PARIS — U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was urging EU leaders to press ahead with plans to ban the sale of Syrian oil to the 27-member bloc, officials said, after Britain expressed hope new sanctions would be agreed to within days.
In talks on the sidelines of an international meeting in Paris on Libya, Clinton was raising Syria’s violent crackdown on protests with French President Nicolas Sarkozy, Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu and British Foreign Minister William Hague, officials said.
Hague told reporters that he hoped the EU would agree to impose new sanctions on Syria at a weekend meeting in Poland.
The European Union said two weeks ago it planned to slap sweeping new economic sanctions against Syria, including an embargo on oil imports.
“There is a real prospect that we will agree sanctions on the sale of Syrian oil into the European Union,” said Hague, who will travel to the Poland meeting, taking place on Friday and Saturday.
An EU oil embargo would bring the bloc in line with the latest U.S. moves to isolate the regime of Assad, including a ban on the import of Syrian petroleum or related products.
Two senior U.S. officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity to describe private diplomatic discussions, said Syria was a major topic of conversation between Clinton and Turkey’s Davutoglu and said Clinton had expressed U.S. pleasure with recent comments critical of Syrian leader Bashar Assad by Turkish President Abdullah Gul.
Clinton planned to tell Hague in talks later that the U.S. was eager to see the European Union follow through its commitment to impose sanctions on the Syrian oil and gas sectors.
Britain, France, the U.S. and others are also working on a new United Nations Security Council resolution against Syria — but have faced opposition from Russia, which has so far frustrated attempts to include asset freezes or an arms embargo.
Russia has introduced a rival U.N. resolution on Syria that made no mention of any sanctions.
British Prime Minister David Cameron said it was “totally regrettable” that the U.N. had so far failed to pass a new resolution on Syria, according to excerpts of an interview with Al-Jazeera television to be broadcast later Thursday.
The U.N. estimates that 2,200 people have been killed during Syria’s monthslong crackdown on anti-government protesters, which began in mid-March.
“There is scope to increase the pressure on the Syrian regime through further sanctions,” Hague said.
“Of course we are working on a new U.N. security council resolution in order to put further diplomatic pressure on Syria to stop killing their own people.”
Cameron said that Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi’s flight from Tripoli as rebels seized the city should a source of worry Assad. “If every dictator feels a little bit less safe after what’s happened in Libya then that’s a good thing,” he was quoted as saying.
The U.S. officials said that Clinton also met in Paris with ex-British Prime Minister Tony Blair, now the special representative for the international diplomatic Quartet on the Middle East.
Clinton recommitted the U.S. to working with the grouping on finding the best path to resuming the moribund Israeli-Palestinian talks, the officials said. That effort has taken on added urgency as the Palestinians prepare to present their case for statehood to the United Nations later this month over strong U.S. and Israeli objections.