First Published: 2012-01-20

 

Syria feels the pinch of oil sanctions

 

Oil minister admits Syria has suffered important losses as result of its inability to export oil, petroleum products.

 

Middle East Online

Feeling the heat

DAMASCUS - Syria said on Thursday that sanctions were biting ahead of Arab League ministers being briefed on the heavily criticised monitoring mission's operations and as NATO's top officer said the alliance was not even thinking of intervention.

"We have suffered important losses as a result of our inability to export crude oil and petroleum products," Oil Minister Sufian Allaw told a news conference in Damascus.

"The shortfall and losses from September 1 until now add up to more than $2 billion," he said.

"The oil embargo has caused a drop in production of 150,000 barrels, or $15 million, a day," he said.

The United States has banned the import of Syrian crude and petroleum products and prohibits Americans from engaging in any transactions or dealings in or related to Syrian-origin oil.

The European Union also has a ban on imports of Syrian crude, along with that of oil and gas equipment.

Meanwhile, Arab League deputy leader Ahmed Ben Helli said the "decisive" report on monitors would evaluate Syrian cooperation with the month-long mission, while noting difficulties in observers gaining access to hot spots.

"We are at a turning point, as the Arab observer mission's report will be presented on Thursday, marking a month since the protocol was signed," Ben Helli said on Wednesday.

"The report will be decisive."

Arab foreign ministers will hear the mission's report at a meeting on Sunday when they will decide whether to seek Damascus's agreement to extend it for a second month.

The two sides agreed that the mission could continue until Sunday's meeting.

The League's Syria operations chief, Adnan Khodeir, said mission leader General Mohammed Ahmed Mustafa al-Dabi was due at Cairo headquarters to deliver the report to League chief Nabil al-Arabi ahead of Sunday ministerial meetings.

Qatar, whose Prime Minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim Al-Thani chairs the Arab League panel on Syria, has been pressing for the observer mission to be given teeth by deploying Arab peacekeeping troops.

The Qatari proposal, which Damascus has flatly rejected, is not formally on the agenda of Sunday's foreign ministers' meeting, but it could be discussed, Khodeir said.

In Brussels, NATO's most senior officer said the alliance was not planning or even "thinking" of intervening in Syria, days after a top Russian official said such plans were in the making.

"There is no planning and we are not thinking about an intervention," General Knud Bartels, head of NATO's Military Committee, said after a two-day meeting of the alliance's military chiefs.

During the talks, he said nations from NATO's Mediterranean Dialogue -- a forum including Algeria, Egypt, Israel, Jordan, Mauritania, Morocco and Tunisia -- "expressed their concerns about the upheaval we are seeing in the region."

"But there was no discussion at all of a military intervention," said Bartels, the former head of the Danish army.

Syrian state news agency SANA quoted President Bashar al-Assad as rejecting any foreign intervention.

"The Syrian people are attached to their unity despite all the difficulties, and understand the breadth of the plots against their security and cohesion," he was quoted as telling a group of people opposed to outside intervention.

Australia's foreign minister on Thursday called on Assad to step down, saying he should be tried before the International Criminal Court for "atrocities" against his people.

"Our view in Australia is in fact his case is worthy of referral to the International Criminal Court, given the level of atrocities we have seen," Kevin Rudd told reporters at the French foreign ministry in Paris, adding that further atrocities were being committed "as we speak."

On the ground, activists reported another 18 civilian deaths killed by Syrian security forces on Thursday.

Among them were four leading pro-democracy activists who were killed in an ambush in Idlib province in the northwest, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

Meanwhile, SANA reported that a brigadier general and two security force members were killed "by the fire of armed terrorist groups in the district of Al-Jarajmeh in Hama."

The Observatory said it could confirm "a brigadier general, a lieutenant and three soldiers were killed after a group of deserters destroyed two armoured vehicles and troop carriers."

It also reported the death of three deserters in separate incidents.

The Arab mission, which currently numbers about 165 monitors, has been in Syria since December 26 to oversee an Arab road map under which President Bashar al-Assad's government agreed to end violence.

The United Nations estimates that the unrest in Syria between the security forces and pro-democracy activists has left more than 5,400 people dead since it first erupted in March, with 400 killed since the observers deployed.

French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe said it was clear that the mission was "in difficulty" and not being allowed to work, adding that the observers' report should be submitted to the UN Security Council for further action.

A tough Security Council resolution on Syria has been blocked by veto-wielding permanent members Russia and China.

Moscow has warned against Western calls for punitive measures against Damascus, insisting the opposition is as much to blame for the violence as the regime.

German UN envoy Peter Wittig said the Security Council "did not live up to its responsibilities" in the face of vetoes by Moscow and Beijing in October of a European-drafted resolution that would have threatened Damascus with "targeted measures."

 

IS jihadists move closer than ever to central Damascus

UN confirms Palmyra temple destroyed

Turkey police raid anti-Erdogan media group after British reporters jailed

Shebab attack Somalia AU base

Over 10,000 Icelanders ready to welcome Syrians

Turkey government says it 'had no role' in reporters' arrest

IS claims Tripoli car bomb near oil firm

Dispute with Israel government keeps Christian schools shut

Kuwait charges 24 'linked to Iran' with plotting attacks

New Turkey caretaker government holds first meeting

Dozens of Lebanon protesters occupy environment ministry

Will Erdogan's political gamble solve Turkey poll impasse?

Libya loyalist forces battle IS jihadists in Benghazi

South Sudan peace deal in jeopardy

Pressure builds on Europe as refugee crisis exposes splits

Israel confirms jail for Druze ex-MP over visit to Syria

Egypt much delayed elections to start on October 17

Palmyra temple appears ‘largely intact’ after ISIS blast

Turkey to offer cash rewards for tips on ‘terrorists’

Yemen children's hospital on the verge of shutting down

In gruesome video, ISIS shows burning alive of Iraq Shiite fighters

Four years after famine, situation in Somalia remains alarming

A year on, recapture of Yazidi hub remains a distant prospect

EU leaders call for action to defend migrants’ 'dignity'

IS blows up parts of famed Palmyra temple

Deadly fire at housing complex of Aramco in Saudi Arabia

In historic first, Saudi Arabia allows women to run in local elections

Israel repels protesters with tear gas at separation barrier in West Bank

ISIS brutality in Syria: Over 90 people executed in one month

Bashir to visit China despite international arrest warrant

Egypt summons British envoy in row over Al-Jazeera trial

Yemen war seeks to stop ‘Iran expansion’ in Arab region

Lebanon protesters to government: Meet our demands of face escalation

Calls for action on refugee crisis mount after Austrian tragedy

Kuwait lawmaker describes Iran as 'true enemy' of Gulf Arabs

Two French journalists charged with bid to blackmail Morocco King

Algeria detains former intelligence chief

Kurdish forces free seven Iraq villages from clasps of ISIS

Toll in Libya shipwreck tragedy rises to 111

Egypt court hands Al-Jazeera reporters three years in prison

UN to host new round of Libya peace talks next week

US names ‘First Special Presidential Envoy for Hostage Affairs’

Mounting death toll of security forces triggers questions in Turkey

Deadly terrorist blast rocks Karanah suburb in Bahrain

Brief truce between Syria regime and rebels collapses