Monday, June 25, 2012

Report: 33 Syrian military members defect to Turkey; Turkey to cut electricity

How bad things are for the Assad regime? That bad.
ANKARA, Turkey (AP) — Dozens of members of Syria's military defected to Turkey overnight with their families, a Turkish official said Monday, at a time of heightened tensions between the two countries over Syria's downing of a Turkish military plane.

The state-run Anadolu news agency said 33 soldiers crossed into Turkey overnight and the group — 224 people in all — included a general and two colonels.

A government official, however, said the group included three colonels and there was no general among them. The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity in line with government rules, did not know the overall number of defectors and the two accounts could not immediately be reconciled.

Turkey's Energy Minister, Taner Yildiz, meanwhile, signaled that his government is to cut electricity supplies to the conflict-torn country, where escalating violence has claimed thousands of lives and forced hundreds of thousands of people from their homes.

Turkish companies provide Syria with on average 2 billion kilowatt/hour of electricity per year — around 10 percent of Syria's annual power consumption. Yildiz said a decision on the issue could be announced Tuesday by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan who is expected to address his party legislators in parliament and reveal what retaliatory measures Turkey will take against Damascus for downing down the plane.

The defections come three days after Syria shot down the aircraft, further fraying relations between the two countries that were once allies.