Finance ministers from the Arab League have agreed on a draft plan for a package of economic sanctions against Syria, including the suspension of commercial flights to the country and dealings with the central bank.
The decision came after a meeting of the league’s economic and social committee in Cairo on Saturday night. Its recommendations will now be passed to the full Arab League for consideration.
The organisation had set a Friday deadline for Damascus to allow rights monitors into the country, but the deadline passed with no firm commitment from Syrian officials.
Syrian foreign minister Walid al-Muallem criticised the decision in a letter to the Arab League, accusing it of trying to “internationalise” the conflict in Syria.The sanctions package also calls for Arab states to freeze the overseas bank accounts of key Syrian regime officials.
Muallem called the sanctions an invitation “for foreign intervention instead of a call to avoid one… what we understand, by this latest Arab League decision, is a tacit green light for the internationalisation of the situation in Syria and to meddle in its domestic affairs.”
The sanctions were strongly opposed by both Lebanon and Iraq, which have both said they will not impose sanctions against their neighbour. Hoshyar Zebari, the Iraqi foreign minister, said on Saturday that it was “not possible” to impose economic sanctions on Syria due to its commercial ties with Iraq and the large number of Iraqi refugees there.
The US and the European Union have already imposed major sanctions, including an oil embargo, on the Syrian leadership.
Activists in Syria said that at least nine people were killed on Saturday, most of them in the eastern town of Deir az-Zor, and that army defectors killed eight Syrian soldiers.
The violence followed an even bloodier day on Friday, when activists said 26 people were killed, most of them in Homs. The province also saw an ambush which led to the killing of 10 security personnel, including six elite military pilots, according to the Syrian armed forces quoted by the state-run SANA news agency.
The military blamed “terrorists” for the attack, and threatened to “cut every evil hand” that targets the country’s security.
The Syrian leadership blames the unrest in the country on a foreign plot, saying “armed terrorists” are driving the uprising.