European Union governments agreed Wednesday to stop Syria accessing funds from the European Investment Bank, diplomats said, in their latest bid to press Damascus to stop its violent crackdown on pro-democracy protesters.
Pending formal approval by EU foreign ministers Monday, the decision means the government of President Bashar al-Assad will not receive any more cash under existing loan projects from the EIB, which can amount to hundreds of thousands of euros.
"Any disbursement or payment by the European Investment Bank under or in connection with any existing loan agreements entered into between Syria and the European Investment Bank ... shall be prohibited," EU governments said in a draft statement to be adopted Monday.
EU leaders warned last month that Syria could face further sanctions if there is was halt to violence, which the United Nations says had lead to the death of more than 3,500 protesters.
Any discussions on additional economic measures, beyond the EIB ban, will only take place after Saturday's emergency meeting of the Arab League to discuss the crackdown, diplomats said.
The EU already tightened sanctions against Syria in October, adding the Commercial Bank of Syria to a list of entities sanctioned in protest against repression of dissent.
In September, it imposed an embargo on crude oil imports from Syria and banned EU firms from new investment in its oil industry. It also imposed sanctions on the main mobile phone firm, Syriatel, and the largest private company, Cham Holding.
Since the start of operations in Syria in 1978, the EIB has signed 1.6 billion euros worth of loans and has disbursed about a third so far.