Fresh sanctions slapped by the United States are meant to “expose and disrupt” links between Iran, Hizbullah movement and Syria, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Saturday.
She said the “number one goal” of Washington and Ankara was to hasten the end of Bashar Assad’s regime in Damascus and stop the bloodshed, while warning that Syria must not become a haven for Kurdish rebels battling Turkey.
“We are continuing to increase pressure from outside,” Clinton told a joint press conference in Istanbul after meeting Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu and Syrian opposition activists.
“Yesterday in Washington we announced sanctions designed to expose and disrupt the links between Iran, Hizbullah and Syria that prolong the life of the Assad regime.”
Washington on Friday announced sanctions against Syrian state oil company Sytrol for trading with Iran, in a bid to starve both Tehran and Damascus of much-needed revenue.
The U.S. Treasury also said it was adding Hizbullah, which has close ties with Iran and Syria, to a blacklist of organizations targeted under Syria-related sanctions.
Washington already classes Hizbullah a “terrorist organization” and it is under U.S. sanctions, but Friday’s move explicitly ties the group to the violence in Syria, where Assad is attempting to put down a 17-month revolt.
Hizbullah was added to a blacklist associated with an executive order signed by U.S. President Barack Obama in August last year which targeted the government of Syria and its supporters.
The sanctions are designed to increase pressure on Damascus as the conflict escalates sharply after the failure of former U.N.-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan’s peace plan and his dramatic resignation.
But 17 months after the start of the uprising the Syrian leader remains in power, and more than 20,000 people have been killed.
Hizbullah has denied a report recently published by the Saudi newspaper Okaz about the death of 56 of its fighters in battles in Syria’s Aleppo.
“This report is baseless, has nothing to do with reality and was fabricated by the imagination of the sources that composed it,” the party said.