Syrian FM slams 'colonial' EU sanctions
DAMASCUS - The EU "erred" in imposing sanctions on Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and his top aides on Monday, Foreign Minister Walid Muallem said, branding the measures a new "black page" in Europe's history.
"They erred when they attacked the president and when they adopted sanctions that harm the Syrian people," a sombre-looking Muallem said in an interview on state television.
"Today, the Europeans have added a black page to their record of colonialism in the region," he said.
"Europe needs us as we need them," Muallem said. "These measures will harm Syria's interests as they will those of Europe and Syria will not remain silent to this."
He said Israel stood to benefit most from sanctions imposed on his country by the EU as well as the United States and dismissed any prospect of a foreign intervention in Syria.
"They are inciting violence ... and are preventing attempts by the government to pursue reforms in order to improve the quality of life for citizens," Muallem said.
"They want Syria to bleed because Syria is a difficult equation in the face of their plans and Israel's expansionist project."
The EU sanctions on Assad include an assets freeze and travel ban, in response to his regime's harsh crackdown on pro-democracy protests which activists say have left more than 900 people dead.
The sanctions came following similar measures imposed by the United States and amid mounting calls by the international community for Assad's authoritarian regime to stop the violence.
Muallem appealed for Syrians to unite and stressed that Assad would remain at the helm as he pushes ahead with economic and political reforms.
The Syrian foreign minister slammed Washington, saying its military interventions in the region had left behind a path of destruction.
"In any area where they meddled militarily, they destroyed infrastructure and their companies then came in to rebuild and take advantage of oil resources," he said, referring to Iraq.
"We don't have an attractive amount of oil for them to think of a (military) intervention."
Syria's state news agency SANA earlier also denounced the sanctions, saying they amounted to meddling in Syria's internal affairs and sought to destabilise the country.
"Syria denounces sanctions by the European Union against its people at a time when it is seeking to preserve its security and to implement a national dialogue as part of reforms," SANA said.
SANA singled out Britain and France for criticism, accusing them of playing a key role in pushing through the sanctions.
"Britain and France, the two old colonial powers ... have played a key role in putting out these sanctions without any regard for security, the interest of the Syrian people or those in the region," it said.
"Syria confirms its determination to follow through with reforms while at the same time reaffirming its intention to make independent decisions and underlining its sovereignty."