* Turkey opens routes to bypass Syria
* Ships to sail to Egypt
* Ankara studying more routes to Middle East
By Ibon Villelabeitia
ANKARA, Dec 16 Turkey said on Friday that
Syria would lose more than $100 million a year in transport
revenues as Ankara finds alternative routes to export goods to
the Middle East and Gulf.
Turkey is still trading with its neighbour but has sought
new trade routes to the Middle East since relations with
They broke down following Ankara's increased criticism of
President Bashar al-Assad over his crackdown on a popular
uprising that began in March.
"It will be Syria who loses in this process of introducing
alternative trade routes," the Turkish Economy Ministry said in
It said it had finalised talks to start exporting goods to
Egypt via sea in January and from there overland to the Gulf.
Turkish trucks will go by ship to Egypt and use its Nuweiba
port to trade with Jordan and Safaga port to trade with Saudi
Arabia. Turkey said it was also studying other routes.
"After alternative trade routes start operating, Syria's
loss in transportation revenues will be over $100 million per
It calculated this based on the 46,000 Turkish trucks that
passed through Syria in 2010, with Syrian charges per truck of
Turkish truck drivers who return from Syria have described
chaos on the road to Homs, a centre of opposition to government
forces, saying they were sometimes caught in the cross-fire and
saw bodies lying by the road and burned-out military vehicles.
They have complained of being singled out by Syrian state
forces because of Ankara's tough stance towards Damascus.
Muslim Turkey, a rising economic and political power in the
Middle East, was one of Syria's closest regional allies and
Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan built a strong rapport
But as the violence worsened and Assad ignored Erdogan's
advice to halt the crackdown and make urgent reforms, relations
turned frosty and Erdogan has bluntly told Assad he should quit.
Earlier this month, non-Arab Turkey followed a move by the
Arab League to impose sanctions on Syria which it said would
target the government, including freezing state assets, banning
entry by senior officials and suspending financial transactions.
Syria responded by suspending a bilateral free-trade
agreement and imposing a 30 percent tariff on all Turkish
imports and prohibitive duties on fuel and freight.
Turkey was a major trading partner for Syria with bilateral
trade last year totalling about $2.5 billion.
Syria received more than 10 percent of its imports from
Turkey in 2010. Imports from Syria made up 0.3 percent of