NEWS
02/09/2011 09:26 BST | Updated 02/11/2011 05:12 GMT

European Union Bans Oil Imports From Syria

The European Union has agreed to ban imports on oil from Syria.

The EU accounts for about 95 per cent of all Syrian oil exports, which totals around 25 per cent of the country's income.

Four more Syrian officials and three groups have been added to a ban on travel to the EU, and have had their assets frozen.

Foreign Secretary William Hague welcomed the news, saying that the "horrific scenes of continued brutality" in Syria were "unacceptable": "Today we have agreed a ban on all EU imports of Syrian crude oil products to constrict the regime’s funding and reduce its ability to fund the repression of innocent civilians.

"I have repeatedly made clear the importance of ensuring that our actions are targeted and that their impact on ordinary Syrians is minimised. This remains the case. The problems that the Syrian people are facing today are the direct result of years of economic mismanagement and the economic collapse caused by the Assad regime’s current crackdown. Any attempt to pass on further hardship to the Syrian people would show his utter disregard for their well being. Let me be clear: President Assad and those around him are to blame for this. No one else", he said in a statement from the EU Foreign Ministers’ meeting in Sopot, Poland.

However the move has been criticised by some activists who have said that it does not go far enough.

Global activist network Avaaz said that up to 1,000 people could die as a result of the ban not being implemented until November 15, as demanded by the Italian Government

Ricken Patel, executive director of Avaaz, said: "Diplomats, experts and citizens are baffled by Italy’s senseless obstruction of oil sanctions that could help bring an end to the carnage in Syria. Many other countries are dropping their oil contracts, but Italy is demanding that short-term profits trump Syrian lives. EU countries need to stand firm and shower President Assad’s best friend in Europe with shame until the Italians back immediate sanctions.”

The news came after prime minister David Cameron spoke about his frustration with Syrian president Bashar al-Assad on Friday.

Cameron told BBC Radio 4 Assad was a doing “dreadful things to his people" but said there was a lack of international support for action against his regime.

"The problem is there isn't the same backing in the Arab League [as there was for Libya], there isn't the same backing internationally.

"In fact we are having problems at the United Nations even getting a strong resolution that says tougher sanctions and travel bans and asset freezes, all the things that we in Europe are putting in place."

He added that the UK had been in the “vanguard” calling for more concrete action against Syria.

The US had already banned oil imports from the country. According to the Telegraph, 95 per cent of Syria’s oil is bought by countries in the European Union.

According to estimates from the United Nations, over 2,000 people have been killed over six months as citizens protest against Assad’s regime.