Gulfsands Petroleum Plc, a U.K. oil explorer working in Syria, suspended payments to a cousin of the country’s President Bashar al-Assad as Europe imposed sanctions on the regime after a state crackdown that has killed thousands.
The explorer, operating in Syria since 2000, also suspended Rami Makhlouf’s voting rights, it said in a statement today.
Makhlouf, owner of 5.75 percent of Gulfsands via Al Mashrek Global Invest, is one of 13 Syrian officials subject to European Union sanctions including a visa ban and asset freeze. In 2008, he was accused by the U.S. Treasury Department of using access to “high-level” government officials to enrich himself.
Faced with the most serious threat to his family’s 40-year rule, Assad has deployed tanks, artillery and helicopters to crush an uprising that began after revolts ousted the leaders of Tunisia and Egypt and sparked a conflict in Libya. More than 2,200 people have been killed during the crackdown, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay said yesterday.
“Our commercial relationships with various Makhlouf interests have at all times been conducted with propriety and in accordance with pertinent laws and regulations,” Andrew West, the chairman of London-based Gulfsands, said in the statement.
The company described its relationships with the interests of Makhlouf in the past as “constructive” and said it is “fully compliant” with U.S. and EU sanctions against Syria. Its main operation in the nation isn’t affected by the uprising.
The U.S., U.K. and France circulated a draft resolution to UN Security Council members yesterday seeking to freeze foreign assets held by Assad, his brother Maher and 21 senior government officials. The EU expanded an asset freeze and travel ban on Syrian leaders and is working to prevent imports of crude oil.
U.S. President Barack Obama, together with U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron, French President Nicolas Sarkozy, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, issued a statement on Aug. 18 saying Assad should leave and let Syrians chart their own political future.