Syria unrest: Arab League adopts sanctions in Cairo

Syria's empty chair at the Arab League meeting in Cairo (24 November 2011) Syria, a founder member of the Arab League, was formally suspended last week

The Arab League has approved sanctions against Syria, including an asset freeze and an embargo on investments.

It comes after months of unrest. The United Nations estimates about 3,500 people have died as Syria has sought to put down anti-government protests.

The Arab League suspended Syria earlier this month, in a move denounced by Damascus as meddling in its affairs.

League foreign ministers adopted the unprecedented sanctions at a meeting in Cairo by a vote of 19 to three.

The move came after Syria refused to allow 500 Arab League monitors into the country to assess the situation on the ground.

Syria, one of the founder members of the Arab League, condemned the sanctions as a betrayal of Arab solidarity.

Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Muallem accused the league of seeking to "internationalise" the conflict.

Refusal to implement

Qatari Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim al-Thani gave details of the sanctions to a news conference in Cairo. They include:

  • Cutting off transactions with the Syrian central bank
  • Halting funding by Arab governments for projects in Syria
  • A ban on senior Syrian officials travelling to other Arab countries
  • A freeze on assets related to President Bashar al-Assad's government

The declaration also calls on Arab central banks to monitor transfers to Syria, with the exception of remittances from Syrians abroad.

The league also voted to impose a ban on commercial flights between Syria and member states. A date for the ban to enter into force will be agreed within the next week.

Map of Syria and its neighbours

Two of Syria's immediate neighbours, Iraq and Lebanon, abstained from the vote. Iraq suggested an economic blockade would not work in practice.

Sheikh Hamad said Iraq would refuse to implement the sanctions, while Lebanon had "disassociated itself."

Iraq is Syria's second-biggest trading partner, accounting for 13.3% of Syria's trade, to a value of 6.78bn euros (£5.81bn; $8.97bn).

Turkey - which attended the meeting as an observer, since it is not an Arab state - said it would act in accordance with the Arab League sanctions.

"When civilians are killed in Syria and the Syrian regime increases its cruelty to innocent people, it should not be expected for Turkey and the Arab League to be silent," said Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, according to the state Anatolia news agency.

The EU and the US already have sanctions in place against Syria.

The Arab League move is being portrayed in Damascus as part of a Western-inspired conspiracy to undermine the country because of its traditional resistance to Israel, says the BBC's Jim Muir in neighbouring Lebanon.

Syrian state television described the sanctions as "unprecedented measures aimed at the Syrian people".

Meanwhile, violence continued on Sunday with Syrian activists saying at least 11 people were killed across the country.

The flashpoint region of Homs saw at least six people killed in three separate incidents, the British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

On Saturday, Syria buried 22 members of the armed forces, including six elite pilots ambushed on a highway near Homs, following a recent upsurge of armed attacks on security forces.

'Humanitarian corridor'

The League threatened Syria with sanctions earlier this month after President Bashar al-Assad repeatedly failed to implement steps to end the violence, including allowing international observers to enter Syria.

Damascus depends on its Arab neighbours for half of its exports and a quarter of its imports, so the sanctions - supplemented by Syria's northern neighbour Turkey - will step up the pressure and increase Syria's sense of isolation.

On Saturday, Mr Muallem hit out at the group after it asked the UN to contribute to the proposed observer mission, calling it an invitation "for foreign intervention instead of a call to avoid one".

But Sheikh Hamad said the sanctions were necessary if the international community were to see that the Arab countries were "serious", the Reuters news agency reports.

"All the work that we are doing is to avoid this interference," he said, according to Reuters.

Graphic of Syria's trade

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  • rate this

    Comment number 176.

    This is a step in the right direction, but will Bashar the snake stop killing his own innocent civilians? ofcourse not. The only course of action that can stop and eradicate this cancerous regime is military action. Sanctions is just like playing a broken record over again, and most importantly allowing more lives to be lost.

  • Comment number 175.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 174.

    Re 167: "Since when do peaceful protestors carry guns and shoot soldiers."

    Since they got fed up with being murdered by the hundred for months on end, perhaps?

    What began peacefully is, indeed, now becoming an armed insurrection - a self-fulfilling prophecy, as Atomic Mash points out. The sheer ineptness of the Assad regime means that things will continue to spiral out of control.

  • rate this

    Comment number 173.


    You continously use statistics provided by China,Russia and other Unrealiable sources. Then you predict a future where the USA is broke/bankrupt.

    I hate to ruin your feel good party (what a wonderful fun person you are)

    But, in time we'll be back--probably for the better--in the meantime..You should enjoy this moment

    (it IS so much fun insulting other

  • rate this

    Comment number 172.

