The European Union’s foreign ministers decided at a meeting in Brussels today (23 May) to impose sanctions against Bashar Assad, Syria’s president, following his regime’s violent crackdown against opposition supporters.Assad’s assets in the EU have been frozen and he will no longer be able to travel to any EU member state.The EU condemned the violence “in the strongest terms” and called for an international inquiry, as well as the release of political prisoners. Suspension of assistanceThe ministers stopped short of calling for Assad’s resignation but urged him to agree a “timetable” for “meaningful democratic reforms”. They suspended all assistance under EU programmes and called on the European Investment Bank to suspend any new lending. A first round of sanctions, imposed on 9 May, omitted Assad in a bid to encourage reform. Guido Westerwelle, Germany’s foreign minister, said today that the EU had built a “bridge” to Assad by exempting him from sanctions but that the president had not crossed that bridge. The crackdown, which began in mid-March, has claimed hundreds of lives.