Middle East News
Arab League slaps sanctions on unresponsive Syria
Nov 26, 2011, 22:20 GMT
Cairo/Beirut - Arab economy ministers agreed Saturday to impose sanctions on Syria including a ban on its senior officials' travel and suspension of trade links after Damascus ignored a deadline to end a violent crackdown on opposition.
The ministers, gathered in Cairo for a crisis meeting on Syria, said they would list names of the senior Syrian officials to be barred from travelling through Arab airports.
'Trade exchanges between Arab governments and the Syrian government are to be halted, except for those related to the strategic goods needed by the Syrian people,' said the ministers in a statement.
As part of a package of sanctions, the Arab governments are to stop dealing with Syria's central bank and to suspend flights by Syria's state-owned airline, except for those carrying goods.
The Arab ministers demanded that their countries freeze assets owned by Syrian officials and withdraw Arab investments in Syria.
According to the statement, the sanctions were designed to not harm the Syrian people.
The Arab League foreign ministers are to continue meeting Sunday in Cairo for further talks on Syria. The meeting will also be attended by Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu.
The Arab League had set Friday as a deadline for Damascus to endorse a plan to allow Arab monitors into the country, pull the Syrian Army from civilian areas and open dialogue with the opposition.
Syria ignored the deadline, the second set by the regional body this month.
The Arab economy ministers proposed on Saturday a committee be created to be tasked with specifying the goods to be excluded from the ban.
They said the interests of Syria's neighbours should be heeded when the sanctions are enforced.
Earlier Saturday, Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari, whose country has close economic ties with Syria, was quoted as saying it was 'not possible' to impose such sanctions. Lebanon has already made clear that it will not vote for any economic sanctions on its neighbour.
Syria depends on its Arab neighbours for half of its exports and a quarter of its imports.
The state-run Syrian news agency SANA said the move by the pan-Arab bloc was unprecedented. 'The Syrian people reject the Arab League for being a tool of foreign interference,' SANA said.
The 22-country organization suspended Syria's membership this month after al-Assad's regime ignored demands to end an eight-month crackdown on protests, in which more than 3,500 people have been killed.
Activists in Beirut said 11 civilians, including three children, were killed Saturday by security forces across Syria.
Eight were killed when government forces stormed the town of Deir Az-Zour near the Turkish border, they said. Another three civilians were killed when security forces opened fire in the flashpoint city of Homs.
SANA reported that 22 soldiers and security personnel were killed in clashes with 'armed terrorist groups.'
Reports from Syria cannot be independently verified because foreign journalists and human rights groups have been barred from the country.