU foreign affairs ministers also said the EU is concerned about the potential use of chemical weapons in Syria. They also urged the Syrian regime to end immediately the killing of civilians, withdraw the Army from besieged towns and cities, and allow for a peaceful transition.
They expressed concern about how the Syrian crisis could spill over into bordering countries and called on the Syrian regime to respect the territorial integrity of its neighbors.
In another development, the EU designated new persons and entities to be subject to restrictive measures, in particular members of the Syrian Army and the intelligence and security services directly involved in the repression of the civilian population.
Separately, four countries — Italy, Poland, Spain and Sweden — will put together proposals for a global strategy for the EU, with input from think tanks and civil society, by the spring of 2013. Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt said the focus was on 2014 and beyond. The EU’s security strategies of 2003 and 2008 are dominated by threats, he said. “We want to look at opportunities, too.”