The Council reinforces EU restrictive measures against the Syrian regime

The Foreign Affairs Council meeting held on 27 of February ended with the agreement on the decision to strengthen the restrictive measures against the Syrian regime. European Ministers called on President Assad to immediately end the killing of civilians, withdraw the Syrian army from besieged towns and step aside in order to make room for a peaceful transition. In addition, the Council agreed to extend EUNAVFOR Atalanta, the EU operation fighting piracy off the Somali coast, until December 2014.

The Council reinforced restrictive measures against the Syrian regime, given the Syrian regime's continued use of violence against civilians. Trade in gold, precious metals and diamonds with Syrian public bodies and the central bank will no more be permitted. Cargo flights operated by Syrian carriers will not have access to EU airports, with the exception of mixed passenger and cargo flights. The Council  also froze the assets of the Syrian central bank within the EU, while ensuring that legitimate trade can continue under strict conditions. Finally, the Council subjected seven ministers of the Syrian government, who are associated with the human rights violations, to  an asset freeze and a visa ban. These measures extends the ones taken in September 2011, which banned investment in key sectors of the Syrian oil industry.

On the other hand, EU Foreign Affairs Ministers also adopted conclusions on Egypt. The Council welcomed the conduct of elections in Egypt and supported Egypt's transition towards a democratic, pluralist and stable country. However the Council reiterated the EU's deep concern with regard to restrictions on civil society organisation in Egypt and recalled the agenda of EU assistance available to Egypt, including financial support, further integration of markets and the launching of a dialogue on migration, mobility and security.

Among other issues adopted by the Council, Ministers welcomed the presidential elections in Yemen on 21 February 2012 and subsequent inauguration of President Hadi which mark key moments in Yemen's transition leading to further and comprehensive elections in 2014. According to the Council, the EU is now ready to offer assistance in areas relevant for the transition including a fully inclusive national dialogue, security, governance, institution building and economic development.