Last updated: 1 September, 2011

EU to adopt Syria oil embargo on Friday

The European Union will formally adopt a ban on Syrian oil imports Friday, but the embargo will take effect on November 15 for existing contracts after Italy insisted on a delay, according to diplomats.

The EU will also expand its list of people targeted by an assets freeze and travel ban, adding four businessmen accused of bankrolling the regime of President Bashar al-Assad, the diplomats told AFP Thursday.

And three companies, including a bank, will see their assets in the EU frozen as punishment for the regime’s deadly repression of protesters, the sources said on condition of anonymity.

The announcement of the oil embargo will coincide with a key meeting of EU foreign ministers in Poland. The measure will deprive Assad’s regime of a vital source of cash, as the EU buys 95 percent of Syria’s crude oil.

“These measures must be validated by European governments on Friday,” one diplomat said, after the EU reached a preliminary agreement on Monday.

Rome obtained a delay in the application of the sanctions for existing supply contracts between European companies and Syria’s two national energy firms, Syria Petroleum and Sytrol, the diplomats said.

“The Italians insisted for a delay so as not to disrupt (European importers) too much,” one diplomat said. Italy originally wanted the sanctions delayed until November 30, but November 15 was agreed as a compromise.

The EU also put off a decision on whether to ban investments in the oil sector, but such a measure could be enacted in a future set of sanctions, the diplomats said.

Some 50 people are already named in the EU’s sanctions list, including Assad and three Iranian officials accused of supporting his government. Eight Syrian and Iranian firms or organisations are also blacklisted.