Legal Briefing- December 2019

Monetary

  • The 100-year old Syrian Pound came close to hovering near the SYP 1,000 to the US Dollar mark. The Syrian Pound was issued for the first time in 1919. It was linked to the French Franc following the imposition of the French mandate, which started in 1920. Syria had been joined in a monetary union with Lebanon, which came to an end when Syria seceded from the Bank of Syria and Lebanon in 1948 after independence from France was achieved two years earlier. During that time period in 1947, the government of President Shukri Quwatli decided to replace the Syrian Pound’s peg to the French Franc with the US Dollar. The Syrian Pound continued to be officially pegged by the Central Bank of Syria to the US Dollar for 60 years until 2007 when it was then linked to the International Monetary Fund’s Special Drawing Rights. The official exchange rate in March 2011 before the start of the war stood at SYP 47 to the US Dollar. However, during the conflict, a parallel unofficial rate unregulated by the Central Bank of Syria emerged and has depreciated considerably.
  • As is usually the case with uncertainty, speculation forced the Syrian Pound to the unprecedented level of SYP 1,000 per US Dollar before the markets corrected themselves. The unofficial rate of the Syrian Pound dropped back down to approximately SYP 750 and SYP 800 to the US Dollar and then fluctuated to around SYP 900 per US Dollar and beyond. At the present time, the unofficial rate of the Syrian Pound is hovering around SYP 1,200 per US Dollar.
  • The Central Bank issued a resolution raising the foreign exchange rate for international remittances applicable to international organizations such as United Nations agencies, embassies and the like from SYP 435 per US Dollar to SYP 700 per US Dollar.
  • The Ministry of Economy and Foreign Trade is distancing itself from a decision requiring traders to deposit 10% of the value of their import licenses in US Dollars into the Lira Intervention Fund, claiming it is an initiative pursued by the Chambers of Commerce and Industry.
  • The Lira Intervention Fund called for the price of gold to be linked to the US Dollar rate published by the Central Bank. The Goldsmiths Association warned that such a move would lead to the smuggling of gold outside Syria to be sold in foreign markets for higher profits.
  • Whenever Turkey and its proxies invade Syrian territory, they have a tendency to start circulating the Turkish Liras in the areas they control thereby leading to less demand for Syrian Pounds among the local population for the purchase and sale of goods and services. On this basis, whenever the Syrian Arab Army resists these forces, they are in reality forestalling or slowing down the further depreciation of the Syrian Pound by preventing the circulation of the Turkish Lira on Syrian territory and ensuring continued demand for the Syrian Pound.
  • The financial crisis in Lebanon is affecting Syria in the following ways: 1) the freezing of significant deposits of US Dollars in Lebanese banks belonging to Syrians thereby forcing Syrian traders to purchase foreign exchange in Syria at whatever rate to import goods; 2) sourcing of US Dollars in the Lebanese markets for Syrian imports is also a major challenge; 3) Lebanese and Syrians living in Lebanon tried to source US Dollars from the Syrian foreign exchange market; and 4) remittances by Syrians in Lebanon back to Syria dropped in value. Syrians living in Lebanon who wish to remit their earnings back to Syria have to buy US Dollars at the depreciated rate of the Lebanese Pound which means less US Dollars to send to Syria and that is presuming they can remit their funds in the first place.
  • The Central Bank will return as the main source for receiving remittances from overseas and exchanging them close to the parallel market rates, especially after a number of remittance companies faced closure for exploiting the low remittance rate to make unjustifiable profits. The new measure by the Central Bank is expected to reflect positively on the revenues of the Public Treasury.
  • The first Syrian digital currency was apparently launched on January 1, 2020 by a private offshore company based in Lattakia, which will technically not offer services inside Syria due to a lack of legal and regulatory framework on the subject matter. Transactions will rather be confined to the expatriate community and the digital currency will be linked to the value of the Syrian Pound so it should not pose a threat to the local currency. The digital currency will be known as the “Lira” and will only be circulated overseas. The aim will be for the Lira to replace the US Dollar in foreign transactions such as imports to Syria, which drain foreign exchange reserves and force the depreciation of the Syrian Pound. Although no doubt a challenge, foreign suppliers would be negotiated with to persuade them to deal with Syrian transactions in the Lira. Circulation of the Lira outside Syria will be linked to a Syrian Pound account inside Syria and will therefore not challenge the national currency. Subscribers will be obliged to buy Syrian Pounds in exchange for obtaining Liras, thereby increasing demand from overseas.

