* Syrian oil firms targeted by EU
* Royal Dutch Shell ceases work in Syria
* Western sanctions gather speed
By Justyna Pawlak
BRUSSELS, Dec 2 The European Union stepped
up its sanctions against Syria's oil industry on Friday,
blacklisting state-owned firms that oversee trade and
exploration, as part of international efforts to isolate
President Bashar al-Assad's government.
The new measures target state-owned General Petroleum
Corporation (GPC) and Syria Trading Oil (Sytrol), as well as a
GPC joint venture, Al Furat Petroleum Company. The three were
listed in the EU's Official Journal, which legalised a decision
by EU foreign ministers on Thursday.
European businesses are heavily involved in the Syrian oil
industry and the move will likely curtail business operations of
companies that have shares in Al Furat and participate in
exploration projects overseen by GPC.
Royal Dutch Shell, a partner of GPC through the Al
Furat venture, said on Friday it would cease activities in
Friday's sanctions listings are part of a concerted push by
Europe, the United States and the Arab League to intensify
pressure on Assad in response to continued state-sponsored
violence against protesters. The United Nations estimates 4,000
people have been killed since March in the unrest.
New European sanctions also target a Syrian television
channel and a daily newspaper that EU governments said incite
violence against protesters.
In an effort to curtail Assad's ability to suppress dissent,
the EU also targeted a research centre and several companies
that help it acquire sensitive equipment.
The facility, the EU said, "provides support to the Syrian
army for the acquisition of equipment used directly for the
surveillance and repression of demonstrators".
Moving to hamper Assad's control over the economy, the EU
also froze the assets of Syrian Economy Minister Mohammad Nidal
al-Shaar and Finance Minister Mohammad al-Jleilati. Neither will
be able to travel to the EU while sanctions are in place.
The EU has taken a gradual approach to targeting Syria's
finances in recent months, largely due to concerns by some EU
governments over the impact on European interests and out of
concern that the Syrian population would suffer as well.
In September, Europe agreed to stop importing Syrian crude
oil, but delayed full implementation of the measures until the
middle of November, bowing to pressure from Italy, which was
heavily dependent on Syrian supplies.
Growing international support for sanctions has, however,
given a new impetus to EU moves, particularly the Arab League's
decision to put its own economic pressure on Assad.
For a full list of people and companies affected by new EU
sanctions, see the Official Journal notice on: