Regional free zone attempt stillborn

Regional free zone attempt stillborn

Gökhan Kurtaran ISTANBUL - Hürriyet Daily News
Regional free zone attempt stillborn

This March 29 photo shows a banking conference in Istanbul to enhance ties among so-called Shamgen countries. AA photo

“Shamgen,” a step toward creation of a free trade area between Turkey, Syria, Lebanon and Jordan, officially came to an end due to the rising tensions between Turkey and Syria, according to a Central Bank official. The plan, inspired by the EU Schengen Agreement, was launched eight months ago.

“Shamgen included the development of close bonds between Central Banks of the member countries including Syria, but as part of the sanctions imposed on Syria it came to an end officially,” the Central Bank source told the Hürriyet Daily News Nov. 30.

“Shamgen was a new project we were all working toward, but as the political climate has changed in the region, it’s definite that the project ended,” he said.

Central banks break ties

The Turkish Central Bank has suspended all ties with the Syrian Central Bank within the scope of Turkey’s economic sanctions unveiled by Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu on Nov. 30.

Taking its name from the word “Sham,” the classical Arabic name for Syria, the ambitious project began with Turkey signing free-trade and visa-exemption agreements with Syria, Jordon and Lebanon in 2007, 2009 and 2010 respectively.

Turkey’s Central Bank had organized the Enhancing Shamgen Banking conference in Istanbul on March 28 and 29, bringing together top officials of central banks from the Shamgen member states.

“Although this conference is a step toward improving relations between the banking sectors of Turkey, Syria, Lebanon and Jordan in the short term, it is expected to contribute to the formation of a single market with the inclusion of other countries in the region in an area circumscribed by the Persian Gulf, Red Sea and the Mediterranean,” Turkey’s then Central Bank Gov. Durmuş Yılmaz said at the conference.