As a volatile situation in Syria remains deadly with at least 14 protesters killed on Friday, the Council of the European Union has tightened sanctions against the Middle East country by imposing a ban on imports of oil and petroleum products from there.
An EU ban on the purchase of Syrian oil, which took effect Saturday is considered the most strict action taken so far against Syria and its leader, Bashar Assad, and action is likely to have serious ramifications across the globe.
Of Syria’s 370,000 barrels of oil per day production, about 150,000 is exported, with around 95 percent of it headed to Europe. Syria’s oil exports comprise around one-third of its export income. Among the major European oil companies strongly connected to Syrian oil are Anglo-Dutch Royal Shell, Total SA of France and Hungary’s MOL Nyrt.
The ban also includes insurance and financial services connected to EU-Syrian oil transactions.
Late last month the Council expanded its list of those associated with the repressive government, freezing assets and imposing visa bans on an additional 15 persons, four Syrian government agencies and the IRGC Qods Force, a special branch of the Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guar Corps. The list (pdf) had already targeted some 35 individuals and four entities.
“It's an important step and an indication that the EU and U.S. might consider other measures to isolate Assad. But sanctions have a limited effect on what could happen in Syria,” said Ayham Kamel, an analyst with the Eurasia Group, according to the Wall Street Journal.
On Saturday, Russia condemned the oil sanctions, and Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said they would “lead to nothing good,” BBC reports. “This ruins the partnership approach to any crisis.” It is anticipated Syria will begin looking toward Asian markets to replace lost revenues from the EU.
Human rights violations remain ongoing in Syria, with the violence claiming the lives of at least 14 marchers on Friday, with seven dead in the capital of Damascus, four dead in Homs, and three more in Deir al-Zour.
Three more civilians were killed Sunday by Syrian security forces on Sunday. Syria has placed severe restrictions on the international journalism community, making it virtually impossible to verify eye-witness and activist accounts.
Since protests began in Syria in mid-March, at least 2,200 people have been killed in the government’s ongoing crackdown against pro-democracy demonstrations.
Assad took control of Syria in 2000 and many saw him as a fresh, young face in a country of old dictators, but this year’s social uprisings across the Middle East have led his government to impose deadly actions against protesters, with calls for his resignation ringing across the globe.
“Power is an aphrodisiac, and as the old saying goes, it corrupts absolutely,” said David Lesch, author of a 2005 biography on Assad and an American expert on Syrian relations, Huffington Post reports “In the end, he became more of a product of his environment rather than a transformational figure who could change that environment.”