Iraq between Arab and Iranian pressures over Syria sanctions
Iraq's economic interests as well as Iranian pressures have pushed the Iraqi government to oppose the decision of the Arab League to impose tough economic sanctions on Syria. In an unprecedented move, Qatar's Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassem bin Jabor Al Thani on Sunday presented a range of economic sanctions against the Syrian government.
According to the Undersecretary of the Iraqi Ministry of Foreign Affairs, however, Labid Abawi told AFP that "Our position is primarily economic. There is an trade exchange with Syria and a common border with it, thus a decision on each case would be applied."
Since the start of protest movement in Syria in mid-March 2011 more than 3,500 people were killed, according to the latest UN reports.
Nevertheless, Baghdad has taken a cautious approach toward these events as it tried to achieve a balance between the proximity of Iran and its support to Damascus and its relations with the Arab states. The Iraqi "Sabah" newspaper quoted Iraq's representative to the Arab League Qais Al-Azzawi in remarks published on Monday as saying that "trade relations between Iraq and Syria do not allow the application of the recommendations of the Arab League for Iraq." According to official figures, the trade exchange value between the two countries last year reached US$2 billion. It is expected to reach by the end of this year to US$3 billion.
The Syrian Center for Statistics announced in 2009 that 52.5 percent of Syrian exports are being made to the Arab markets. A total of 31.4 percent of the Syrian goods is going to Iraq. At the end of October 2011, the two sides discussed the establishment of free trade zones in the regions of Elierbeh and Abu Kamal on the Syrian side and the regions of Rabia. (Source: english.nuqudy.com)