EU votes to ease oil sanctions on Syria

Monday 22 April 2013 23.11
Sanctions regime imposed following crackdown on pro-democracy protesters
Sanctions regime imposed following crackdown on pro-democracy protesters

European Union Foreign Ministers have voted to ease oil sanctions on Syria, with the aim of providing a financial boost to forces fighting President Bashar al-Assad.

Under the deal, European importers will be allowed to buy oil from Syria if authorised by representatives of the country's political opposition.

The agreement was reached in Luxembourg this afternoon.

Implementing the measure is expected to be complicated due to the catastrophic security situation on the ground and the damage inflicted on Syria's infrastructure.

Ministers are also examining the question of easing the arms embargo on Syria, although no decision will be taken until next month.

The sanctions regime was imposed in 2011, following Mr Assad's brutal crackdown on pro-democracy protestors.

Three types of transactions will be possible under the deal - importing Syrian oil and petroleum products; exporting EU oil and gas equipment to Syria; and investing in the Syrian oil industry.

However, before any deal can be done, talks have to be held with the Syrian National Coalition for Opposition and Revolutionary Forces.

The United Nations estimates that more than 70,000 people have been killed in the subsequent fighting.

At least 109 people have been documented as killed and up to 400 more are likely to have died in an almost week-long offensive by Assad forces on a suburb in Damascus, according to opposition activists.

The suburb of Jdeidet al-Fadel lies on the road from Damascus to the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights.

Its residents are Golan refugees and in the last year thousands of families from nearby areas took shelter in the town.