PARIS (Nov. 11)
Eleven of the 12 European Economic Community (EEC) member-states agreed Monday to sanctions against Syria on the basis of Britain’s charge that the Damascus government was involved with terrorist acts.
Only Greece refused to condemn Syria or vote for the four-point sanctions program at the EEC’s Ministers Conference in London, hosted by British Foreign Secretary Sir Geoffrey Howe. The sanctions themselves are considerably less than Britain demanded at an earlier EEC Ministers conference in Luxembourg last month.
They call for a total ban on arms sales to Syria; suspension of high-level exchange visits between Syria and EEC countries; police surveillance of Syrian diplomatic missions; and security controls on the Syrian Arab Airlines.
Britain broke diplomatic relations with Syria on October 24, after charging that the Syrian Ambassador in London and his staff acted in collusion with Nezar Hindawi, the Jordanian national convicted of attempting to smuggle explosives aboard an E1 A1 airliner at Heathrow Airport last April 17.
At the Luxembourg meeting, Howe had urged his EEC partners to follow Britain’s lead, or at very least recall their Ambassadors from Damascus. In London Monday, he agreed to accept watered-down sanctions in order, reportedly, to overcome the objections of Spain, Italy, France and West Germany.
The EEC Council of Ministers will set up an ad hoc working committee to implement the sanctions. But they are not considered likely to do Syria much harm. The ban on Western arms sales, the strongest measure, will be more than offset by the Soviet Union, which has long been Syria’s major supplier of weapons and military equipment.
France stopped arms shipments to Syria last March and Britain has sold only $20 million worth of equipment to Syria over a three-year period, mainly communications equipment which Syria can easily obtain elsewhere.
Prime Minister Jacques Chirac of France and Chancellor Helmut Kohl of West Germany agreed Sunday to back Britain while preserving relations with Syria. France went along despite an announcement by a pro-Syrian group in Beirut that it would release three French hostages within 24 hours. Two of the hostages were released Tuesday. Extremist Shiite groups in Lebanon with close links to Syria and Iran still hold eight French nationals hostage.
Monday’s decision to impose sanctions on Syria took the form of “the President’s statement” because Greece’s refusal breached the unanimity required of all EEC joint decisions. Howe is the current President of the Council of Ministers.