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EU pushes for effective sanctions on Syria

(Xinhua)

09:32, September 22, 2012

THE HAGUE, Sept. 21 (Xinhua) -- The international diplomatic collective Friends of the Syria gathered in Scheveningen on Thursday to talk about strengthening sanctions, including an oil and arms embargo against Syria.

The group is a collective of over 70 countries and bodies convening periodically on the conflict-torn country.

European Union imposed sanctions this month, depriving the regime of President Bashar al-Assad of a quarter of its earnings denominated in foreign currency, forcing the country to reduce production from 380,000 barrels a day to about 250,000 barrels a day one month later.

According to Sami Faltas, Director of the Centre for European Security Studies, sanctions are always painful, but that doesn't necessarily mean that they are effective.

"Not only is the Syrian economy depending on exporting oil, its agriculture and tourism sector are important pillars too. But who is willing to buy Syrian products now; who wants to go on holiday to Syria?"

Tourism, which accounted for more than 10 per cent of Syria's gross domestic economy in 2010, has all but disappeared. So economically speaking, the sanctions have its effects.

Question remains however if the sanctions will change the course of the regime. "It seems that Assad doesn't take to heart to see his people suffering. It seems that he has enough financial buffers to stick around for who knows how long, " Faltas told Xinhua.

According to Dutch minister of foreign affairs Uri Rosenthal, Syria is also seeking "escape routes" to sell the oil.'

In addition, not all of Syria's neighbors will ban trade. Iraq, its second-largest trade partner after the EU, already said it will not apply sanctions.

In any case, whether the Assad regime is affected by sanctions or not, ordinary Syrians will suffer first as the cost of groceries fly high and queues for fuel for heating and cars grow day by day.

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