Turkey slaps sanctions on Syria
Turkey said on Wednesday it had suspended all financial credit dealings with Syria and frozen Syrian government assets, joining the Arab League and Western powers in imposing economic sanctions against President Bashar al-Assad’s government.
Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu told a news conference that Turkey, Syria’s largest trading partner and a rising Middle East power, will also block delivery of all weapons and military equipment to Damascus as part of measures aimed at persuading Assad to end a crackdown on protesters.
A Foreign Ministry official said the sanctions come into effect immediately.
The move by Turkey, once a close friend of Syria, piles further pressure on Assad and comes after the Arab League announced economic sanctions against Damascus.
Davutoglu also said all relations with Syria’s central bank were being suspended and that a cooperation agreement with Syria was being halted until there was a new government in place.
“Until a legitimate government which is at peace with its people is in charge in Syria, the mechanism of the High Level of Strategic Cooperation has been suspended,” Davutoglu said, adding Assad’s government had come “to the end of the road.”
Muslim Turkey was once one of Syria’s closest regional allies, and Turkey’s Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan had built a strong rapport with Assad.
But as the violence grew worse and Assad ignored Erdogan’s advice to halt the repression and make urgent reforms, relations became increasingly frosty and Erdogan earlier this month bluntly told Assad he should quit.
Turkey now hosts Syrian military defectors and an umbrella Syrian opposition group.
Turkey, which last year had a bilateral trade of $2.5 billion with Syria, has said it is weighing new trade routes to bypass Syria should violence there continue.
Ankara has said any sanctions would not hurt the Syrian people and has ruled out cutting off electricity and water supplies. It has also said civil aviation by Turkish Airlines to Damascus will continue.
Turkey, which has a 900 km long border with Syria, said on Tuesday it did not want military intervention in Syria but was ready for any scenario, including setting up a buffer zone to contain any mass influx of refugees.
The Turkish army set up a security buffer zone inside northern Iraq during the first Gulf War in 1991 and has maintained small detachments there ever since.