BRUSSELS (AP) — European Union nations will enforce an arms embargo against Syria by boarding ships and aircraft carrying suspicious cargo to the war-torn nation, an official said Friday.
The senior EU official said obligatory inspections will commence after being adopted by foreign ministers Monday. The official could not be named under standing rules.
The 28-nation bloc banned arms exports to Syria in May, 2011. But until now, governments could not decide whether or not to check suspicious cargo.
The inspections will only take place on EU territory or in its waters, the official said. It will not apply elsewhere because there are no U.N. sanctions against Syria.
EU member states will also have to coordinate more closely in providing information to each other regarding cargoes believed to be in breach of the sanctions, the official said.
The EU has frozen the assets of 43 companies and 128 people believed to be associated with the repression, or benefiting from the regime. About two dozen new names will likely be added at the ministerial meeting next week, said an EU diplomat who could not be named for the same reason.
As part of the sanctions regime, no one in the EU can invest in the Syrian petroleum industry, participate in the construction of new power plans, or supply equipment for Syria’s gas industry.
In January, a Russian ship that made an unscheduled stop in Cyprus while carrying arms to Syria was allowed to continue its journey after changing its destination. And last month, another Russian-operated ship heading to Syria with weapons turned back after its British insurer decided to remove the vessel’s coverage.
Meanwhile on Friday, Switzerland announced it had set up a joint commission with the United Arab Emirates to investigate whether hand grenades exported to the UAE were sent on to Syria.
The Swiss government this month temporarily halted arms shipments to the UAE after a newspaper published a photograph indicating a Swiss-made grenade was found with Syria rebels.
The government said Friday that the joint panel started work on Tuesday and it has lifted a block on licenses for arms shipments that were already issued. But it said “pending license applications are to remain suspended until further notice.”
Switzerland says it hasn’t exported arms to Syria since 1998. It says the photo showed a grenade from a 2003 shipment to the UAE, which signed a declaration pledging not to “re-export” the weapons.
Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.