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EU to ban new investment in Syrian oil | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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BRUSSELS, (Reuters) – European Union governments decided on Wednesday to ban European firms from making new investments in Syria’s oil industry and added several entities and two individuals to a sanctions list.

The sanctions, which will take effect on Saturday if formally approved in writing by Friday by the 27 EU states, also include a ban on delivery of Syrian banknotes and coins produced in the EU, an EU official said.

EU diplomats said Syria’s main mobile phone operator, Syriatel, was among the targeted companies, but they declined to identify others on the list. The sanctions will involve travel bans and asset freezes and prevent EU firms doing business with them.

Plans to add state-owned Commercial Bank of Syria, which has been targeted by the United States, to the sanctions list were shelved, diplomats said, because of concerns that by targeting the government’s access to cash, the funding possibilities of ordinary firms and the population could be hit.

After a series of piecemeal measures, European governments have pushed strongly in recent weeks to step up economic pressure on President Bashar al-Assad to try to persuade him to end a six-month crackdown on anti-government demonstrators.

The new steps complement a ban on importing Syrian crude oil and asset freezes targeting several Syrian companies and entities. The EU has also imposed travel bans and asset freezes against officials involved in the crackdown.

The new sanctions on the oil sector ban European firms from new investments in Syrian oil exploration, production and refining.

They bar the creation of new joint ventures with enterprises in Syria’s energy sector, the provision of loans and the purchase or extension of stakes in Syrian companies. However, they do not affect existing investments.

EU officials say the aim is to block long-term access to funds for Assad’s government.

European companies have watched the deliberations closely. Anglo-Dutch Royal Dutch and France’s Total , among others, have significant investments in Syria.

The United States has already imposed wide-reaching sanctions against Syria.