Finance

  • The Council of Ministers approved a bill extending the provisions of Article 5 of Law 46/2018 regarding the exemption of loans granted to borrowers of the state-owned Agricultural Cooperative Bank from interest and penalty payments for delays in repaying back their debt obligations. As a result, President Bashar Al-Assad issued Legislative Decree 29/2019 to this effect.
  • The government is preparing a strategy to finance investment projects through the issuance of treasury bills and bonds in accordance with Legislative Decree 60/2007, with some experts advising on the attractive benefits of Sharia-compliant bonds, which are known as sukuks. Issuing Sharia-compliant sukuks may be more advantageous because their subscribers are akin to partners of the issuers and are only paid back if profits are realized whereas interest payments on conventional bonds must be paid regardless of whether profits are realized.

International Trade

  • The Ministry of Transport issued a resolution exempting Iraqi trucks crossing Syrian territory from any fees in a bid to stimulate Syrian exports to Iraq.
  • Following mutual measures taken by the Syrian and Iraqi governments, trade is flowing on the Abou Kamal border crossing.
  • A Jordanian delegation visited Damascus to discuss facilitating trade exchanges between Syria and Jordan.
  • The Minister of Transport in Syria reportedly canceled the additional fees of $200 (US) on Jordanian trucks entering Syria. The Jordanian Minister of Transport confirmed that the Jordanian government is considering exempting Syrian trucks crossing into the country from additional fees following a similar decision to this effect by Syria on Jordanian trucks entering Syrian territory.
  • Jordan is appealing to Syria to allow its goods to flow freely to Syria without the need for import licenses.
  • Syria and Russia signed a customs cooperation agreement which aims to establish a so-called “green corridor” that facilitates the entry of Syrian products into the Russian market through the reduction of procedures and costs to ensure their competitiveness.
  • Merchants are looking for solutions to export citrus fruits directly from the Syrian coast to Russia instead of exporting them via Lebanon.
  • The Economic Committee affiliated to the Council of Ministers is considering amending the list of imports in an effort to support the foreign exchange rate of the Syrian Pound. There are currently 3,731 goods whose importation is permissible while 2,672 items may not be imported.
  • The Central Bank further reduced the number of goods that can be imported into Syria which benefit from financing from the banks at the official Central Bank foreign exchange rate.
  • The Minister of Economy and Foreign Trade argued that the requirement imposed on traders to deposit 40% of the value of their imports in bank accounts before they import them will supposedly help to distinguish the actual traders from those who are acting as fronts for them. Moreover, the deposit requirement means that there will be more demand for Syrian Pounds to meet this obligation but detractors contend that the funds needed for the deposits will create cash flow problems for many traders, thus forcing them to retreat and thereby limiting competition.
  • There are concerns that as more obstacles to imports arise, a lot of traders will be priced out of the markets thereby leaving only merchants with large capital reserves to undertake most trading activity, thereby increasing the likelihood of widespread monopolistic practices.
  • The Minister of Economy and Foreign Trade asserted that there was no rationing process to the granting of import licenses and that traders face no restrictions in obtaining them. On the contrary, he argued that restrictions serve to create room for middlemen to maneuver.
  • According to European traders quoted by Reuters, the General Foreign Trade Organization, which is affiliated with the Ministry of Economy and Foreign Trade, issued a tender to import 45,000 tons of white rice while clarifying that bids should be submitted in Euros.
  • The People’s Assembly approved a bill to establish a joint trading house with the Georgian breakaway state of South Ossetia.

