Arab ministers meet in Cairo to decide Syria sanctions
Arab ministers are gathered in Egypt’s capital, Cairo, to draw up sanctions against Syria as a punishment for defying a Friday ultimatum to allow observers into the country and pressing a deadly crackdown.
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 would not be possible" to impose sanctions on the Assad regime.
"We announce our reservation on this issue," he said, although it was not immediately clear if he meant that Iraq would refuse to enforce any economic sanctions agreed by the Arab League.
Finance ministers are expected to thrash out a package which could include the suspension of flights and freezing of government assets which will then be put to foreign ministers on Sunday.
Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said he would join Sunday's meeting to harmonise his government's own measures with those of the Arab League. Ankara already has some measures in hand against Damascus, including a suspension of joint oil exploration and a threat to halt power exports.
Davutoglu, whose government has expressed outrage at the mounting bloodshed in its southern neighbour that saw at least 16 people killed on Friday, said the Damascus regime's refusal to allow in observers could only mean it had something to conceal.
Syria depends on its Arab neighbours for half of its exports and a quarter of its imports.
If the 22-nation bloc were to impose serious economic sanctions, the impact would be crippling for a country already a facing a raft of punitive measures from the European Union and the United States.
Daily newsletterReceive essential international news every morningSubscribe