Western powers back off from sanctions call on Syria | Pakistan Today

Western powers back off from sanctions call on Syria

Western powers dropped calls for sanctions against Damascus at the UN Security Council in the face of veto threats from China and Russia, even as existing curbs began to impact Syria’s economy.
A new draft resolution drawn up by Britain, France, Germany and Portugal, with US backing, threatens to adopt sanctions if the deadly crackdown by Syrian forces on anti-regime protesters does not end.
The formulation was aimed at overcoming opposition from Russia and China, who have threatened to veto any sanctions resolution brought to the council, which has so far only agreed one statement on the crackdown since mid-March.
“There is a need for a strong Security Council response to the repression,” said one European diplomat explaining the resolution.
“There are hopes that this resolution can quickly get a majority in favour on the council,” said a diplomat from a second council member.
The European Union has in the past week tightened the screws on President Bashar al-Assad’s regime, banning new investments in Syria’s oil sector at home and abroad, and prohibiting delivery of bank notes to the central bank.
The latest measures marked a seventh round of EU sanctions on Damascus for its refusal to halt a brutal crackdown on protest in which 2,700 people have already been killed according to the United Nations. It has also listed 56 Syrians and 18 entities subject to travel bans and asset freezes.
Washington for its part has imposed three sets of punitive measures on Assad and top government officials while President Barack Obama has called on Assad to step down.
The measures are already having an effect, with the Damascus government surprising the world last Thursday by announcing the temporary suspension of imports of products that are subject to tariffs of more than five percent.
The curbs have sent prices of cars, furniture, clothes, household appliances and certain foodstuffs rocketing, with consumers complaining they will have to make do with locally-produced goods.
Syrian central bank governor Adib Mayaleh told AFP the import restrictions would save Syria $6 billion (4.4 billion euros) annually.
“This is a precautionary measure to protect our currency reserves, which are currently more than $17 billion,” he said.
The unrest rocking the country has slowed economic activity, with analysts predicting negative economic growth in 2011 as a result of a decline in tourism and investment.
Rights groups said violence on the ground was continuing.
Syrian forces killed at least six civilians in raids on dissidents Tuesday, the London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.
“Three civilians were killed and seven others were injured during an assault by the army and security agents against the Homs district of Bayada,” it said.
Powerful guns, some mounted on tanks, were turned on people in Rastan, Talbisseh and Tir Maala, all in central Homs province, the Observatory added.
“This is a regime that remains determined to control every significant aspect of political life in Syria,” Collis wrote.
“It is used to power. And it will do anything to keep it.”
Damascus does not accept the existence of popular opposition to the authorities, instead blaming “armed gangs” and “terrorists” for trying to sow chaos.
On Monday, Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem, speaking at the annual UN General Assembly, accused foreign governments of trying to undermine the co-existence among Syria’s different religious groups and of seeking to create “total chaos that would dismember Syria.”

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