Commerce

  • The Council of Ministers approved a pricing mechanism to determine the prices of imported goods financed by the Central Bank and other imported goods while the executive committees in the provinces determine the prices of locally produced goods.
  • The Competition Authority explained that apart from foreign exchange rate fluctuations making imports more expensive, another effect on supplies in the markets are the provisional attachment orders issued against suppliers and manufacturers of basic goods. The Competition Authority has been criticized for allowing merchants to escape its oversight in circumstances where importers import goods for the benefit of a single trader with the latter using the names of several individuals to avoid suspicion of monopolistic practices.
  • As the Chambers of Commerce Bill makes its way to the plenary session of the People’s Assembly, there is criticism at some of its provisions, including one which requires a public official from the Ministry of Internal Trade and Consumer Protection to attend formal meetings to validate quorums. Moreover, MPs are adamant that the Chambers of Commerce Bill respects Article 10 of the Constitution which guarantees the independence of professional unions. According to the Minister of Internal Trade and Consumer Protection, the new Chamber of Commerce Bill grants eligibility to many more members to sit on the boards of directors of the various chambers while the power to dissolve the latter is transferred from the Minister to the Prime Minister. Merchants are also debating whether provision should be made in the Chambers of Commerce Bill requiring board members of the chambers of commerce to have acquired educational certificates or whether market experience so to speak is sufficient enough.
  • The Minister of Internal Trade and Consumer Protection issued a resolution extending the mandates of the existing chambers of commerce by a further six months for the fourth time thereby postponing elections which were due in late 2018 yet again. Despite speculation that elections have been postponed due to dwindling membership numbers caused by burdensome regulations, the decision is based on a legal opinion from the Council of State highlighting a state of force majeure. Elections usually take place every four years.
  • The amount of capital invested in the free zones in Syria since the beginning of 2019 until the end of October reached $751 million (US) and $3.3 billion (US) between 2015 and the end of October 2019 according to the General Establishment for Free Zones.
  • The Damascus Chamber of Commerce launched a business incubator program.
  • The Council of Ministers approved a plan to increase patrols from the Customs Department to key trade routes around the capital Damascus and beyond in a bid to combat smuggling operations.
  • The Customs Department issued provisional attachment orders on the movable and immovable assets of some prominent businesspersons on allegations of their failures to pay the correct customs duties rates applicable on their imported goods. Not long after imposing provisional attachment orders against the assets of these prominent businesspersons, the Customs Department lifted them.
  • The Customs Department imposed provisional attachment orders against the assets of prominent businessmen including Rami Makhlouf on alleged customs violations.

Industry

  • According to the Ministry of Industry, 18,543 factories have resumed production.
  • The Economic Committee affiliated to the Council of Ministers agreed to exempt imported machines and production lines utilized by licensed industrial establishments from customs duties and other fees in order to support manufacturers.
  • The number of industrial establishments operating at the Sheikh Najjar Industrial Park in Aleppo reached approximately 600.
  • An Egyptian company is opening a branch in Syria and establishing a factory in Rural Damascus for the production of fertilizers and pesticides.

Real Estate

  • All procedures for formally approving the new zoning scheme for the industrial district of Qaboun in Damascus have been completed. A feasibility study will need to be carried out to determine how to apply the Urban Renewal Law accordingly and to value the shares in the land.
  • The Executive Committee of the Governorate of Lattakia approved the zoning plans for Jableh.
  • The Governorate of Damascus issued its second building permit to a project in Marota City. Plot B153 will now be subjected to the legal conditions and timelines provided for in the Real Estate Development Law.
  • The Governorate of Damascus granted a building permit to the owners of Plot H26 in Marota City thereby becoming the third building permit issued with respect to this real estate development project.
  • The Syrian-Kuwaiti company New Fayhaa Co., which is developing the Park Residences real estate project in the Yaafour suburb of Damascus, raised its share capital by more than SYP 6 billion.
  • The People’s Assembly approved a bill dissolving the General Federation of Housing Cooperatives and its branches throughout the provinces. The actual housing cooperatives will continue to exist under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Public Works and Housing. President Bashar Al-Assad issued Law 37/2019 ratifying the bill. Previously, MPs in the People’s Assembly referred the bill sanctioning the dissolution of the General Federation to the Constitutional and Legislative Affairs Committee for its input to ensure its provisions comply with the Constitution. The bill was then sent back to MPs for a further submission to the Local Administration and Urban Development Committee for review before it was presented to MPs for a final vote. The General Federation cautioned that the bill liquidating it risked being deemed unconstitutional due to fears of unfair expropriation and further warned that the assets of cooperatives do not legally pass to the Ministry of Public Works and Housing. Moreover, some MPs in the People’s Assembly criticized the bill to dissolve the 58-year old body as unconvincing and unconstitutional while instead calling for its reform. Syria has approximately 2,500 housing cooperatives operating under the umbrella of the General Federation with nearly a membership of 1 million subscribers. Accordingly, only the General Federation and its branches in the provinces were dissolved while the cooperatives will continue to exist under the oversight of the Ministry of Public Works and Housing.

