Ankara prepares to penalize Syria

Article  •  Publié sur Souria Houria le 26 septembre 2011

Turkey’s sanctions against Syria, which will likely be announced in early October, will be as comprehensive as possible and will be shaped so as not to hurt the country’s people, Turkish officials have suggested.

The measures they highlighted focused on those dealing with bilateral economic, military, political and banking ties. The expected sanctions will come following an arms embargo against defiant President Bashar al-Assad’s administration that aims at weakening his dictatorial rule.

“This process [of ousting al-Assad] might be extended a little bit more but sooner or later in Syria, if the people make a different decision, that decision is going to be catered to. As in Egypt, as in Tunisia, as in Libya: People want to be free,” Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said in an interview with CNN International in New York over the weekend.

“If you’re going to act against fundamental rights and liberties, and the law, you will lose your position in my heart as my brother and my friend,” Erdoğan said, referring to al-Assad. “I was very patient. Patience, patience, patience. And then I cracked.”

Turkey’s first sanction was the seizure of a ship carrying weapons to Syria. “Turkey has detained a ship flying the Syrian flag and carrying weapons,” Erdoğan said Saturday in New York.

In Brussels, Deputy Prime Minister Bülent Arınç hinted that more than one arms shipment had been seized by Turkey upon notification from the Turkish intelligence organization, the Anatolia news agency reported. “Turkey has expressed its accord in implementing some of the economic and military sanctions imposed by the United States by considering that they would be useful,” Arınç said.

The sanctions Arınç mentioned will be likely be announced later this week, following Erdoğan’s return to Turkey and his visit to Syrian refugees in Hatay, on the Syrian border.

According to the information the Hürriyet Daily News gathered from diplomatic sources, all ministries and relevant institutions have concluded their own works on what sanctions could be imposed on Syria. Following an analysis at the Foreign Ministry, these sanctions will be sent to Erdoğan’s office for final approval.

The main principle in drafting the sanctions is to not target the Syrian people, but the regime, and thus measures such as cutting the sale of electricity to Syria or reducing the amount of water let through to the country on the Euphrates River is out of the question.

Instead, the sanctions will likely hit the Syrian state banking system, whose activities have been suspended by the United States and the European Union. Plans to jointly form a Turkish-Syrian bank have already been shelved, along with plans to increase relations between the two countries’ central banks.

As part of the economic sanctions, state-to-state relations will be lowered and private companies will be discouraged from investing in Syria. The Turkish Petroleum Corporation, or TPAO’s, plans to launch joint oil and gas exploration in Syria with the Syrian state oil company would also be suspended.

Addressing another major international project, carrying Egyptian natural gas to Turkey through Jordan and Syria, sources said the government’s sanctions would not affect international plans unless the Syrian government wants to stop them.

On the political front, the Turkish government will likely avoid high-level meetings with the Syrian leadership but will keep its ambassador in Damascus and its consulates there open. “For us, the Syrian administration is no longer a legitimate one. A totalitarian government that kills its own people has no respectable place in today’s world,” one source told the Daily News.

In terms of military ties, the annual military exercises performed on the Turkish-Syrian border to increase cooperation on border security will be suspended. However, worsening political and military ties would also affect ongoing cooperation against terrorism. k HDN