Turkey Imposes Asset Freeze, Other Sanctions on Syrian Leaders

Posted November 30th, 2011 at 6:05 am (UTC-5)
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Turkey says it is freezing the assets of Syrian leaders and taking other steps to pressure them into stopping a deadly government crackdown on an eight-month pro-democracy uprising.

Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu announced the sanctions in a news conference Wednesday. The measures include cutting off links with Syria's central bank, banning the delivery of weapons to the country and suspending the two neighbors' strategic cooperation agreement.

Turkey had been a close friend of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's government prior to the start of the uprising in March. Davutoglu said that regime now has come to the “end of the road.”

Turkey's decision to impose sanctions on Syria follows the Arab League's approval of unprecedented financial and political penalties against Damascus on Sunday. Only Iraq and Lebanon refused to support the measures, leaving the Syrian government increasingly isolated in the region.

Syrian Information Minister Adnan Mahmoud said Tuesday the country is self-sufficient and has a stockpile of food and basic supplies to withstand the sanctions.

Turkey said Tuesday it may shift its Middle East trade routes to go through Iraq – cutting out Syria as a transit country if unrest there worsens and embargoes against Damascus go into effect.

Onetime allies Turkey and Syria abolished visa requirements in 2009 and had planned to raise their trade volume from the current $2.5 billion to $5 billion in 2012.

Also Tuesday, Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said Ankara may set up a buffer zone along its border with Syria in coordination with the international community if hundreds of thousands of people attempt to flee the unrest there for Turkey.

The United Nations says violence related to the uprising has killed at least 3,500 people, mostly civilians.

Syria has refused to end the crackdown, calling it a necessary response to attacks by “armed terrorists” on civilians and security personnel.