November 28, 2012 / 6:18 PM / in 5 years

EU cuts Syria sanctions term to possibly help rebels

LONDON/BRUSSELS (Reuters) - The European Union will reduce its renewal term for sanctions on Syria to three months from an expected year, to make it easier in future to equip rebels fighting to depose President Bashar al-Assad, EU diplomats said on Wednesday.

EU sanctions on Syria include visa bans and asset freezes on individuals and businesses connected to Assad’s government, a ban on oil imports from Syria, and an embargo on the supply of arms to the country, imposed to prevent the flow of weapons to Assad’s forces.

The current sanctions package is scheduled to expire on December 1 and was expected to be extended for a year. But following a British push, they will now be renewed by three months instead.

“This sends a strong message to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad that all options remain on the table and makes clear the need for real change,” a British Foreign Office spokeswoman said.

The shorter review period would “allow the EU to look at amendments to the embargo to possibly allow the supply of forms of non-lethal training and equipment to the Syrian rebels, such as body armor”, she said.

On Wednesday, ambassadors from the 27 EU member states decided to review the whole package of sanctions every three months from now on. Their decision is scheduled to be finalized on Thursday during a meeting of EU trade ministers, one diplomat said.

Reporting by Mohammed Abbas and Sebastian Moffett; Editing by Alison Williams

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