A Syrian man holds up his ballot paper at a polling station during a referendum on the new constitution in Damascus yesterday. The EU's foreign ministers today introduced new asset embargoes against Syria. Muzaffar Salman/AP

EU ministers recognise Syrian National Council as legitimate representatives

The assets of the Syrian central bank have been frozen, while seven ministers have an asset freeze and a visa ban.

THE EUROPEAN UNION’S foreign ministers have formally recognised the Syrian National Council as a legitimate representative of the people, as they agreed a series of new trade sanctions against the Syrian government and some of its ministers.

At their summit in Brussels this morning, ministers agreed to freeze the assets of the Syrian central bank within the EU, with similar freezes for the assets of seven members of the government who are associated with the alleged human rights violations.

Those seven ministers – who have not been named – will also be subject to a visa ban. The EU has also banned transactions of gold and other precious metals, and cargo flights operated by Syrian carriers.

In a joint statement, the ministers said they held “strong concerns for the deteriorating living conditions of the civilian Syrian people in the areas affected by the unrest”.

The Syrian authorities must immediately alleviate the suffering of the population, respect and protect the wounded and sick, guarantee unhindered access to the medical care without any discrimination or reprisal and refrain from intimidation of those providing medical assistance.

The ministers called on Syria to respect the impartiality of humanitarian aid staff who are trying to gain access to the country, and condemned “the illegal attacks against medical staff and installations carrying the symbols of the Red Crescent.”

They further added that they supported the opposition in its fight to oust Bashar Assad, and that the EU recognised the Syrian National Council as a legitimate representative of the Syrians seeking peaceful democratic change”.

The EU’s foreign affairs chief, Catherine Ashton, said the moves would “put further pressure on those who are responsible for the ruthless campaign of repression in Syria”.

“The measures target the regime and its ability to conduct the appalling violence against civilians. As long as the repression continues, the EU will keep imposing sanctions.”

Read: Minister to investigate whether Irish technology being used in Syrian repression

More: Syrians vote on new draft constitution as violence continues

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