INTERNATIONAL. The European Union on Friday banned exports to Syria of luxury shoes, caviar and boats, as well as goods with possible military applications, in an effort to step up the pressure on President Bashar al-Assad's government and family.
The decision came as violence surges in Syria, despite an April 12 ceasefire negotiated by international mediator Kofi Annan and a range of sanctions by the European Union, United States and others against Damascus.
"In the current situation, the EU must keep up the pressure on the Syrian regime," EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said in a statement.
"EU sanctions target those responsible for the appalling repression and violence against the civilian population. We have carefully calibrated today's decisions to avoid affecting the Syrian people."
The new EU sanctions are designed partly to target the family of the Syrian president, in particular his wife Asma al-Assad, who is said to have continued shopping for luxury products during the conflict.
Emails she exchanged with her husband, obtained by Britain's Guardian newspaper, showed they were buying jewels and expensive furniture during the violence, and that she liked Chanel dresses and Christian Louboutin shoes.
The EU ban, which will go into effect on June 17, includes shoes costing more than 600 euros ($760), as well as jewellery, gems and pearls.
But it excludes non-luxury cars and other lower-priced items in order that diplomats and other foreigners on missions to Syria would not be overly affected, one EU diplomat said.
The European Union also banned export of caviar, truffles, and cigars costing more than 10 euros per item; wines and spirits over 50 euros per litre; and luxury vehicles, planes and boats costing more than 25,000 euros.
Also banned for export were protection equipment, such as gas masks and protective suits; chemicals that may be used to make toxic chemical agents; and certain pathogens, such as certain viruses, bacteria and toxins.
So far, the EU has imposed asset freezes and visa bans on 128 people responsible for or associated with the violent repression against Syria's civilian population, and an asset freeze on 43 companies and other entities.
EU foreign ministers are scheduled to meet in Luxembourg on June 25, when they are likely to add four entities and one person to the sanctions list, an EU diplomat said.
The United Nations says more than 10,000 people have been killed by government forces, while Syria says at least 2,600 members of the military and security forces have been killed by what it calls foreign-backed "Islamist terrorists."
Russia and China, both permanent members of the U.N. Security Council with veto power, have blocked efforts by Western powers to condemn Assad or call for his removal