US lauds Turkey's leadership over Syria sanctions

US lauds Turkey's leadership over Syria sanctions

WASHINGTON - Agence France-Presse
US lauds Turkeys leadership over Syria sanctions

Vice President Joe Biden attends a joint news conference with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, unseen, in Baghdad, Iraq, Wednesday, Nov. 30, 2011. Associated Press Photo

The United States praised Turkey yesterday for its leadership on Syria after Ankara said it would impose sanctions on the government of President Bashar al-Assad.

"The leadership shown by Turkey in response to the brutality and violation of the fundamental rights of the Syrian people will isolate the Assad regime," said National Security Council spokesman Tommy Vietor.

The move, by one of Syria's main trading partners and a former ally, will "send a strong message to Assad and his circle that their actions are unacceptable and will not be tolerated," Vietor said.

Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu had announced an immediate ban on transactions with the Syrian government and its central bank as well as a freeze on Syrian government assets in Turkey.

Similar measures would also be taken against "some well-known businessmen who are strong advocates of the Syrian regime," he added.

Ankara's measures come after Arab foreign ministers agreed on Sunday a list of sweeping sanctions designed to cripple the Assad regime, which has so far defied international pressure to halt a bloody crackdown on protests.

"The measures announced by the Turkish government today will undoubtedly increase the pressure on the Syrian regime," said Vietor.

"We continue to call on other governments to join the chorus of condemnation and pressure against the Assad regime so that the peaceful and democratic aspirations of the Syrian people can be realized." The United States and its Western allies are leading a campaign to isolate Assad over the crackdown, but have so far failed to win Chinese and Russian backing for full United Nations Security Council measures.

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan last week urged Assad, his one-time ally, to step down, becoming the second regional leader to do so after Jordan's King Abdullah.

The Turkish announcement, and the US praise, came two days before US Vice President Joe Biden is due to launch a visit to Turkey, an ally with which the White House has forged one of its closest foreign relationships.

Biden will meet Erdoğan and President Abdullah Gül, and plans to discuss Syria, Iran's nuclear challenge and Turkey's battle against Kurdish PKK rebels.

"The PKK is a common enemy of Turkey, the United States and Iraq, and we expect to focus on that," said Anthony Blinken, Biden's national security advisor, noting a "terrible" PKK attack on Turkish soldiers in October.

Washington plans to offer three SuperCobra attack helicopters to Turkey and has transferred four Predator drones from Iraq to Incirlik air base to help in the fight against the PKK, Blinken said.

The United States has also watched with alarm the estrangement of Turkey and its other key Middle Eastern ally, Israel, over an Israeli raid last year on a flotilla heading for Gaza in which nine Turks died.

And it considers Turkey as supportive of its efforts to deepen Iran's isolation after a UN nuclear watchdog found evidence to suggest Tehran was moving towards developing nuclear weapons.

After Ankara, Biden will head to Istanbul to attend a global entrepreneurship summit, a follow-on event from one hosted by US President Barack Obama in April 2010 to connect US business interests and foundations with the Muslim world.