ISTANBUL, Nov 17 (Reuters) - Turkey is weighing new transport routes to the Middle East that will bypass Syria where increasing violence has caused a 10 percent drop in Turkish exports to Damascus over the past six weeks, Turkey’s Economy Minister said on Thursday.
Turkey is Syria’s largest trading partner with bilateral trade worth $2.5 billion in 2010, and investments by Turkish firms in Syria reaching $260 million, Turkish data shows.
Turkish Economy Minister Zafer Caglayan, who was meeting business leaders in Istanbul to discuss developments in Syria, said while exports to Syria had increased in the first nine months of 2011, October and November figures had shown a drop.
“We are looking at transport routes to the Middle East and Gulf countries via Syria. In this respect we are working to identify alternative routes. We will visit Egypt’s Safaga port and other regional ports next week,” Caglayan said at the start of the meeting.
“In the first nine months of 2011 exports to Syria rose 3.7 percent compared to the same period of last year, whilst in October to November they fell 10 percent compared to the same period of last year,” he said.
Caglayan said the decline over the last six weeks had been due to firms being put off by risks related to increasing violence and the unstable political situation in Syria.
“We have created a desk to observe developments in Syria. We continue to identify the losses already occurred and future losses in Syria for our investors and businessmen,” he said.
Apart from exporting goods to Syria, Turkey uses its southern neighbour as a transport route to deliver Turkish goods to other countries in the Middle East. (Reporting by Seda Sezer; Writing by Jonathon Burch; Editing by Jon Hemming)