The day after the Arab League announced it would impose sanctions against Syria, the European Union made a similar announcement, saying it, too, has decided to increase those it already has in place.

The unprecedented move by the Arab League came following its suspension of Syria's membership earlier in the month and included a travel ban on top Syrian government officials as well as a freeze on Assad regime-related assets.

The European Union applauded the Arab League action, said Maja Kocijancic, spokeswoman for its foreign policy chief, Catherine Ashton. "We welcome and support the decision taken by the Arab League," she told reporters.

In May, the EU imposed a travel ban and froze the assets of more than a dozen Syrian officials, including Assad himself and a number of family members. Weapons sales to Damascus were also stopped, in addition to other economic sanctions.

EU governments agreed in September to ban imports of Syrian oil, and extended sanctions to seven new Syrian individuals and entities, as well as adding new sanctions on telecommunications firms. Last month the EU added the Commercial Bank of Syria to the list of entities sanctioned, and this month more than a dozen additional high-ranking Syrian officials were added to the list.

The added sanctions to be formally approved in a vote Thursday by the EU are to include a ban on Syrian banks from investing in European banks or opening branches in EU member nations. The list of people, institutions and companies targeted by EU asset freezes and travel bans will also be extended by 12 people and at least 11 more entities, said an EU diplomat, speaking to media on condition of anonymity.  

In addition, EU companies will not be allowed to offer long-term financial support through trade in Syrian state debt, and loans to the government, bilateral and through international financial institutions, will be banned. The ban on long-term financial support excludes food and medicine, however.

France, which up to this point has vehemently opposed the membership application of Turkey, has proposed to its EU partners that Ankara be invited to Thursday's meeting in Brussels to discuss the next steps to be taken in dealing with Damascus.

"This invitation, which is extremely important in our eyes, is being considered in Brussels," said a statement issued by the French foreign ministry.