    I was rather bored with the other wars anyway.They all seem to be coming to an end.This new one gives us a little variety in the news, something to read about besides the collapse of the Euro and the end of Europe as we know it.I don't think France and England will get involved in this one. Have they re-armed yet?Last time weren't they running out of bullets and now out of money to buy more?

  • rate this

    Comment number 171.

    We should ask why does Syria not want observers in. We've seen that around 4,000 protesters have been shot but what's happened to all those arrested and imprisoned? What grim news awaits us there?

  • rate this

    Comment number 170.

    Since when has the Arab League ever been a vehicle for democracy or respect of human rights? Although these sanctions would be legitimate if they really were to punish Syria for its continued brutality towards its own people the league's more likely just trying to punch at the soft underbelly of Iran. After all Saudi Arabia and Bahrain are not well renowned for their respect of human rights

  • rate this

    Comment number 169.

    @167. SpeakerOfTruth. Since when do peaceful protestors carry guns and shoot soldiers.

    Atomic_Mash: It's called a self-fulfilling prophecy. Kill enough of your people and enough soldiers will defect, defend themselves and attack the oppressors.

    It really all depends what propaganda you chose to believe: the UN/Arab League/Turkey or Syria/Iran/Russia. You obviously believe the later.

  • rate this

    Comment number 168.

    Re 167:

    When those soldiers are butchering civilians.

  • rate this

    Comment number 167.

    The Syrian regime is defending itself from an armed insurrection stop believing the NATO propaganda. Since when do peaceful protestors carry guns and shoot soldiers.

  • rate this

    Comment number 166.

    If Qaddafi and Mubarek couldn't survive can Assad? There's a lot of Suni Arabs lined up against him you didn't see in Egypt or Libya. Turkey, the EU, the US. Now China and Russia decided to sit this one out on the sidelines. They'll do business with anybody, whoever wins it's OK with them.It's the disruption to business as usual they worry about. They just hope the end comes quickly.But will it?

  • rate this

    Comment number 165.

    The USA haters appear more concerned with how the US is supposedly inciting and benefiting rather than with the plight of innocent Syrians being tortured and slaughtered by their own government.

    The killings by the Syrian government, with Russian arms, has now provoked the insurrection they claimed months ago, while the myopic US haters can do nothing but blame the US.

  • rate this

    Comment number 164.

    Or, maybe the reason they want the Syrian regime to fall, is because it currently has no "privatised" Central Bank. Exactly the same as Iran now. Neither did Libya until recent events, come to think of it, Iraq didn't either, ooh, but they do now! Yay...

  • rate this

    Comment number 163.

    Arab League is determined to replace the current secular regime with Sunni-Islamic Sharia regime. I have been in touch with my relatives in Syria, and as of yet, we do not know who there armed people who kill both the security forces and even the civilian people. Despite all of its deficiencies the current regime, we support the current regime's stability and security.

  • rate this

    Comment number 162.

    its funny to see one rich country that chooses to live in the dark ages imposing sanctions on another backward thinking country.all these arab states are the same.we only bother with them because they have oil.who is helping the people butchered by robert one because there is no oil there.we should not trade with any of them until they start to show us some respect

  • rate this

    Comment number 161.

    Looks like a simple embargo on oil from Syria by the EU should do the job.

  • rate this

    Comment number 160.

    I am all for the sanctions, however if the Arab League were to address the root cause of the troubles in Syria, it would have to sanction the majority of its own members. Most Arab countries are governed by dictators that keep ordinary people on a leash by means of ruthless intelligent services and brutal internal security forces. The hypocrisy of these sanctions is hard to overlook.

  • rate this

    Comment number 159.

    If the Yanks want to invade Iran or Syria, let this mongrel nation called USA do it themselves. We are tired of being taken for the ride by these idiots

  • rate this

    Comment number 158.

    Is the US headed towards full scale war with Pakistan ...

    >>> So, after over a decade of failure to defeat the Taliban, a plan might be to extend the war to (nuclear armed) Pakistan through which run essential supply lines for the original quagmire of a conflict. This is strategy worthy of the US high cammand. Is Suilerua perhaps an American general? :)

  • rate this

    Comment number 157.

    @Robotnick, etal.
    In my book, right to life is far more important than any other one you are concerned with. In the end, dead people don't nee right to free speech. The ease with which your kind are willing to deny the mst basic of all rights - to life - to tens of thousands, as was done in Libya, is appauling.
    See, I happen to know a bit more about revolutions. Would not wish even to your kind


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