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Sep 01

EU to impose oil embargo on Syria

Officials say cutting €3bn annual lifeline and in effect halting all business between Syria and EU will be serious blow to regime

Ian Traynor in Brussels

As Syrian president Bashir al-Assad, above right, celebrated Eid al-Fitr, the EU announced its intention to ban oil from Syria. Photograph: AP

Bashar Assad

Europe is to impose an oil embargo on Syria, in effect freezing almost all business between Damascus and the EU, Syria’s main trading partner.

Political agreement among EU states was expected in Brussels on Tuesday, meaning the sanctions would come into force on Friday, diplomats and officials said. The decision will halt more than €3bn (£2.6bn) a year in Syrian crude oil and petroleum products being exported to Europe.

“This is trying to hit the oil that’s a critical financial lifeline to the regime,” said an EU official.

While the move will barely have any impact on EU energy needs, it is likely to hurt elite business and government circles in Damascus close to the regime of the president, Bashar al-Assad, since Syria’s trade relationship with Europe is almost entirely oil-based.

The EU imports only 1.5% of its crude oil from Syria. But 92% of Syrian exports to Europe are energy products. Syria exported crude oil and petroleum products worth €3.1bn to the EU last year, according to European commission figures. Royal Dutch Shell and the French company Total are the two biggest European players in the Syrian energy market.

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