Turkey imposed sanctions on Syria and will expand the punitive measures if President Bashar al-Assad fails to halt his eight-month crackdown on dissent, Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said.
Syrian government assets held in Turkey are being frozen, al-Assad’s leadership team is banned from entry, transactions with Syria’s central bank and trade bank are prohibited, credit agreements are suspended, and arms sales and shipments have been halted, Davutoglu told reporters in Ankara today.
The measures join the sanctions adopted by the Arab League on Nov. 27, which Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Muallem called a declaration of “economic war.” Turkey’s nine-item package is designed to target the Syrian government’s ability to carry out acts of violence against the people, Davutoglu said, adding that his country won’t restrict water supplies and other essential items needed by Syrians.
“We will evaluate additional measures that we can enact with the same meticulousness, depending on the Syrian regime’s attitude,” Davutoglu said. “We hope that the Syrian regime will realize that the only way out of the dead-end street it’s in is to fully implement the public’s legitimate demands and to end the violence against and oppression of its people.”
The U.S., which also has imposed sanctions on Syria over the government’s response to demonstrations, commended the Turkish action and called on other nations to add pressure on Assad.
The sanctions “will isolate the Assad regime and send a strong message to Assad and his circle that their actions are unacceptable and will not be tolerated,” White House National Security Council spokesman Tommy Vietor said in a statement. The statement said President Barack Obama had “coordinated closely” with Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Syria.
Turkey’s announcement comes before a scheduled Dec. 2 visit by U.S. Vice President Joe Biden. The situation in Syria will be among the topics Biden discusses with Erdogan.
Since the unrest in Syria started in mid-March, trade between the country and Turkey has been declining, Turkish Minister of Transportation, Maritime Affairs and Communication Binali Yildirim said yesterday. Syria-Turkey trade in the first 10 months of this year was $1.76 billion, compared with $1.86 billion in the same period of 2010, according to the Turkish state statistics agency. The total trade between them last year was $2.3 billion.
Turkey is planning alternative trucking routes via Iraq as well as shipping routes via Egypt to counter a worsening of the unrest in Syria and to comply with embargoes, Yildirim said.
The sanctions will be in effect until a “legitimate government in peace with its people” comes to power, Davutoglu said.
The Arab League is ready to “immediately end” its sanctions against Syria if the country signs a protocol allowing a league-sponsored delegation of monitors into the country, Egypt’s state-run Middle East News Agency said yesterday, citing the league’s secretary-general, Nabil el-Arabi. He also said he was ready to meet Syria’s foreign minister, MENA reported.