European Union bans imports of Syrian crude oil

The Council of the European Union banned imports of crude oil from Syria, strengthening existing sanctions against the regime of President Bashar al-Assad for its repression of protesters in the country.

“In view of the gravity of the situation in Syria, the Council today further tightened the EU's sanctions against that country and imposed a ban on the import of Syrian oil to the EU,” the EU said.

“The prohibition concerns purchase, import, and transport of oil and other petroleum products from Syria,” it said, adding, “No financial or insurance services may be provided for such transactions.”

The ban was issued following a statement by Catherine Ashton, EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs, who expressed “continued deep concern about the violence perpetrated by the Syrian regime.”

The oil embargo affects Syrian exports that are valued at $4.5 billion in 2010, according to the European Commission, the executive arm of the 27-nation bloc. Crude oil made up 88% of total EU imports from Syria last year.

The US Energy Information Administration said Syria's net petroleum exports were estimated at 109,000 b/d in 2010, down slightly from the 117,000 b/d the country exported in 2009.

Around 95% of Syria’s crude oil exports go to EU countries, with the main buyers by percentage being Germany 32%, Italy 31%, France 11%, the Netherlands 9%, Austria 7%, and Spain 5%.

Industry observers said that Total SA, Royal Dutch Shell PLC, Repsol-YPF SA, and OMV AG are among oil companies, refiners, and traders that had planned to ship 162,200 b/d of Syrian crude this month.

The Council said it also added four more Syrian persons and three entities to the list of those targeted by an earlier asset freeze and travel ban. It said the ban will take effect after the decision is published on Sept. 3 in the bloc’s Official Journal.

The EU’s move comes after the US government last month imposed sweeping sanctions against Syria, prohibiting US companies from importing or exporting crude or oil products to and from the country.

Contact Eric Watkins at hippalus@yahoo.com.

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