EU Vows to Move Ahead With Syria Sanctions
BRUSSELS -- European Union foreign ministers said Monday they would "carry forward" sanctions against Syria and called for "urgent progress" toward a two-state solution to the Israel-Palestinian conflict.
At a meeting in Brussels, the EU called on Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's regime to cease its crackdown on protesters and start a dialogue free of "fear and intimidation" with the opposition.
"The EU will pursue and carry forward its current policy, including through sanctions targeted against those responsible for or associated with the violent repression," the ministers said.
On his way into the meeting, U.K. Foreign Secretary William Hague said the time is right to look at expanding existing sanctions on Syria. He said he hoped to see new measures over "the coming days and weeks."
However the foreign ministers' statement included no reference to a timeframe. It also stopped short of calling for regime change in Syria.
Speaking to reporters later, the EU's High Representative Catherine Ashton also declined to give a deadline for further sanctions. "We keep looking at this all the time," she said.
The EU has already adopted asset freezes, travel bans or arms embargoes on 34 individuals or entities because of the Syrian violence, including three Iranians. The sanctions list includes Mr. Assad and other top officials.
In the Middle East, foreign ministers called for "urgent progress…towards a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict."
"The EU reiterates its concern at the continuing stalemate…and calls on the parties to show the highest sense of responsibility and to resume direct and substantive talks," the statement said.
However, the ministers dodged the key issue of how they will vote if, as expected, there is a United Nations resolution on Palestinian statehood in September.
Speaking to reporters, Ms. Ashton said her focus was on making progress in the peace process, not September's vote.
"We don't know what resolution there will be in September," she said. "Our efforts again are concerned with realities and trying to make sure that we are building support for a Palestinian state."
Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt also said, "We hope we will get to recognize a Palestinian state, but we are not there yet.
"We need a peace agreement and we are working towards that peace agreement," he said.
In a separate statement on Libya, the ministers reiterated their call for Col. Moammar Gadhafi to quit.
The ministers recognized the "urgent financial needs" of Libya's National Transitional Council, the political group which unites opponents of Col. Gadhafi in Libya.