Over 60 countries step up sanctions against Syria

Diplomats from over 60 countries are meeting in The Hague to tighten the sanctions against the Syrian regime and improve their enforcement. This fourth meeting of the Friends of the Syrian People International Working Group on Sanctions is being hosted by foreign minister Uri Rosenthal and co-chaired by Canada and Tunisia.

In his opening address, Mr Rosenthal said: ‘By imposing sanctions we are sending an important message and helping to further isolate the regime. But sanctions will only have an impact if they are carried out effectively. That is how we can make a difference.’

The aim is to encourage more countries to impose sanctions. Ten new countries are participating in the meeting, including Colombia end New Zealand. Countries that already have sanctions in place are talking about expanding them. To make existing sanctions as effective as possible, ways are being sought of closing loopholes and improving cooperation between public authorities and the private sector. This includes compiling a list of government contact points in different countries where companies can obtain information.

Participants include all the EU countries, the United States, Canada, Australia, all the Gulf States, Jordan, Turkey and the Arab League. The Syrian Economic Taskforce is also represented.

Previous meetings of the Sanctions Working Group were held in Paris, Washington and Doha (Qatar). In The Hague, financial sanctions are receiving extra attention. Financial experts are being consulted, for example on how to prevent sanction evasion and identify suspect transactions.

Participants are also discussing how to encourage companies to stop doing business with the Syrian regime, for example by warning them of the damage to their reputation. The lifting of sanctions for defectors is also under consideration, though this does not mean that any crimes they have committed will be ignored.