EU threatens to slap more sanctions on Syria
BRUSSELS - European Union leaders are ready to slap more sanctions on Syria failing a halt in the regime's violence against dissenters, EU president Herman Van Rompuy said at the close of a summit Sunday.
EU leaders "expressed grave concern over continued brutality against the population in Syria," Van Rompuy said, adding that if the violence did not stop the bloc "will impose restrictive measures against the regime."
The EU earlier this month expressed support to Syria's opposition grouping while stopping short of official recognition.
It has issued several rounds of sanctions against the regime of President Bashar al-Assad, extending sanctions against members of his inner circle to banks and the oil sector.
The EU leaders also issued a fresh call to Assad to step aside and allow a political transition amid more reports of fatalities in a crackdown on dissent that has left more than 3,000 people dead.
The EU "condemns in the strongest terms the ongoing brutal repression led by the Syrian regime against its population," leaders said in a statement.
"President Assad must step aside to allow a political transition to take place in Syria," the statement added.
The EU also reiterated support to Syria's opposition grouping, while stopping short of official recognition, and urged "all members of the UN Security Council to assume their responsibilities in relation to the situation in Syria."
The statement said Europe's leadership "welcomes the efforts of the political opposition to establish a united platform. The creation of the Syrian National Council is a positive step forward."
In an eighth round of sanctions against the Syrian regime earlier this month, the EU targeted a Syrian commercial bank.
Last month, it banned delivery to Syria's central bank of bank notes and coins produced in the EU and prohibited European firms from making new investments in Syria's oil industry.
That measure aimed to bite hard following a ban on imports of Syrian crude to Europe. The continent buys 95 percent of Syria's oil exports, providing the regime with one-third of its hard currency earnings.