The EU beefed up sanctions against President Bashar al-Assad's regime on Monday and agreed to tighten an arms embargo by inspecting vessels and planes suspected of carrying arms, diplomats said.
Foreign ministers from the 27-nation bloc began talks with an agreement to freeze the assets of 26 Syrians and three firms close to the Assad regime in the 17th round of sanctions since protests erupted in March 2011.
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They will be added to an existing EU blacklist of 129 people and 49 entities.
European Union member states will also board planes and ships believed to be carrying arms or goods used by Damascus to put down protests, tightening a ban in May last year on arms and material that might be used for internal repression.
Should a member of the EU suspect a vessel in its territorial waters to be carrying suspect cargo for Syria, it will be obliged to send inspectors. The same principle would be applied to air cargo.
As fighting intensifies in Syria, also high on the agenda of Monday's talks will be how to prepare for a potential humanitarian crisis on Europe's doorstep.