The European Union and the United States on Thursday toughened sanctions against Syrian President Bashar Assad’s government, while the United Nations said it estimates the death toll from his crackdown on dissenters this year exceeds 4,000.
“Trade in Syrian public bonds and the provision of insurance and reinsurance to the Syrian government will be prohibited in the EU,” the 27-nation bloc said Thursday in a statement. “Syrian banks will no more be allowed to open new branches in the Union nor establish joint ventures or correspondent banking relations with European financial institutions.”
The EU also halted new commitments for grants and concessional loans by EU countries to the Syrian government, except for humanitarian purposes. The US Treasury Thursday said it imposed economic sanctions on the maternal uncle of al-Assad, Muhammad Makhlouf, and on a commander of Syria’s elite 4th Armored Division, General Aus Aslan.
Assad faces growing economic and political pressure to end the action against protesters that began in mid-March, inspired by movements that toppled leaders in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya. The violence has moved Syria closer to a civil war as military personnel defect and take up arms against the government.
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay told journalists in Geneva on Thursday that her organization estimates that more than 4,000 people have been killed since the uprising against al-Assad began. Human-rights activists put the figure at more than 4,500.
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