Brussels: The Syrian Army is committing crimes against humanity as well as ethnic cleansing of the population in its bid to quell the revolt against President Bashar al-Assad, Italian Foreign Minister Giulio Terzi has said.
"This is an absolutely unprecedented assault, a massacre of its own people," Terzi said in Brussels where European Union foreign ministers Monday beefed up sanctions and an arms embargo against the Syrian government.
"The army has gone far beyond the level of repression we have seen other countries that have risen up in the Arab Spring. This has the whiff of ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity."
The Assad regime, dominated by the minority Alawite sect, has drawn international condemnation for its bloody repression of the 16-month rebellion against its rule.
The Red Cross has defined the situation as a civil war and there have been reports of sectarian killings, massacres and torture.
The UN Security Council last week extended its observation mission in Syria for another month but Terzi ruled out NATO intervention.
Despite the bloodshed, Terzi claimed the situation in Syria was not comparable to that in Libya last year, when the UN authorised a NATO operation that helped rebels oust longtime leader Muammar Gaddafi from power.
The EU Monday agreed to freeze the assets of 26 Syrians and three firms close to Assad in the 17th round of sanctions and to inspect vessels and planes suspected of carrying arms.