(Updates with details of routes in first paragraph, Turkish comment in fifth paragraph, Syrian comment in final.)
Dec. 7 (Bloomberg) -- Syria started letting in Turkish trucks that had been denied entry as Turkey established new sea routes to Egypt and Lebanon and opened more road links for the transport of goods via Iraq, Turkey’s economy minister said.
The ferry route to the Egyptian port of Alexandria became available late yesterday and shipments to Beirut may begin tomorrow, enabling Turkish firms to export to the Middle East via Jordan, Economy Minister Zafer Caglayan told reporters in televised remarks from Istanbul. Syrian authorities simultaneously let in trucks from Turkey, he said.
“It’s very easy for us to bypass Syria,” said the economy minister, who is responsible for foreign trade. He warned that Turkey would respond “in multitudes” to any threat to its interests.
Turkish-Syrian ties have been deteriorating since August, when President Bashar al-Assad failed to take steps he agreed to with Turkey to end his crackdown on dissent, which the United Nations said has cost more than 4,000 lives since mid-March. Thousands of Syrians have fled south across the border to tent cities in the Turkish province of Antakya, including the founder of an opposition army. Turkey’s government has hosted dissidents who formed the Syrian National Council to topple al-Assad.
Syria cited a problem with its entry-processing systems when it prevented Turkish trucks from entering from Antakya, according to a Turkish official who was briefed on the matter. Syria had restricted entry by Lebanese and Jordanian vehicles as well, said the person, who declined to be identified in keeping with government policies. No talks on border crossings are under way between Syria and Turkey, the person said.
Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu announced sanctions on Syria last week and said the measures would be expanded if al-Assad fails to halt the crackdown on protesters.
Syria regrets the developments in its relations with Turkey, Foreign Ministry spokesman Jihad Makdissi told reporters today in remarks televised from Damascus.
--Editors: Heather Langan, Ben Holland, Louis Meixler
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