Turkish businessmen desert unsettled Syria
HATAY - Anatolia News Agency
A damaged car at the blast scene in Aleppo is seen in this file photo.Some 100 businessmen from Hatay have frozen their businesses in the Arab republic and returned home following Ankara’s call for Turkish nationals to leave the violence-hit country, said the head of a regional business association.
Turkish businessmen are generally active in construction, food, furniture industries in Syria, said Nihat Kılıç, the head of the Commerce and Industry Chamber in Reyhanlı, a district of Hatay that borders Syria.
“Some 100 businessmen, all members of the Hatay Commerce and Industry Chamber, returned to Turkey upon freezing their businesses there,” he said, adding that more businessmen would leave Syria as well after they obtain payments.
Ahmet Doğru, a Turkish restaurant owner from Antakya, the central district of Hatay, returned home about three weeks ago after the Foreign Ministry issued the call.
“I have a 140 square-meter restaurant in Aleppo. I was not safe there. Especially in the last two months, Aleppo has started to fall into disorder. The distance between Antakya and Aleppo is 100 kilometers. It is not safe,” he told the Daily News yesterday on the phone.
He made the investment in Aleppo 16 months ago but now has a hard time paying his credit card debts because he was unable to sell off his business there.
“Before, you could see cars with Turkish license plates from many provinces including Kilis, Antep, Adana, Hatay [provinces close to Syria] and even the western province of Kocaeli,” he said, noting that many Turkish businessmen had been active in Syria.
Exports to Syria
Turkey’s exports to Syria total about $1.2 billion annually, and Hatay is the most important province in terms of the shipping business in the region, according to Kılıç.
“We want the government to support Ro-Ro transportation. We want freightage to be shipped via the sea to Egypt and continue on land routes to other countries,” he said.
Mehmet Tanyaş, the head of the Logistics Association, echoed Kılıç, telling the Daily News that a Ro-Ro service should be established between the southern coastal province of Mersin and Egypt’s Alexandria.
Turkish truck drivers are forced to use the Cilvegözü Border Gate in Hatay and drive through Syria if they want to take advantage of the shortest route to other Middle Eastern countries, he said, noting that the drivers chose this cost-effective route because they were generally paying off debt installments for their trucks.
But many Turkish drivers are no longer going to Syria due to a lack of safety, he added.
“Syrian transportation firms come to Hatay and take their loads, which causes an economic loss for Turkey,” Tanyaş said.