International pressure tightens on Syria. During a meeting of the Foreign Affairs Council in Luxembourg on 25 June the European Union approved a new package of sanctions against the Damascus regime and condemned the downing of a Turkish military plane by Syria. NATO expressed the same condemnation in an extraordinary meeting convened in Brussels on Ankara’s request, in pursuance of article 4 of the Atlantic Treaty, which calls for consultations in the case of threats to the territorial integrity of any single member.
The new package of sanctions includes a ban on insurance companies’ coverage of shipments to Damascus of weapons or non-lethal equipment with a potential to be used for repressive ends. The list of subjects whose assets are to be frozen and visas refused was extended to include one other person and five companies. The package also contains a waiver on asset freezing to encourage transactions associated with the activities of students, researchers and academics such as, for example, the disbursement of study grants.
Downed plane unacceptable
At the same time the EU condemned the “unacceptable Syrian downing of a Turkish military plane”, calling upon Damascus to cooperate with Turkey and “allow full access to an immediate investigation” and to the international community’s full support for these efforts.
The NATO Atlantic Council also spoke of an “unacceptable act” and “condemned in the strongest possible manner” Syria’s downing of the Turkish plane, expressing its solidarity with Turkey, explained Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen, adding that “I certainly expect that such incidents will not be repeated”. Rasmussen then explained that NATO would continue to monitor the situation between Turkey and Syria “with deep concern” and “keep abreast” of events, specifying that “NATO security is indivisible”.
Italy reiterates support for Annan plan
On behalf of Italy, permanent representative to NATO Riccardo Sessa expressed Italy’s “complete solidarity” with Turkey and the hope that “the solidarity and unity shown today by the Alliance will trigger new dynamics that, thanks to the involvement of other major international actors, will lead Damascus to avoid the repetition of such unacceptable behaviours”. Italy also reasserted its support for Kofi Annan’s plan.