BRUSSELS European Union governments are expected to ease a Syrian oil embargo next week to allow for purchases of crude from the opposition, in an effort to tilt the balance of the conflict against President Bashar al-Assad.
At a meeting on Monday, EU foreign ministers will also agree to lift restrictions on selling equipment for the oil industry to the opposition and investing in the oil sector, EU diplomats said on Wednesday.
Conditions will apply to ensure that no business is done with supporters of Assad.
"The purchases will be allowed when an EU government authorises them after consultations with the (opposition) National Council," one EU diplomat said.
The EU imposed a ban on purchases of Syrian oil by European companies in 2011 in response to an uprising against Assad. Two years into the conflict, government forces are fighting hard to keep control of cities and many rural areas and provincial towns have fallen to the rebels.
The latest U.S. government data indicate that oil production in Syria was 153,000 barrels per day in October 2012, a nearly 60 percent decline from March 2011.
(Reporting by Justyna Pawlak, Luke Baker and Barbara Lewis: Editing by Adrian Croft)