Arab foreign ministers meet in Cairo on Sunday to vote on new sanctions against Syria, which would include a travel ban and an asset freeze on officials as well as the suspension of transactions with the Syrian regime.
AFP - Arab foreign ministers gathered in Cairo Sunday to vote on a list of sanctions against Syria, designed to contain President Bashar al-Assad's regime and halt the bloody repression of opposition protests.
The vote comes after Damascus defied an ultimatum to accept observers under an Arab League peace plan and put an end to the eight-month crackdown which the United Nations says has killed more than 3,500 people.
The punitive measures, which include a ban on Syrian officials visiting any Arab country, the freezing of government assets, the suspension of flights and a halt to any transactions with the Syrian government and central bank, must be approved by a two-thirds majority.
Arab states are also called to freeze any investments for projects in Syria.
It would be the first time the Arab League has taken such a decision against one of its members.
Were the pan-Arab bloc to impose sanctions, the impact could be crippling for a country already facing a raft of EU and US sanctions, and which depends on its Arab neighbours for half of its exports and a quarter of its imports.
"If that is to happen, it will be very unfortunate because the damage will be to all sides," Syrian Economy Minister Mohammed Nidal al-Shaar told AFP in an exclusive interview.
But he said that he did not expect all Arab countries to back the recommendation.
Among those who appear opposed are Syria's immediate neighbours Lebanon and Iraq, which has already said "it is not possible... to impose economic sanctions on Syria."
In a letter to the Arab League on Saturday, Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem accused the 22-member organisation of seeking to "internationalise" the crisis in his country.
The violence showed no sign of abating on Sunday, with security forces killing at least two civilians in Homs, the central city they have been laying siege to for weeks in a bid to silence dissent, said the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
At least 23 civilians and 12 members of the security forces were killed in clashes across the country on Saturday, the Britain-based rights group said.
These included 16 civilians, among them two children aged nine and 10, shot dead by security forces -- in Homs and Qussayr in central Syria and another in Deir Ezzor in the east, the group added.
Bahrain and Qatar on Sunday called on their citizens to leave Syria, after the United Arab Emirates also advised its citizens earlier in the week to stay away.
Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu has said he will join Sunday's meeting to harmonise his government's measures with those of the Arab League, saying that Ankara's former ally had missed its "last chance" by failing to heed the Arab ultimatum.
But Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari, whose country has close economic ties with Syria and a large refugee community in its western neighbour, said it was "not possible" to impose sanctions on Assad's regime.
Iraq abstained from a vote earlier this month that saw the Arab League decide to suspend Syria's membership and threaten sanctions, while Lebanon joined Yemen and Syria itself in opposing the resolution.
The Arab League had set a Friday deadline for Damascus to agree to the details of the observers' mission, part of a reform deal Syria had previously said it accepted.
Date created : 2011-11-27