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Sanctions on Syria moot without Europe

Aug. 19, 2011 at 9:15 AM

LONDON, Aug. 19 (UPI) -- Washington's decision to sanction five Syrian energy companies won't have much of an effect unless European governments follow suit, an analyst said.

U.S. President Barack Obama led the international community with a statement Thursday calling on Syrian President Bashar Assad to step down. European governments almost immediately followed suit and U.N. human rights officials suggested Assad's government might be committing war crimes against its people.

Washington announced it was sanctioning five of Syria's state-run energy companies and froze Syrian financial assets in the United States.

Jamie Webster, an analyst at energy consultant PFC Energy, told the Financial Times that U.S. sanctions wouldn't do much unless they triggered a corresponding response from the European Union.

"It's not going to do much of anything," he was quoted as saying of the U.S. sanctions. "It's more emblematic, to push the EU into doing the same. That is where it would really have an impact."

French, German, Italian and Dutch refiners process much of the Syrian crude bound for the European market. Europeans purchase about 95 percent of Syrian crude exports, meaning the United States has virtually no role in the Syrian energy sector.

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