The European Union (EU) imposed sanctions on 16 Syrian scientists and military officials today for their suspected involvement in the chemical attack in northern Syria in April which killed more than 80 people.
The new move takes the number of people placed under EU sanctions related to the Syrian conflict to 255, said the Council of EU in a statement. Existing EU sanctions are also in place on 67 companies linked to Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad’s government, reported Reuters.
Despite repeated denials by Syrian officials of using banned toxins, including the nerve agent sarin, Western intelligence agencies accuse Assad’s government of carrying out the attack on the rebel-held town of Khan Sheikhoun, arguing that rebels in the area would not have had the capabilities.
Eight Syrian scientists and eight top military officials were put on sanctions through measures agreed upon by EU foreign ministers at a meeting in Brussels. The move showed resolve “in dealing with those who are responsible for chemical weapons attacks”, said Britain’s Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson.
Syria joined a chemicals weapons convention in 2013 under a Russian-US agreement, averting military intervention under then US President Barack Obama.
While the European Union has no military role in the conflict, it is the biggest aid donor and has said it will not help rebuild Syria until a peace process involving a transition away from Assad’s government is underway.
But the 28-member bloc’s position on Syria is said to be in flux after France’s new President Emmanuel Macron broke with the previous French government position by saying he saw no legitimate successor to Al-Assad and no longer considered his departure a pre-condition to resolving the war.