WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States on Monday imposed sanctions on officials, entities and individuals it accused of providing support to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad as Washington continued its efforts to cut off funds for Assad's government.
The action, which also targeted the Syrian Ministry of Petroleum and Mineral Resources, aims to push Assad's government back toward United Nations-led negotiations and broker an end to the country’s nearly decade-long war.
The U.S. Treasury Department in a statement said it slapped sanctions on Syrian military officials, members of the parliament, and government entities, as well as on Syrian and Lebanese people it accused of attempting to revive Syria's petroleum industry.
"The Treasury Department is determined to continue to apply economic pressure on the Assad regime and its supporters for the repression conducted by the regime," Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in the statement.
Millions of people have fled Syria and millions more internally displaced after a crackdown by Assad on protesters in 2011 led to civil war, with Iran and Russia backing the government and the United States supporting the opposition.
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said that Washington supports U.N. Special Envoy for Syria Geir Pedersen’s "call for a nationwide ceasefire, the release of political prisoners and detainees, the drafting of a new constitution, as well as the convening of U.N.-supervised free and fair elections elections."
"The Assad regime has a choice: take irreversible steps toward a peaceful resolution of this nearly decade-long conflict or face further crippling sanctions," Pompeo said in a separate statement.
Among the 19 individuals and entities blacklisted in Monday's action are Syrian Air Force Intelligence Unit chief Ghassan Ismail and Syrian Political Security Directorate head Nasr al-Ali, as well as companies in the oil sector.
Syria has been under U.S. and European Union sanctions that have frozen the assets of the state and hundreds of companies and individuals. Washington already bans exports to Syria and investment there by Americans, as well as transactions involving oil and hydrocarbon products.
(Reporting by Daphne Psaledakis; Editing by Chris Reese, Bernadette Baum and Sonya Hepinstall)