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EU to Sanction Some Syrians Over Chemical Attacks

The Wall Street Journal. logo The Wall Street Journal. 16/7/2017 Laurence Norman

BRUSSELS—The European Union is set to target 16 Syrian scientists and military officers in a new round of sanctions against the Assad regime on Monday, seeking to punish those responsible for chemical weapons attacks against civilians.

The move is a more limited version of a similar set of U.S. decisions earlier this year which targeted close to 300 people, including 271 employees of the Syria Scientific Studies and Research Centre.

The EU measures will also hit scientists at the center, a Syrian government agency that Washington says is responsible for producing chemical and ballistic weapons, according to U.K. officials.

The EU sanctions are set to be adopted on Monday at a meeting of the bloc’s foreign ministers. The exact list of targets won’t be known until the names are published Tuesday morning in the bloc’s official journal of record.

However, U.K. Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson confirmed the decision Sunday night, saying the British government “will continue to work closely with our international partners to hold perpetrators to account.”

The decision was confirmed by two other European sources.

The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons last year said there were several cases of chlorine use as a chemical weapon by the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

The U.S., France and Britain are among those who say evidence shows the Assad regime was almost certainly responsible for a sarin nerve gas attack which killed around 100 people in Kham Sheikhoun on April 4, an action that led to U.S. military strikes against Syrian forces.

The Syrian government denies those claims.

Like the Trump administration, the EU’s approach to the conflict in Syria has been in flux in recent months. The new French President, Emmanuel Macron, recently said his government no longer sees the departure of Mr. Assad as a precondition for a political transition in the country.

However, the EU has said it won’t provide financial assistance to rebuild the country until a genuine transition away from the current regime takes place. It has cautiously welcomed the cease-fire deal in southern Syria brokered by Moscow and Washington.

The EU has built up a broad range of sanctions on Syria since the conflict there broke out, placing an oil embargo and an array of financial and economic sanctions on the Assad regime.

The latest sanctions will take the total number of officials under an EU travel ban and asset freeze to 256, in addition to sanctions on 67 entities. Mr. Assad and top members of his government and close family members have all been blacklisted by the bloc.

In a visit to Brussels last week, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, whose government has strongly supported the Assad regime, called for the EU and Washington to relax sanctions, claiming they were hurting civilians.

That drew a sharp riposte from EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini.

© Yves Logghe/Associated Press

“Just to be clear that none of our sanctions on Syria affect civilian population, they are all targeted to individuals who hold specific responsibilities in the war,” she said at a press conference.

Write to Laurence Norman at laurence.norman@wsj.com

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