Syria Sanctions: European Union Adopts New Visa Bans, Asset Freezes

05/14/2012 08:05 am ET | Updated Jul 14, 2012

BRUSSELS — The European Union imposed visa bans and asset freezes Monday on three new people associated with Syrian President Bashar Assad's regime – bringing to 128 the number of Assad supporters targeted by the bloc.

Michael Mann, spokesman for EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, said two Syrian entities were also added to the boycott list, which now includes 43 Syrian companies, banks and other organizations.

The new measures, the 15th round of EU sanctions against Assad's regime and its supporters, were adopted at a meeting of EU foreign ministers. The bloc will name the individuals and entities involved on Tuesday, Mann said.

The revolt in Syria began 14 months ago, and there are fears the unrest could lead to a regional conflagration that could draw in neighboring countries. The U.N. estimates the conflict has killed more than 9,000 people since March 2011.

Violence is undermining a U.N.-backed peace plan put forward by U.N.-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan, throwing into doubt the rest of the plan, which calls for talks between Assad's regime and those seeking to end his rule.

Ashton told reporters that the EU will continue to provide material support including vehicles and other equipment for the U.N. observers now in Syria under the plan. More than 100 observers have been deployed so far to oversee the truce between the government and armed rebels.

"We will continue to support (Annan) for as long as he wishes to continue with his mission," Ashton said. "For the moment, he believes this is the best way forward."

Swedish Foreign Minister Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt also said that despite the challenges, the international community must continue to back the cease-fire.

"With considerable difficulties (the Annan plan) is moving forward, but the alternative is rapid descent into civil war, which would be disastrous for Syria and the region," he said.

Some EU governments believed that imposing more sanctions at such a delicate time was detrimental for the peace plan, said an official who asked not to be named in line with standing rules.

But British Foreign Secretary William Hague said as long as the violence and repression continues, the EU will increase the pressure on the regime and its supporters.

The Assad "regime must implement rapidly and fully its commitments," Hague said. "This plan remains the best hope of ending the violence, but it is not open-ended and we will not hesitate to return to the U.N. Security Council if it is not implemented."

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AP Correspondent David Stringer in London contributed to this report.

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