Turkey cuts trade ties with Syria amid continued protest crackdowns
Turkey's move follows in the wake of sanctions announced by the Arab league; Turkey FM says cooperation agreement with Syria suspended until Assad regime ousted.
Turkey will suspend all financial dealings with Syria and freeze Syrian government assets as part of sanctions against President Bashar Assad's government, Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said on Wednesday.
Davutoglu also told a news conference that Turkey, once a close friend of Damascus, would block the delivery of all weapons and military equipment to Damascus as part of measures aimed at persuading Assad to end a violent crackdown against pro-democracy protesters.
Turkey's move follows in the wake of sanctions announced by the Arab league. Davutoglu also said a cooperation agreement with Syria was being suspended until there was a new government in place.
"Until a legitimate government which is at peace with its people is in charge in Syria, the mechanism of the High Level of Strategic Cooperation has been suspended," Davutoglu said, adding Assad's government had come "to the end of the road."
The Turkish FM's comments came after he had raised on Tuesday the option of military intervention in neighboring Syria while Russia rejected even an arms embargo as Damascus tries to stifle anti-government protests.
Highlighting divisions among foreign powers on how to deal with the bloodshed in Syria, Turkey's foreign minister said Ankara was reluctant to take a military option but was ready for "any scenario."
Russia's foreign minister for his part said it was time to stop issuing ultimatums to Damascus. Syria is facing increased economic sanctions and condemnation from many governments over what the United Nations calls "gross human rights violations" but Assad shows no sign of buckling under pressure to end his military crackdown on protesters calling for his overthrow.
Western powers have long ruled out any Libyan-style military intervention in Syria to halt the crackdown, in which more than 3,500 people are believed have been killed in eight months.
But Davutoglu suggested military force remained an option, albeit apparently a remote one, if Assad did not heed calls to halt the violence.
"If the oppression continues, Turkey is ready for any scenario. We hope that a military intervention will never be necessary. The Syrian regime has to find a way of making peace with its own people," he told Kanal 24 TV.
Davutoglu also raised the possibility of a buffer zone if the violence provoked a flood of refugees, an idea used by Ankara inside northern Iraq during the first Gulf War in 1991.