Turkey to announce sanctions on Syria soon

Turkey will soon announce a set of sanctions against the Syrian regime while opposing any military option but staying ready for any scenario, Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said Tuesday.

"The steps to be taken [against Damascus] have been clarified" at a cabinet meeting this week, Davutoglu told a news conference.

"We will announce them after further consultations with the president and the prime minister," he added.

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

"We are supporting the decisions made by the Arab League. We'll implement them to a great extent," said Davutoglu, adding that there might be some "nuances" because of Turkey's position as a neighbor of Syria.

Turkey has already halted joint oil exploration with Syria and threatened to cut electric power supplies.

Davutoglu insisted that measures contemplated by Turkey would not harm civilians and that Ankara was not considering halting the delivery of water from the Euphrates River to Syria.

Earlier Tuesday, Transport Minister Binali Yildirim said Turkey was seeking alternative routes to bypass Syria for regional trade if conditions in the neighboring country deteriorate.

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

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

Current trade volume between Turkey and Syria stands at around 2.5 billion dollars (1.87 billion euros), favorable to Turkey, experts say. The one-time allies had vowed to raise it to five billion dollars in 2012.

But the sanctions planned by Ankara aimed at punishing the Syrian regime for its ongoing violence, which has claimed more than 3,500 lives according to the United Nations, are likely to undermine this objective.

-AFP/NOW Lebanon

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