Construction

  • The Ministry of Public Works and Housing recently amended the Construction Contractors Law to permit construction companies to undertake work on any project even if it is of a low value such as under SYP 50 million without risking their high rated classification.
  • Chinese businessmen have incorporated a company in Syria to manufacture construction and prefabricated building materials.
  • The Ministry of Internal Trade and Consumer Protection ratified the articles of association of a private joint stock company incorporated in Rural Damascus that will produce iron billets from iron scrap.
  • The Syrian Investment Authority licensed a project in Rural Damascus to produce white cement and lime cement in accordance with the Investment Law, which provides for financial and taxation incentives for the investors.
  • The Syrian Investment Authority licensed a project for the production of plastic pipes, boxes and packages in accordance with the Investment Law.

Corporate

  • The Ministry of Internal Trade and Consumer Protection approved the incorporation of 50 new companies in November, some of whose shareholders are Emirati, Chinese, Lebanese and Palestinian investors.
  • Sudan’s Ambassador to Syria has reportedly taken part in the incorporation of a company involved in foodstuffs.
  • Exchange rate fluctuations led some investors to sell their shares in companies listed on the Damascus Securities Exchange, thereby leading to a drop in share prices.

Investment

  • In response to a question by a journalist about measures being taken by the Syrian government in order to attract investors from China and other friendly countries, President Bashar Al-Assad emphasized the new Investment Bill, which is in its final stages before passage. He noted that there has been significant progress in drafting the bill in line with similar laws in many other countries around the world, thus ensuring it is based on international investment standards. Moreover, the bill identifies the guarantees provided to investors concerning their investments in Syria including legal guarantees, financial guarantees, exemptions that are laid out, the tax status of investments and so forth to ensure that the investment is safe and profitable.

Energy

  • The strategic Baath Hydropower Plant in Raqqa is in the process of being renovated. The dam was built by Soviet engineers in the late 1980s. During the war, it was taken over by both ISIS in 2013 and the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) in 2017 before returning to government control this past October.
  • Syria and Iran signed a memorandum of understanding pertaining to joint cooperation in the field of hydropower.
  • The Ministry of Petroleum and Mineral Resources announced that two gas wells were brought into service which will add 1 million cubic meters of gas per day to the network.
  • The People’s Assembly approved three bills ratifying three contracts for oil exploration in several regions within Syria signed between the Ministry of Petroleum and Mineral Resources and the Russian companies Mercury LLC and Velada LLC. Two contracts were concluded with Mercury and one with Velada for a total of three blocks – 7, 19 and 23 – located in Rural Damascus, Deir Ez-Zor and Hassakeh. Syria’s shares in the contracts amount to 12.5% of the total revenue and not the total profits according to an MP. The contractual terms stipulate for exploration and not extraction for five years, extending to seven years. If oil is found, the contract lasts for 20 years and the Russian companies recover their costs while the Syrian share of the profits would amount to between 60% to 70%.
  • The Russian company Capital has been awarded a contract to explore for oil and gas in Block No. 1 located in Syrian offshore territory. Previously, only Soyuzneftegaz, another Russian company, was awarded a similar offshore contract in Block No. 2 back on December 25, 2013.
  • The People’s Assembly recently approved bills for the establishment of two new oil refineries to be built according to a public-private partnership model. The bills approved on December 8th by the People’s Assembly were subsequently ratified by President Bashar Al-Assad on December 12th through Laws 28/2019, 29/2019 and 30/2019 leading to the incorporation of the Rusafa Refinery Company and the Al-Sahel Refinery Company. The incorporation of the companies also follows the ratification of an oil services contract between the public and private sectors.

