2011-12-12

Turkish bloggers discuss Syrian sanctions

As relations between Ankara and Damascus hit a new low, bloggers wonder what the future holds.

By Alakbar Raufoglu for Southeast European Times -- 12/12/11

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Last week, Turkey, along with the EU and the Arab League, slapped tough economic sanctions on Syria, freezing assets of officials involved in the government's crackdown on an eight-month-old uprising, suspending ties with the nation's central bank and banning all military sales.

In response, the regime of Bashar al-Assad suspended the free trade agreement with Turkey and closed one of its border gates.

On December 8th, Ankara announced a new set of sanctions imposing 30% tax on goods from its neighbour.

Even before the sanctions, Turkish exports to Syria had dropped to $138 million in October, from $144 million in September, notes blogger Aynur Yilmaz, citing Turkish economy minister Zafer Caglayan.

A similar decrease occurred during the overthrow of the Mubarak regime in Egypt. "When the events started in Egypt, trade dropped and then recovered again," she writes.

Without waiting for further sanctions, some Turkish companies have already left Syria, or limited their ongoing projects there due to recent developments, Yilmaz adds.

Meanwhile, Iqrahaber19 wonders what Ankara's next step will be. "According to the analysts, all Turkey needs at the moment is to wait and see the result of the sanctions, closely monitor the internal dynamics [of Syria], and support international efforts", he writes.

The blogger believes that by setting its sanctions Turkey has already made a choice between the al-Assad regime and the Syrian people. "Now, it's time for Ankara to strengthen its viewpoint on the international level," he writes.

Ohers, such as Yusuf Gezgin, worry that Turkey will find itself isolated in the region.

"Iran continues threatening Turkey, while our Western allies leave us face-to-face with the Arabs," he writes, adding that Kurdish militants are receiving support from Damascus.

"Our flags are being burned in Syria; our embassy is being attacked," he adds.

In case of military intervations against Syria, Gezgin believes, "they should be implemented under the UN and NATO, and Tukey should not play the main role, even stay aside".

Another blogger, Cesuryorum has doubts that Iran and Russia will give up on al-Assad.

"Russia is getting stronger economically; it has mutual agreements with Iran. They can't step aside from their interests," he writes.

For blogger-analyst Yasin Atlioglu, who just recently returned from Damascus, the situation is becoming more unstable in Syria, and it is the people who suffer the most.

"The country was divided between the al-Assad supporters and the opposition," he writes, adding that a police regime is in charge in Damascus.

"Checkpoints, consisting of 3-4 civilians and military personal, are checking private cars" at nearly every exit, he writes.

Although many want Assad to leave, some are concerned that Syria could descend into chaos and internal conflict, as in Iraq, Atlioglu writes. "The possibility of military operations scares everyone."

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