Last updated: 29 November, 2011

Saudi urges its citizens to leave unrest-hit Syria

The Saudi foreign ministry on Tuesday urged its citizens to leave Syria and not to travel to the Arab nation that has been hit by months of deadly anti-regime protests.

“Due to the security situation, Saudi Arabia urges its citizens to leave Syria and not travel there,” the ministry said in a statement carried by the official SPA news agency.

The decision comes just days after the Arab League slapped unprecedented sanctions on the Syrian regime over its heavy-handed crackdown on dissent, including a call to suspend flights between Damascus and Arab destinations.

Bahrain and Qatar on Sunday urged their citizens to leave Syria after the United Arab Emirates also advised its nationals to stay away.

Arab states in the Gulf have been at the forefront of calls to sanction Syria over its eight-month crackdown which the United Nations says has killed more than 3,500 people.

The Qatari and Saudi embassies in Damascus have been attacked during pro-regime demonstrations.

And Saudi Arabia said one of its citizens was killed on November 21 while visiting relatives in the restive city of Homs in central Syria.

The Arab League on Sunday approved sweeping sanctions against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s government — the first time the bloc has imposed punitive measures of such magnitude on one of its own members.

Measures include an immediate ban on transactions with Damascus and its central bank and a freeze on Syrian government assets in Arab countries.

They also bar Syrian officials from visiting Arab countries and call for a suspension of all flights to Arab states to be implemented on a date to be set next week.