Turkey imposes arms embargo against Syria
Says it will stop ships and planes
ANKARA, Turkey - Turkey slapped an arms embargo against Syria yesterday for its brutal crackdown on the country’s uprising, the prime minister said.
Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Turkey has stopped a Syrian-flagged ship in the Sea of Marmara in the past, the state-run Anatolia news agency reported. He did not say when the ship was stopped or whether any weapons were found aboard it.
“If there are planes carrying weapons, or such shipments by land, then we would stop and confiscate them as in the past,’’ Anatolia quoted Erdogan as saying.
Turkey intercepted an arms shipment from Iran to Syria in August.
In March, Turkish authorities also seized the cargo of an Iranian plane bound for Syria because the shipment violated UN sanctions.
Turkish media said the aircraft was carrying light weapons, including automatic rifles, rocket launchers, and mortars.
Erdogan said this week that Turkey was coordinating its efforts with the United States. The Obama administration has called on President Bashar Assad of Syria to resign and imposed sanctions on some Syrian officials, blocked assets they may have in the United States, and banned any US import of Syrian oil or petroleum products.
Erdogan told Turkish journalists after talks with President Obama in New York late Tuesday that he was no longer in contact with Syria’s leadership.
“I have cut all contacts with the Syrian administration,’’ Erdogan said. “We never wanted things to arrive at this point, but unfortunately, the Syrian administration has forced us to take such a decision.’’
Turkey is Syria’s neighbor and an important trade partner, and Erdogan had cultivated a close friendship with Assad.
But Turkish leaders have grown increasingly frustrated with Damascus over its refusal to halt the crackdown on protesters and to carry out reforms.
Earlier this month, Turkey hosted a group of Syrian opposition figures who declared a 140-member Syrian National Council in an effort to present a united front against Assad. About 7,500 Syrians are seeking refuge from the violence in six camps in Turkey, near the border.
Meanwhile, a young woman has been found beheaded and mutilated, apparently by Syrian security agents, underscoring what witnesses and the UN human rights office said yesterday was a fearsome new tactic of retaliating against protesters’ families to snuff out the 6-month-old uprising against the regime of Assad.
The slain 18-year-old, Zainab al-Hosni, is believed to be the first woman to die in Syrian custody since the uprising began in mid-March.
Amnesty International said yesterday that she had reportedly been detained by security agents to pressure her activist brother to turn himself in.
The violence serves as a grim reminder of how the Assad family has kept an iron grip on power in Syria for more than 40 years by brutally crushing every sign of dissent.
The idea that the regime has eyes and ears everywhere resonates in a nation of 22 million where decades of autocratic rule have nurtured a culture of deep fear and paranoia.
Witnesses and activists say retaliation against families of those involved in the uprising has ranged from threatening phone calls to beatings and even killings, as in the case of Hosni.
The UN human rights office said yesterday that the harassment was even extending beyond Syria’s borders.
“Prominent human rights defenders, inside and outside the country, are reported to have been targeted,’’ spokeswoman Ravina Shamdasani said in Geneva.