Transport

  • The Syrian Arab Army regained full control over the strategic Aleppo-Hassakeh M4 Highway.
  • The Minister of Transport revealed plans for a project to build the first expressway in Syria that would link Hassia on the Damascus-Homs road with the Homs-Tartous road.
  • The Minister of Economy and Foreign Trade stated that the suspension of imports of car parts to be used on the assembly line is temporary until an assessment on the state of the local automobile production market over the past two years is carried out during the coming weeks.
  • The Syrian Investment Authority licensed a company to manufacture and assemble cars in Homs.
  • Privately-owned airline carrier Cham Wings announced that it is operating flights from Damascus to Berlin via Beirut starting this month. However, the Beirut-Berlin leg of the journey is operated by a different airline.
  • Cham Wings announced that the provisional attachment order issued by the Ministry of Transport in relation to two individuals associated with the airline will not affect its operations.
  • The Council of Ministers tasked the Ministry of Justice and the Central Supervisory and Inspection Agency with looking into allegations of misappropriation of public funds in the aviation sector.

Tourism

  • The four-star Julia Dumna Hotel opened in Damascus. It is comprised of four floors with 32 rooms and suites.
  • Kuwaiti investors incorporated a company in Rural Damascus to undertake investments in hotels and to engage in the hospitality sector.

Telecommunications

  • The People’s Assembly approved a bill to exempt subscribers who defaulted on their bills to the Syrian Telecommunications Corporation from interest payments if they satisfy their debt obligations. President Bashar Al-Assad ratified the bill by virtue of Law 31/2019.
  • The National Network Services Authority revealed the details of the National Encryption Policy which the Ministry of Communications and Technology has been tasked with following up on to protect electronic data and information pertaining to all government departments in Syria.

Lawyers

  • The Bar Association intends to sign a memorandum of understanding with the state-owned Real Estate Bank to grants loans of up to SYP 100 million to law firms and SYP 50 million to individual lawyers in addition to issuing new health insurance policies to lawyers. The repayment term for the loans is expected to reach a duration of 10 years. The Real Estate Bank possesses liquidity of SYP 155 billion that it wants to employ. The number of lawyers in Damascus is 7,210 and 70% of them reportedly do not have law offices due to high taxes, thus prompting them to work from home. In 2018, the General Conference of the Bar Association approved an increase in the pensions of retired lawyers by SYP 8,000 to become SYP 38,000 per month for those who have completed nearly 30 years of service. The General Conference also granted an amnesty to lawyers who failed to renew their membership in the Bar Association from 2014 to 2016.
  • The Bar Association agreed with the Ministry of Justice to form specialized committees to resolve litigation problems in the quickest time possible, especially those that occur between lawyers and judges.
  • As part of cooperation with the Ministry of Education, lawyers will volunteer to visit schools with the aim of spreading awareness and legal culture among students.

