Turkey could bypass Syria for regional trade, minister says

Turkey plans to bypass Syria for regional trade if conditions in the neighboring country deteriorate, the country's transport minister said on Tuesday.

"If conditions aggravate in Syria, we are planning to shift [road] transport to Iraq by opening new gates," Transport Minister Binali Yildirim was quoted as saying by the Anatolia news agency.

Turkey's move comes after Arab foreign ministers agreed on Sunday a list of sweeping sanctions designed to cripple the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, which has defied international pressure to halt a bloody crackdown on protests.

Yildirim said the Arab sanctions against Damascus were not yet fully implemented.

"Turkey is supporting this work [Arab League decision] to some extent but our principle is that the restrictions to be imposed should never victimize the Syrian people," he warned.

Syria is a transit country for Turkey's trade with Middle Eastern countries. Turkey and Syria, one time allies, abolished visa requirements in 2009.

Ankara has been increasingly strident in its criticism of the Syrian regime, and has already halted joint oil exploration and threatened to cut electrify supplies.

-AFP/NOW Lebanon

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