The Arab League approved by a majority vote on Sunday sweeping economic sanctions on Syria over its crackdown on protesters and the Qatari foreign minister said if Arabs failed to contain the crisis, other foreign powers could intervene.
Qatari Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim Al-Thani has previously said Arabs wanted to avoid a repeat of what happened in Libya, where UN Security Council resolution led to Nato air strikes.
‘All the work that we are doing is to avoid this interference,’ he said, adding that if the international community did not see that Arabs were ‘serious’ he could not guarantee that such action would be avoided. The League approved by 19 of the League’s 22 members sanctions that included a travel ban on top Syrian officials, freezing assets related to President Bashar Al-Assad’s government, halting dealings with Syria’s central bank and stopping investments in Syria, Sheikh Hamad told a news conference.
The sanctions will be implemented with immediate effect. ‘The decision should be executed immediately, starting today,’ said Sheikh Hamad. ‘The bloc’s members will also stop dealing with the Syrian Central Bank and suspend economic trade with the Damascus government, with the exception of foodstuffs,’ he said.
Iraq abstained from the vote, and refused to implement it, while Lebanon ‘dissociated itself’ from the decision, he said.
The decision also called on Arab central banks to monitor transfers to Syria, except remittances from Syrians abroad to their families.
The Arab League had set a Friday deadline for Damascus to agree to an observers’ mission, part of a reform deal Syria had previously said it accepted.
Syria has denounced the Arab League’s moves to suspend it from the pan-Arab body and level sanctions against Assad’s regime.
In a letter to the Arab League on Saturday, Foreign Minister Walid Muallem accused the organisation of seeking to ‘internationalise’ the crisis in his country.