OIC foreign ministers urge Syria to respond to Arab resolutions

Syrian FM: Resolutions meant to bring Syria to its knees and are declaration of economic war

Arab League chief to Muallem: Syria’s signing of observers protocol will resolve crisis

After Europe and the United States, Turkey slaps sanctions against Syria

U.S., Russian naval warships approach Mediterranean waters

Foreign ministers from member countries of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) has called on Syria to cooperate with the Arab League, which has imposed sanctions on Damascus for the actions of the severity of the demonstrations that had lasted several months.

OIC Secretary-foreign minister asked the regime of President Bashar al-Assad to "respond to the Arab League's decision", read a statement issued by the OIC at the end of emergency talks on Syria.

The OIC also urged Damascus to "stop immediately the use of excessive force against civilians ... to prevent the country from danger to globalizations of the crisis", said the statement, as reported by AFP.

The statement, issued after the meeting which was also attended by Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem, asked "all parties in Syria to renounce violence and take the path of peace".

OIC Secretary-General Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu said the group had "been urging Syria to stop the violation of human rights and to allow international humanitarian organizations access and Islam into Syria".

The meeting was also attended by Ali Akbar Salehi, Iran's foreign minister is an important ally of the regime in Damascus.

Previously, Ihsanoglu reiterated the organization's rejection of the steps "to internationalize the crisis".

"We also reject military intervention and insisted on Syria and respect our sovereignty ... and we welcome the efforts of international and Arabic to reach a settlement," he said Ihsanoglu.

But the OIC leader expressed his frustration at the lack of a breakthrough to end the violence since last March that the United Nations is said to have killed more than 3,500 people, mostly civilians, in the first eight months.

"We've talked about all the mechanisms and forces us in our efforts to bridge the gap and end the bloodshed in Syria," he said.

Some time ago the Arab League approved the broader sanctions against the government of Bashar al-Assad for his hard action. This is the first time the organization was as heavy as it imposed sanctions on member states.

Step sanctions include a ban on transactions with Damascus and its central bank and the freezing of assets of the Syrian government in the Arab countries.

The decision on sanctions was made after Damascus declined an ultimatum to accept foreign observers based Arab League peace plan and end the crackdown on pro-democracy demonstrations already lasted eight months.

Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa said the government of Indonesia has attracted Indonesia's Ambassador to Syria. This followed an increasingly conducive situation in the country.

This withdrawal, Marty said, was under the instructions of President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono.

"This is as a manifestation of our concern for what happened in Syria," said Marty told reporters at the State Palace in Jakarta this week. He asserted, the Indonesian government has been trying to repatriate citizens of Indonesia who was in Syria in stages. However, Marty claimed not to have data on the number of citizens in Syria who have been successfully repatriated.

Government through the Embassy in Damascus has also urged citizens to avoid areas of conflict and continue to establish communication with the Embassy.

Arab League finally agreed to impose economic sanctions against Syria on Sunday, as part of efforts to stop the violence and bloodshed in that country. In a press conference in Cairo, Egypt, Qatar Foreign Minister Hamad bin Jassim said, 19 of the 22 Arab League member states approved the sanctions. Only two countries abstained, namely Iraq and Lebanon.

Arab League sanctions add to the long list of international pressure on Syria, which in the last eight months was rocked by a wave of popular demonstrations demanding reform.

Fatalities fell after troops loyal to President Bashar al-Assad tried to quell demonstrations using military force. UN reports, more than 3,500 people were killed in a wave of violence.

The Arab League overwhelmingly approved sanctions Sunday against Syria to pressure Damascus to end its deadly eight-month crackdown on dissent, an unprecedented move by the League against an Arab state.

At a news conference in Cairo, Qatari Foreign Minister Hamad bin Jassim said 19 of the League's 22 member nations approved the sanctions; Iraq and Lebanon abstained.

"We aim to avoid any suffering for the Syrian people," bin Jassim said.

CBS News Foreign Affairs Analyst Pamela Falk referred to the sanctions imposed by the pan-Arab organization - a group that Syria helped create - as "crippling."

They include: The halt of transactions with Syria's central bank; an embargo on investments; and an assets freeze and travel ban on government officials, Falk said.

"The sanctions follow several last-ditch efforts by the League and by the U.N. General Assembly, to give the government of Bashar Assad time to resolve the crisis with a political solution," said Falk. "It also follows unheeded calls by the U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon to end the bloodshed and send an observer mission to protect civilians."

She said the sanctions will increase pressure on Syria from its Arab allies, "making it more likely that the U.N. Security Council will follow suit with a lesser but enforceable resolution condemning the crackdown on civilians."

Before the vote, Damascus slammed the vote as a betrayal of Arab solidarity. Besides punishing an already ailing economy, the sanctions are a huge blow for a Syrian regime that considers itself a powerhouse of Arab nationalism.

