Syria officers and troops ‘defect to Turkey’

Turkey’s state-run news agency says 33 more members of the Syrian military have defected to Turkey with their families at a time of heightened tensions between the two countries over Syria’s downing of a Turkish plane.

Anadolu said on Monday that the group, which includes a general and two colonels, crossed into Turkey overnight and that they were being hosted at a refugee camp near the border.


 

The defection brought to 13 the number of generals seeking refuge in Turkey since the revolt against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime erupted 16 months ago.

Thousands of soldiers have abandoned the army, but most are low-level conscripts.

The Free Syria Army, the loosely linked group of rebel forces, is made up largely of defectors.

Turkey, once a close ally of Syria, summoned an emergency NATO meeting for Tuesday after accusing Damascus of shooting down one of its military planes in international airspace.

The Dutch foreign minister on Monday said that the European Union will condemn Syria’s downing of a Turkish jet, but will not support military intervention in the troubled country.

“What happened is to be considered very seriously [but] we do not go for any interventions,” Uri Rosenthal said.

Fresh sanctions

The EU is to add another Syrian official and six firms and government institutions to its sanctions list, EU spokesman Maja Kocijanci said on Monday.

The list already includes more than 120 individuals and nearly 50 entities.


The asset freeze and travel ban were the 16th round of restrictive EU measures imposed on the Assad government.

No details were immediately available on the identities of those targeted.

The sanctions also include a specific ban on insuring items embargoed for delivery to Syria, including arms shipments.

The measure follows an incident last week involving a British-insured Russian cargo ship carrying attack helicopters for Syria.

The US alerted the UK to the consignment and British security services told insurers Standard Club that providing insurance for the shipment would breach EU sanctions, reports said.

Standard Club then cancelled insurance for the ship as well as others in the fleet owned by Russian cargo line Femco, forcing the vessel to head home.


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