Syria announces huge oil export cuts

Crude oil exports will be cut by 37 percent while Western states are on the verge of announcing a boycott of Syrian Heavy Crude (or Souedie Crude), according to media reports.

Sytrol, Syria’s state-run oil company, will cut the exports from its port in Tartous from July, Bloomberg financial newswire reported.

The Heavy Crude oil can only be refined in a few European countries – Italy, France, Holland and Spain – meaning Syria would not be able to turn to Russia, Iran or China to take up the slack if a boycott were put in place.

Some opposition activists have called for such a measure for a long time as, despite the fact that most of the oil is refined in Syria, almost one third is processed overseas meaning it would be a quick and direct way to damage government income.

But Iraq said it would supply Syria with a “large amount” of oil to see it through the current economic downturn

Military sweep in northwest continues as US increases pressure

Seven civilians were reportedly killed in villages in Syria’s northwest as the military and security services continued their sweep through the region.

Tanks reportedly rolled into Mar-Ayan and Ihsem in the northwestern province of Idleb on Wednesday.

Meanwhile the US imposed sanctions on Syrian and Iranian police units it says are responsible for violence against protesters, reported AFP.

The sanctions target individuals in the Syrian Political Security Directorate - one of a number of branches of the Syrian security forces - and the head of Syrian Air Force Intelligence, Major General Jamil Hassan.

In Syria’s second city, Aleppo, hundreds of lawyers held a sit-in calling for the release of political prisoners while government loyalists held a counter-protest.

Facebook groups have been calling for a massive protest to take place on June 30 in Aleppo – the country’s economic hub.

Cabinet approves draft FTA with Iran

The Syrian cabinet on Wednesday approved a draft law ratifying the proposed free-trade agreement with Iran.

A senior Iranian official said on Wednesday that the US and its allies are exploiting popular protests in Syria to try to break an alliance between Syria and Iran against Israel.

Ramin Mehmanparast, a special advisor to Iran’s Foreign Minister, said the alliance between Iran and Syria constituted a threat not only to Israel, but also to the West’s interests in the Middle East, Reuters reported

Syria, which borders Israel, Lebanon, Iraq, Turkey and Jordan, has regional influence because of its alliance with Iran and its continued influence in Lebanon, despite ending a 29-year military presence there in 2005.

Demonstrators hold ’silent gathering’ for the fallen

Hundreds of Syrians gathered yesterday in Al-Jala’ park in central Damascus, in a silent vigil for Syrians who died during the unrest.

The meeting – which was the first civil society initiative since unrest began – was in response to a Facebook call by a group called “Syrian Loyals”.

They lit candles and raised the Syrian flag while preventing any pro- or anti-government chants, or the carrying of pictures or signs bearing slogans before ending the rally by singing the national anthem.

During the two-hour gathering a small group of pro-regime activists interrupted the silence chanting for the government and the president. But police blocked their attempts to enter the park.

Syria Today (Syria)