The sanctions are the latest in a growing wave of international pressure pushing Syria to end its violent suppression of protests against President Bashar Assad, which the U.N. says has killed more than 3,500 people since March.

Arab League Secretary General Nabil Elaraby said the bloc will reconsider the sanctions if Syria carries out an Arab-brokered peace plan that includes sending observers to the country and pulling tanks from the streets.

"We call on Syria to quickly approve the Arab initiative," he said.

The state-owned Al-Thawra newspaper ran a front-page headline Sunday saying the Arab League is calling for "economic and commercial sanctions targeting the Syrian people." It said the measure is "unprecedented and contradicts the rules of Arab cooperation."

Since the revolt began, the regime has blamed armed gangs acting out a foreign conspiracy for the bloodshed.

It is not clear whether Arab sanctions will succeed in pressuring the Syrian regime into ending the violence that has killed dozens of Syrians, week after week. Many fear the violence is pushing the country toward civil war.

Until recently, most of the bloodshed was caused by security forces firing on mainly peaceful protests.

Lately, there have been growing reports of army defectors and armed civilians fighting Assad's forces — a development that some say plays into the regime's hands by giving government troops a pretext to crack down with overwhelming force.

On Sunday, activists reported fierce clashes in the flashpoint city of Homs, in central Syria, pitting soldiers against army defectors.

The death toll from violence in Homs and elsewhere across the country was mounting Sunday. The Local Coordinating Committees, a coalition of Syrian activist groups, put the toll at 26, but the figure was impossible to confirm.

Syria has banned most foreign journalists and prevented independent reporting inside the country.

Many of the attacks against Syrian security forces are believed to be carried out by a group of army defectors known as the Free Syrian Army.

The Arab League's recommendations for sanctions specified that the Arab bloc will assist Syria with emergency aid through the help of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent, working with local civilian groups to deliver goods.

There have been widespread concerns that the unrest in Syria could spill outside its borders, sending unsettling ripples across the region.

Syria is a geographical and political keystone in the heart of the Middle East, bordering five countries with whom it shares religious and ethnic minorities and, in Israel's case, a fragile truce. Its web of allegiances extends to Lebanon's powerful Hezbollah movement and Iran's Shiite theocracy.

Also Sunday, Jordanian Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh acknowledged that 100 Syrian military and police deserters have taken refuge in the kingdom during the uprising. It was the first official public confirmation that Jordan hosts Syrian defectors.

In September, officials said privately that Jordan had received 60 Syrian army and police deserters, who ranged in rank from corporal to colonel.

Judeh told The Associated Press that the Syrian soldiers and policemen, whom he claimed were conscripts rather than officers, had arrived in batches over the last eight months.

Many Syrians fleeing Assad's crackdown have also sought refuge in neighboring Turkey.

The Gulf nations of Qatar and Bahrain on Sunday warned their citizens to avoid travel to Syria and called on those already there to leave immediately. The foreign affairs ministries of both countries cited concerns about the security situation in issuing the travel alerts. They did not mention the planned Arab League vote.

The calls come two days after the United Arab Emirates issued a similar warning to its citizens.

The embassies of the UAE, Qatar and Saudi Arabia were targeted by pro-Assad regime demonstrators in Damascus earlier this month.

Turkey slapped tough economic sanctions on Syria on Wednesday, freezing assets of officials involved in the government's crackdown on an 8-month-old uprising, suspending ties with the nation's central bank and banning all military sales.

The move comes on top of sanctions already imposed by the Arab League, the United States and the European Union. Turkey is Syria's neighbor and largest trading partner, but its leaders have turned on Damascus because of its violent campaign to crush the revolt.

"Every bullet fired, every bombed mosque has eliminated the legitimacy of the Syrian leadership and has widened the gap between us," Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu told a news conference in Ankara, Turkey. "Syria has squandered the last chance that it was given."

Turkey and Syria did $2.4 billion in trade last year, according to the Turkish embassy in Damascus. The sanctions will bite an already ailing economy in Syria, where President Bashar Assad is trying to crush a remarkably resilient uprising against his autocratic rule. The United Nations says at least 3,500 people have been killed in the crackdown.

"Syria must immediately cease using force on the people and the forces must immediately withdraw from the cities," Davutoglu said.

The Turkish foreign minister announced a set of nine sanctions, including a travel ban on Syrian leaders and the freezing of their assets. Businessmen "strongly supporting" the regime would also be sanctioned, Davutoglu said, in a direct threat to a mainstay of regime support.

Syrian business leaders have long traded political freedoms for economic privileges in Syria, where the prosperous merchant classes are key to propping up the regime.

The opposition has tried to rally these largely silent, but hugely important, sectors of society. But Assad's opponents have failed so far to galvanize support in Damascus and Aleppo — the two economic centers in Syria.

The sanctions, however, could chip away at their resolve.

Davutoglu also said Wednesday that Turkey was imposing a travel ban and freezing the assets of "certain officials who are members of the main cadre of leaders, who are the subject of claims of exerting violence against the people or of resorting to illegitimate means."

