EU: new sanctions under way against the Syrian regime and business community

The Council of the European Union is preparing for a new round of sanctions against Syria. These will likely go into effect this Friday or Monday next week. There has been speculations and demands for further sanctions against the Syrian oil industry – mainly to stop European companies such as Shell, Total and ENI from continuing to extract oil and gas, explore and offer technical assistance. But this is not likely to happen.

The Council took its time to get around to sanctions against import of oil and other petrolium products from Syria. When they finally got found a solution it was only after giving in to the Italian demands. Contracts signed with Syria before the 2nd September would be honored until 15 November. The fact that the Council did not take any decision on export of gasoline, technical assistance and extraction of oil are other concessions. To enact such measure – the European oil companies active in Syria argues – would only open up where they sued to be to Russian and Chinese companies.

So, what kind of sanctions are the Council of the European Union likely to enact? First  more members of the Syrian regime will be added to the sanction list. This is only to be expected. The only questions is if the rest of the members of the Syrian cabinet will be added or if there will be a selection of, for exemple, the Minister of Foreign Affairs Walid al-Moallem, the Minister of Justice Tayseer Qala Awad and Bouthaina Shabaan – Presidents Assad political and media advisor. One individual that can be certain of sanctions is the new Minister of Defence – Dawood Rajiha.

Secondly the Council will target other Syrian businessmen that are percived as supporting the regime. People such as the President of the Damascus Chamber of Commerce Mohamad Ghassan Al Qallaa and the President of the Aleppo Chamber of Commerce Hasan Zedo. Other notable businessmen that might be in the crosshair of the Council are the newly appointed chairman of Cham Holding  Diala Al Haj Aref, Saeb Nahas the chairman of Nahas Enterprise Group and Dr. Abdul Rahman Attar President of Attar Group. Given Dr Attars position as President of the Syrian Red Crescent and title of Honorary Consul of Portugal there might be an inclination to conclude that he is protected from the Council. I would not be so sure about that.

EU might also be looking into adding Syrian banks and telecom companies – Syriatel and MTN – on the sanctions list. As for telecom there are telltale signs that Syriatel, controlled by Rami Makhlouf, has been directly involved in aiding Syrian Security in their quest to quash the protests. The Council might also want to prohibit export of certain products to Syria. Either because the products can be used to supress protests (telecom products comes mind) or because the Council wants to but an extra pressure on certain Syrian businessmen.

About Leif Eriksson

Leif Eriksson has worked in the field of asylum at the Swedish Migration Agency specializing in the Middle East, Schengen and the Dublin Regulation, as Migration Attaché and head of the migration section at the Swedish Embassy in Damascus 2005 - 2008, as a resettlement consultant at the UNHCR branch office in Damascus 2008 - 2009, Consul at the Swedish Consulate General in Jerusalem 2012 - 2013 and associate RSD/RST officer at UNHCR in Beirut 2013 - 2014. He currently lives in Tbilisi, Georgia.
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