Syria has been designated a State Sponsor of Terrorism since December 1979. Additional sanctions and restrictions were added in May 2004 with the issuance of Executive Order 13338, which implemented the Syria Accountability and Lebanese Sovereignty Restoration Act of 2003 (SAA) and imposed additional measures pursuant to the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (IEEPA) (50 U.S.C. 1701 et seq.).
Since the uprisings began in March 2011, the U.S. government has intensely pursued calibrated sanctions to deprive the regime of the resources it needs to continue violence against civilians and to pressure the Syrian regime to allow for a democratic transition as the Syrian people demand. The first step was taken with Executive Order 13572 in April 2011, which blocks property of Syrian officials and others responsible for the commission of human rights abuses, including those related to repression.
In May 2011, the U.S. Government took additional steps with respect to the Government of Syria’s continuing escalation of violence against the people of Syria through Executive Order 13573, which blocks the property of additional Syrian officials (including President Bashir al-Assad) and of any person determined to be a senior official of the Government of Syria, among other criteria, by the Secretary of the Treasury, in consultation with the Secretary of State.
In August 2011, in response to the Syrian regime’s exercise of violence and repression in the region, the President issued Executive Order 13582 which blocks the property of the Government of Syria, provides additional authority for designating individuals and entities, prohibits new investments in Syria by U.S. persons, prohibits the exportation or sale of services to Syria by U.S. persons, prohibits the importation of petroleum or petroleum products of Syrian origin, and prohibits U.S. persons from involvement in transactions involving Syrian petroleum or petroleum products.
For a complete understanding of the prohibitions and restrictions summarized here, please refer to the relevant Executive Orders.
The Friends of the Syrian People commits its unwavering support for the rightful and legitimate aspirations of the Syrian people for a peaceful, democratic, pluralistic, and inclusive society, free of any sectarianism or discrimination on any grounds. The Office of Terrorism Finance and Economic Sanctions supports the Secretary of State’s involvement in the Friends of the Syrian People through the International Working Group on Sanctions (IWGS).
The IWGS held its seventh meeting in Ottawa, Canada on June 25, 2013. The meeting was hosted by Canada and co-chaired by the Friends of the Syrian People Economic Recovery and Development Working Group. 42 countries, as well as the League of Arab States and the European External Action Service, and the National Coalition of the Syrian Revolution and Opposition Forces, were represented at the meeting. The IWGS followed up with its commitments from Sofia, such as to implement the calibrated easing of economic sanctions for the benefit of the legitimate opposition, to refrain from purchasing Syrian phosphates, and to cease providing surveillance technology that could be used by the Assad regime to restrict the free flow of information and communications within Syria and abroad. The IWGS also welcomed the recent action taken by the United Nations in May 2013 to amend the UNSCR 1267 committee listing of al-Qa’ida in Iraq to include al Nusrah Front as an alias and condemned Hezbollah’s provision of arms, personnel, and material assistance to the Assad regime in Syria. Read the official statement here.
The IWGS held its sixth meeting in Sofia, Bulgaria on February 26, 2013. The participating nations underlined the international community’s determination to ensure coordination and effective implementation of sanctions against the Assad regime in Syria in order to exert strong pressure on the Syrian regime and to bring about an end to the violence and enable a democratic transition. Read the official statement here.
The IWGS held its fifth meeting in Tokyo, Japan, on November 30, 2012. The participating nations welcomed the formation of the National Coalition of Syrian Revolution and Opposition Forces and reiterated their support for the Syrian people. Read the official statement here.
The IWGS held its fourth meeting in The Hague, the Netherlands on September 20, 2012. The group called for increased and sustained vigilance to tackle the regime’s efforts to circumvent international sanctions, including seeking alternative markets for its crude oil, and urged international partners to resist purchasing Syrian oil products. Read the official statement here.
The IWGS held its third meeting in Doha, Qatar on July 19, 2012. The group focused on asset freezes and financial restrictions on banks associated with the regime as well as an embargo on petroleum related projects. The group also called on all states to protect Syrian cultural heritage by prohibiting the export of the Syrian cultural property that has been stolen or misappropriated from the Syrian people since the commencement of the crisis. Read the official statement here.
The IWGS held its second meeting in Washington, DC on June 6, 2012. The group reaffirmed its commitment to isolate members of the Syrian business community who support the regime and bring about a swift review of the sanctions regimes in place in order to support the reconstruction of the future Syria in coordination with the Friends of the Syrian People Working Group on Economic Reconstruction and Development. Read the official statement here.
The IWGS held its first meeting in Paris, France on April 17, 2012. The nations present outlined the types of sanctions they would develop including bans on: hydrocarbon imports, infrastructure investments, arms and military equipment, travel and financial flows for individuals associated with the Syrian government. There was also a commitment toward the reduction of diplomatic ties with the Syrian regime and to explore measures to limit exports of products used for military purposes. Read the official statement here.
On June 12, 2013, through the Departments of State, Commerce, and Treasury, the Administration took several significant steps to ease U.S. economic sanctions, enable additional relief and reconstruction activities in opposition-controlled areas of Syria, and support the Syrian opposition and the people of Syria.
Export Waiver for U.S.-Origin Items Benefitting the Syrian People
Secretary of State John F. Kerry signed a limited waiver of the restrictions implemented under the SAA, consistent with Section 5(b) of the Act. The waiver will allow U.S. companies and persons to export and re-export, subject to case by case review by the Department of Commerce, a wide range of items necessary to support the Syrian people, including reconstruction-related equipment to opposition areas.
Statement of Licensing Policy on Economic Activities Benefitting the Syrian People
The Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC), in consultation with the State Department, issued a Statement of Licensing Policy (SLP) inviting U.S. persons to apply to OFAC for specific licenses that would enable them to participate in certain economic activities in Syria. The SLP specifically focuses on applications by U.S. persons seeking to engage in oil-related transactions that benefit the National Coalition of Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces, or its supporters, and transactions involving Syria’s agricultural and telecommunications sectors.
Protecting Syria’s Cultural Heritage
OFAC also amended Syria general license 11 to authorize the exportation of services and funds transfers in support of not-for-profit activities to preserve Syria’s cultural heritage sites. Rebuilding Syria’s future requires helping preserve the country’s cultural heritage and we want to ensure that sanctions do not impede that important effort.