Syria hit by new sanctions

Both the European Union (EU) and Switzerland have targeted Syria’s oil sector in new sanctions that bite from Saturday, with the European Union banning new investments there and also prohibiting the delivery of bank notes to Syria’s central bank.

The EU has also added two individuals and six companies to a list of people and entities facing an assets freeze and travel ban.

The new measures are the seventh set of EU sanctions imposed to punish the regime of President Bashar al-Assad for its relentless crackdown on dissent that erupted in mid March.

Earlier this month, the European Union adopted a ban on Syrian crude oil imports. That is expected to hit hard, as the EU buys 95 per cent of Syrian oil exports, providing a third of the regime’s hard currency earnings.

The Swiss sanctions put an embargo on the import, sale and transport of Syrian oil and oil products.

Turkey, formerly a key regional friend of Syria, has intercepted a shipload of weapons bound for Syria, the Anatolia news agency reported.

“Turkey has arrested a ship flying the Syrian flag and carrying weapons,” it quoted Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan as telling reporters in New York, where he attended the UN General Assembly.

Erdogan did not say when and where the ship was stopped.

The Turkish leader lashed out at Assad last week, telling him the era of oppressive dictators was past.

Erdogan said he had told Damascus arms shipments would be stopped, adding: “If in the future arms shipments are made by air or land, we will stop and seize them as we have done.”

On Tuesday, Erdogan said he had broken off dialogue with Damascus and warned of sanctions, after talks with US President Barack Obama in which the two discussed the need to “increase pressure” on Assad’s regime.

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