1 Aug 2012

Syria closes Australian embassy

4:36 am on 1 August 2012

Syria has shut its Australian embassy in Canberra, which also serves as New Zealand's embassy, with the website stating it is now closed.

In May, Australia's foreign minister Bob Carr announced a 72-hour deadline for two of Syria's senior diplomats to leave Australia, including Syrian Charge D'Affaires Jawdat Ali.

At the time, Senator Carr warned the Syrian government could not expect any further official engagement with Australia until it agreed to the United Nations ceasefire.

It is understood some former embassy workers are now seeking asylum in Australia.

The embassy's closure comes as reports from Turkey say more of president Bashar al Assad's men have defected.

A Turkish official says a deputy police chief of Syria's western Latakia city, a brigadier general, has now fled to Turkey with 11 other Syrian officers.

The official says in addition to the officers, about 600 Syrians have crossed over in the last 24 hours bringing the total number of Syrian refugees in Turkey to about 43,500.

Many of those leaving are fleeing from Syria's northern city, Aleppo, where heavy fighting continues between government forces and rebels.