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."

 

Blair calls on West to combat ‘growing’ danger of Islamist extremism

No Qatar ‘concessions’ on end of dispute with fellow Gulf states

Bahrain expels representative of Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani

Netayahu to Abbas: Does you want peace with Hamas or peace with Israel?

Dubai's Emaar posts huge Q1 profit

Witnesses in Morsi trial: Hamas and Hezbollah attacked Egypt prisons

Family of detained Al-Jazeera reporter in Egypt call for his release

Bomb targets convoy of Education Minister in north Iraq

After Ervin scandal, Iran Prisons Chief becomes Head of Justice Department

Egypt FM travels to US as Washington relaxes hold on military aid

US diplomat visits Libya amid political upheaval

Jarba asks Saudi Arabia to increase support for Syria rebels

Better late than never: Erdogan offers condolences over mass WWI killings of Armenians

Hezbollah veto dashes Geagea dreams of presidency

UN aid chiefs make impassionate call for Syria access

Police brigadier general killed in Cairo bomb attack

11 new MERS infections registered in Saudi

EU denounces Syria plans for June 3 election

Iran envoy row fails to make headway at UN

Amnesty: Qatar fails to protect domestic workers

US will deliver 10 Apache choppers to Egypt to counter terrorism

US expresses horror at South Sudan violence

Egypt's next president will have to deal with frustrated workers

Rival Palestinian leaders agree on national unity govt

Jumblatt backs lawmaker Henri Helou for Lebanon presidency

Global chemical watchdog: Syria weapons handover at 86.5 percent

Kerry ‘prefers’ Cold War-like situation to current complex challenges

Israel to call up Christian Arabs for military service

Egypt prosecutors submit new evidence in Jazeera trial

Families of Iran prisoners break silence over abuses at notorious Evin

Lebanon sends rare aid to its territory in Syria

Iran divorce rate increases amid slow population growth

Suspected militant attacks kill four Yemen officers in two days

Distrust casts shadow over South Kordofan peace talks

Ali Tarhuni heads Libya constituent assembly

Washington revisits story of Syria chemical weapons

PM Erdogan to tour Europe for expat presidency votes

Erdogan to May Day protesters: Give up on your hopes of Taksim!

Palestine plays down threat to dismantle PA

South Sudan army battle rebels as insurgents target oil fields

Two Somali MPs shot dead in 24 hours

MERS death toll keeps climbing in Saudi

Court deals blow to US administration on drone attacks

Berber protesters clash anew with Algeria police

US has 'indications' of new chemical attacks in Syria