LUXEMBOURG – Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad “must step aside,” European Union foreign ministers said in a blistering statement Monday, adding the Syrian government’s crackdown on anti-government protesters may amount to crimes against humanity, CNN reported.
The EU also expanded sanctions on Iran and Belarus to protest their crackdowns on their citizens, it announced. But the 27 foreign ministers of the union reserved their sharpest criticism for Syria and its president.
“The EU condemns in the strongest possible terms the ongoing brutal repression led by the Syrian regime,” they said. Syria’s leader must resign “to allow a political transition to take place in Syria,” they said. The ministers said they were “deeply disappointed” that the United Nations Security Council failed to increase sanctions on Syria.
The EU also welcomed the creation of the umbrella opposition Syrian National Council (SNC), a day after Syria’s foreign minister warned other nations against recognizing it.
Although short of outright recognition, the EU statement ramps up pressure on Damascus, according to the BBC.
“It is not on the same lines as our recognition of Libya’s National Transitional Council,” an unnamed European diplomat said. “But we needed to make a gesture to the SNC to counter the regime’s bid to create puppet groups.”