Arab League votes immediate sanctions against Syria

GENEVA, SWITZERLAND – Nineteen of the 22 members of the Arab League voted Sunday 27 November for sanctions against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and his government, effective immediately. The sanctions include travel bans, freezing government assets and end to Arab investments and dealings with Syria’s central bank.

The sanctions come as the number of deaths in Syria is widely reported to have topped 3,500 during more than eight months of fighting. The US and the European Union (and Switzerland) already have sanctions in place.

Reuters notes that “the Arab League has for decades avoided imposing sanctions its members but has been spurred into action by the scale of bloodshed during Syria’s crackdown and by the failure by Damascus to implement an Arab peace plan. The Arab peace plan called for sending in Arab monitors, withdrawing Syrian troops from residential areas and starting talks between the government and opposition. Damascus ignored several Arab League deadlines.”

The League is calling on the United Nations to adopt similar sanctions.

But the New York Times reported Sunday that the impact of the sanctions could be limited: ”

“Analysts said they expected the impact of the sanctions to be limited, in large part because Syria’s largest trading partners will not participate. Economists estimate that about 50 percent of Syrian trade is with the Arab world, but the largest chunk of that is with its immediate neighbors, including Iraq, Lebanon and Jordan.

“Iraq abstained and Lebanon ‘disassociated’ itself from the vote, Mr. Jassem said. Both countries said they would not enforce the sanctions, and Jordan has issued mixed signals.”

China’s Xinhua news agency cites Syrian state news reports that Syrians took to the streets in protest after the news of the sanctions was announced.

Links to other sites: Aljazeera, BBC, Ria Novosti, Xinhua