"All shipment of arms and military equipment through Turkey's land, airspace and seas ... will be prevented," he said.

He said Ankara was suspending all ties to the Syrian Central Bank, freezing any Syrian government assets in Turkey and suspending any loan deals. Future dealing with the Syrian Trade Bank would be suspended, while current deals would continue, Davutoglu said.

He also announced the suspension of a joint economic and political cooperation council between the two countries "until a legitimate leadership that is in peace with its people comes to power in Syria."

Dubai's government prompted speculation Wednesday that a proposed Arab League ban on Syria flights could soon take effect.

In a post on Twitter, the city-state's official media office said the United Arab Emirates' two main carriers, Emirates and Etihad Airways, would stop flying to Syria next week.

The post was later deleted. An official at the media office, who wasn't authorized to discuss the matter and spoke on condition of anonymity, said it had been posted in error.

Etihad said Monday it was reviewing its flights to Syria as a result of the sanctions. The government-owned airline, based in the Emirati capital Abu Dhabi, urged passengers booked on flights to Damascus to get in touch if they want to change their flight plans. It noted that an Arab League decision to ban flights could be made within a week.

An Etihad spokesman said Wednesday the carrier is sticking to its previous statement. Emirates didn't immediately respond to a request for comment Wednesday.

Also Wednesday, the British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said dozens of tanks and armored personnel carriers stormed the village of Dael in the southern Daraa province early in the morning amid heavy gunfire.

All communications with the village were cut at dawn, including mobile, land lines as well as electricity, the observatory said.

Another activist coalition, called the Local Coordination Committees, also reported explosions and deployment of military in Dael and said communications had been cut.

Assad has tried to contain the uprising in part by promising reform, but the opposition has largely brushed them off as too little, too late.

On Wednesday, state-run TV announced that more than 900 detainees involved in the uprising were released from prison in an act of amnesty.

Meanwhile, Russian General Staff chief Nikolai Makarov said on Tuesday that the dispatch of a Russian Navy task force to the Mediterranean Sea is part of a scheduled exercise and is not connected to the situation in Syria.

“We are not sending anything [to Syria],” he said.

He did not say when the exercise would take place.

Earlier, a Russian Defense Ministry source denied media reports that a group of Russian warships led by the Admiral Kuznetsov aircraft carrier would arrive at the Syrian port of Tartus in the spring of 2012.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said earlier on Tuesday that Moscow was opposed to the imposition of an arms embargo on Syria.

Sunday’s Arab League sanctions against Damascus were the latest bid to dissuade Syrian President Assad’s regime from using violence against protesters. The sanctions include cutting off transactions with the Syrian central bank and halting Arab government funding for projects in Syria, as well as travel bans and asset freezes on senior Syrian officials.

Damascus has denounced the move as a betrayal of Arab solidarity.

According to UN estimates, more than 3,500 people have been killed in Syria since mid-March, when the protests against Assad's regime first began.

On the other hand, the USS George H.W. Bush, the Navy’s newest aircraft carrier, has reportedly parked off the Syrian coast. The move comes as the U.S. embassy in Damascus urged Americans to “immediately” leave the country.

“The U.S. embassy continues to urge U.S. citizens in Syria to depart immediately while commercial transportation is available,” began a statement released Wednesday on the embassy website. “The number of airlines serving Syria has decreased significantly since the summer, while many of those airlines remaining have reduced their number of flights.”

In addition to urging citizens to leave the country, CBS News reports that Ambassador Robert Ford, who was recalled from Syria last month due to what the Obama administration called credible threats to his safety, will not return to the country later this month as planned.

Syria’s government has been strongly condemned by the international community following months of state-sponsored violence against political activists protesting the regime of President Bashar al-Assad. The violence is said to have left thousands dead in the country, which is a close ally of Iran and a sponsor of the Islamic terrorist group Hezbollah.

Adding to the sense of danger, Turkey, a NATO member and fierce critic of Assad’s government, recently warned its citizens to avoid traveling through the country after Syrian troops fired on at least two buses carrying Turkish Muslims returning from the annual pilgrimage to Mecca.

Some Arab publications have reported this week that a no-fly zone will soon be put in place over Syria — similar to the one implemented over Libya last spring. And while such reports in the Arab press are often met with skepticism by western observers, the financial news service ZeroHedge flagged down a report from the respected private intelligence company Stratfor stating that CVN 77, better known as the George H.W. Bush, had left the strategically vital Straits of Hormuz for the Syrian coast.

The idea of imposing a no-fly zone over Syria — an increasingly hot topic in Washington, D.C. — was discussed at Tuesday’s CNN Republican debate.

Texas Gov. Rick Perry has said he would “absolutely” propose a no-fly zone for the country, but when asked if they would do the same, other Republican presidential candidates remained hesitant.

“This is not the time for a no-fly zone over Syria,” said Romney.