Turkey to declare its own sanctions on Syria

Turkey to declare its own sanctions on Syria

Turkey to declare its own sanctions on Syria

Turkish FM Davutoğlu sits next to his Egyptian counterpart Mohamed Kamel Amr (R) during the Arab League’s meeting yesterday. Turkey’s measures could differ from those of the Arab League in size and in timing, say sources. AA photo

Turkey will swiftly implement economic and financial sanctions against the disobedient Syrian administration amid growing tension with its southern neighbor, whose leader accused Ankara of having “imperial dreams.”

Hours after the Arab League approved sanctions against its own member, the Turkish government met in a rush meeting in Ankara to finalize a draft of sanctions in what diplomats described as “parallel and complementary to those of the Arab League.” The measures are expected to be announced in the next few days by a government statement.

“Obviously measures we will take against Syria will be national ones. But we will fully support sanctions announced by the Arab League,” a Foreign Ministry official told Hürriyet Daily News yesterday afternoon following the League’s approval of sanctions. “But,” the official said, “as a neighboring country which has a 900-km-long border with this country, our measures could differ from those of the Arab League in size and in timing.”

Cutting electricity sales to Syria, suspending all joint projects and investments, halting flights to and from Syria, freezing the assets of top Syrian officials in Turkey, halting ongoing financial cooperation with the Syrian Central Bank and other institutions and continuing a land and air blockade to stop arms transfer to Syria are among sanctions Turkey will implement against its southern neighbor.

Deputy Prime Minister Ali Babacan and Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu were scheduled to hold a meeting late yesterday with a group of cabinet ministers to discuss bureaucratic procedures for the implementations of national sanctions. Economy Minister Zafer Çağlayan, Customs and Trade Minister Hayati Yazıcı, Energy Minister Taner Yıldız, Transportation Minister Binali Yıldırım and other relevant senior officials joined the meeting.

Three principles for sanctions

According to Turkish diplomatic sources, sanctions to be imposed on Syria were based on three main principles. As Babacan earlier said, sanctions would never include cutting the flow of water to Syria, which stood as the first principle. Second, steps that would affect daily lives of Syrian citizens would be avoided as much as possible. And third, sanctions would not harm Turkish interests in Syria, especially in the fields of transportation and trade.

“What we have said from the very beginning is that sanctions should have first come from a regional organization,” a diplomatic official said. “And they did. And as Turkey, we will stand neither behind nor in the front of the Arab League. We will be nearby.”

Political sanctions not far away

However, sanctions will unlikely be limited to economic measures. Following organized attacks against its diplomatic missions and Bashar al-Assad’s public accusations against Turkey, diplomatic sources no longer ruled out withdrawal of the Turkish ambassador to Damascus within days. The political sanctions could later be enhanced by closing the Turkish Embassy in Damascus and recognizing the Syrian National Council as the legitimate representative of the Syrian people.

“Withdrawing our ambassador or implementing other means of political sanctions depends on the Syrian leadership,” the official said. “As it happened during the attacks of our diplomatic missions, if they cannot guarantee to protect our diplomatic staff, then there will be nothing to do except withdrawing the ambassador.”

‘Reinstating Ottoman Empire’

Following organized attacks against Turkish diplomatic missions, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad accused Turkey of trying to revive “imperial dreams” in the old Ottoman Empire territories. Al-Assad lashed out at Turkish officials who frequently criticized him, saying that “some in Turkey are still clinging to the dream of reinstating the Ottoman Empire.”

The Turkish leaders, he said, “Know that this dream is impossible, so they are trying to exploit parties with a religious agenda to expand their influence on the Arab world.” Speaking to the Arabic-language website Arab Press, Assad called on his supporters not to vandalize any Turkish symbols: “I ask you – don’t burn Turkish flags. The Turkish people are a proud nation.” k HDN