EU Approves Sanctions Over China, Myanmar Abuses

A resident, who was shot during a crackdown by security forces on demonstrations by protesters against the military coup, is carried to safety in Yangon’s Hlaing Tharyar township on March 14, 2021. PHOTO: STR / AFP

 

EU foreign ministers meeting in Brussels on Monday approved sanctions over abuses in China, Myanmar, and Russia, as the bloc expands measures targeting global rights breaches.

The 27 nations are due to place four Chinese officials and one state-run entity on a blacklist over Beijing’s crackdown on the Uighur minority after ambassadors gave the go-ahead last week.

The highly symbolic move — reported by EU diplomats and expected to be formally unveiled in the EU’s official journal later Monday — is the first time Brussels has hit Beijing over human rights abuses since it imposed an arms embargo in 1989 after Tiananmen Square.

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China’s foreign ministry has warned that Beijing will “react with a firm hand” against any punishment over its actions in the western Xinjiang region.

The measures are part of a package of human rights sanctions targeting a dozen people that also includes individuals in Russia, North Korea, Eritrea, South Sudan and Libya, diplomats said.

“This is a very important step which shows how committed we are,” Slovak Foreign Minister Ivan Korcok said.

The mechanism — designed to make it easier for the bloc to target rights abusers — was launched this month with sanctions on four Russian officials over the jailing of Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny.

Diplomats said the fresh sanctions on Russia will target individuals behind abuses in the country’s Chechnya region, which is ruled with an iron-fist by Kremlin loyalist Ramzan Kadyrov.

The EU will also slap asset freezes and visa bans on 11 officials of Myanmar’s junta over the military coup last month and crackdown on demonstrators.

“What we see there in terms of excesses of violence is absolutely unacceptable,” German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said.

“That is why we will not be able to avoid imposing sanctions.”

Myanmar has been in turmoil since the military ousted civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi on February 1, triggering a mass uprising that security forces have sought to crush with a campaign of violence and fear.

Diplomats have said businesses tied to the military will likely be placed under sanctions in the coming weeks.

 

– Turkey ties –

Turkey will feature prominently at the meeting as member states debate efforts to improve ties after a spike in tensions last year over the eastern Mediterranean.

Brussels has welcomed steps by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to reduce tensions by restarting talks with Greece over their disputed maritime border.

But there remain major concerns, including over domestic freedoms after moves to ban a key opposition party and Erdogan’s decision to leave a global treaty to prevent violence against women.

EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell has drawn up a report outlining the bloc’s options to be discussed by leaders at a video conference this week.

Warming ties have seen efforts to impose sanctions agreed on in December over Turkish drilling off Cyprus put on the back burner for fear of derailing the rapprochement.

“There are different signals from Turkey,” Maas said.

“We will continue to try to remain in dialogue, but also to use this dialogue to address the issues where we believe that Turkey is sending out the wrong signals.”

AFP

EU Foreign Ministers Aim For ‘Political’ Solution In Korean Peninsula

EU foreign ministers showed increased concern over the situation on the Korean peninsula on Monday as they were arriving for a regular meeting in Brussels.

A political solution, and ‘for sure not a military’ one is needed, EU Foreign Affairs chief Federica Mogherini said, in response to heightened tensions between the two Koreas.

North Korean missile testing is worrying powers in the region including China.

Britain’s Boris Johnson said he hoped the North Koreans “see sense”, and wanted China to be pressured to exert its influence over the isolated nation.

British foreign minister, Boris Johnson, said “We remain absolutely determined to try to get the North Koreans to see sense and to continue to put pressure on the regime in Pyongyang, and we think the best way to do that is, of course, to put pressure on the Chinese. And we are seeing some progress there, but a lot, a lot more to be done.”

The Mediterranean migration route from Libya and the situation for migrants in the country are also high on the ministers’ agenda, with Austrian Foreign Minister Sebastian Kurz calling for the route’s complete closure, while still committing to rescue operations.

Kurz also called for the end of Turkey’s EU accession talks, stating he believed other member states are increasingly coming to the same conclusion.

This comes following Turkish President Erdogan saying in recent days that he would be happy to sign any law to reinstate the death penalty in the country, a measure explicitly banned to all EU members.