Judiciary

  • President Bashar Al-Assad ratified Law 32/2019 governing the Council of State Administrative Court after repealing its predecessor dating back to 1959 during the era of Gamal Abdel-Nasser and the United Arab Republic. The Law was approved for a second time by the People’s Assembly following its unprecedented referral to the Supreme Constitutional Court by President Al-Assad following concerns that some of its provisions were unconstitutional though the situation was rectified accordingly. The Council of State Administrative Court is the judicial body concerned with resolving disputes where one of the parties to the lawsuit is a governmental or public sector entity. The new Law grants the Council of State the status of a judicial branch organ free from the oversight of the Council of Ministers, which has been the case for 60 years, and independence in its operations similar in nature to that of the Supreme Constitutional Court. In addition to its judicial capacity, the Council of State also possesses an advisory function and issues legal opinions to ministries and government departments on aspects of the law where appropriate. The new Law also established a general assembly comprised of its senior judges to validate judicial precedents from cases as well as a body entrusted with preparing and pleading cases in cooperation with public authorities.
  • The Council of State has become an independent judicial body with its own budget separate from the executive branch which was previously the case. The new Law makes provision for disciplinary courts which were previously governed by a separate law issued in 1990. New bodies were also established in the Council of State including the Department for the Unification of Principles, the Inspection Department, the Disciplinary Board and the General Assembly of the Supreme Administrative Court. The powers of the Council of State have also been expanded, such as by becoming specialized in contractual disputes agreed by popular organizations and professional syndicates if they are concluded in accordance with the provisions of the Public Procurement Law. The Council of State will also become more concerned with disputes involving taxes and fees. The new Law indicates that it is permissible to refer to the Civil Procedure Code if there is no applicable provision contained in the Council of State Administrative Law, which was already previously the case. The same principle applies to the Civil Service Code and the Judiciary Law.
  • The new Council of State Administrative Law stipulates the conditions for filing lawsuits to set aside arbitration awards involving a governmental or public sector disputant by adopting similar provisions from the Arbitration Law 4/2008, which is applicable to contacting parties in the private sector. Accordingly, arbitral awards that have not yet reached the stage of being deemed final and executory may be appealed on procedural grounds before the Supreme Administrative Court, the highest court in the Council of State. In any case, the Administrative Courts in the Council of State are competent and capable of ensuring the enforcement of arbitral awards. The new Law also provides that in the event arbitral awards are to be appealed, they can only be challenged on the grounds of procedural irregularities and not substantive issues as well, which was previously the case. Moreover, arbitration proceedings involving foreign contractors that are not undertaken in the Council of State but rather before international arbitral institutions following the concerned minister’s approval no longer require the additional consent of the Council of State. Arbitral awards of this nature were subjected to nullification orders on the basis that the consent of the Council of State was not obtained accordingly.
  • The President of the Council of State revealed that many public contracts worth more than SYP 150 million were referred back to the respective public authorities that organized and signed them due to breaches of the contractual terms.
  • The President of the Council of State announced that the Administrative Court requires 300 specialized judges whereas it currently has 55 judges.
  • Minister of Justice Hisham Al-Shaar issued a circular requiring new judges to formally disclose the existence of any movable and immovable assets that they own in order to preserve their impartiality and help safeguard against corrupt activities.
  • At the Seventh Judicial Conference, which was hosted in Lattakia, two key themes that received much attention from delegates were improving the financial livelihoods of judges and facilitating the technological use of informatics in the judicial system to speed up litigation. There was a focus on automation of judicial procedures to speed up the court litigation process as well as the administrative procedures for family law matters. In addition, participants highlighted that services would be made available to married couples to make them more aware of the legal consequences of divorce and to help prevent such outcomes for families.

Education

  • President Bashar Al-Assad ratified Law 27/2019 which replaces the current Ministry of Higher Education with the Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research. The new Ministry shall enjoy legal personality along with financial and administrative independence.
  • The Ministry of Education reportedly inaugurated one of the region’s first three-dimensional educational facilities that was donated by a Syrian expatriate living in Kuwait.
  • The People’s Assembly approved a bill increasing examination fees for primary and secondary school students.
  • The People’s Assembly approved a bill which includes a mechanism for the appointment of teaching assistants in private universities.

Employment

  • The Ministry of Social Affairs and Labour will be carrying out inspections to ensure that private businesses are complying with the provisions of Legislative Decree 23/2019 which increases the minimum wage from SYP 16,175 to SYP 47,675 per month for all sectors.

Military

  • MPs in the People’s Assembly approved an amendment to the Military Service Law imposing an attachment order against the movable and immovable assets of any man above 42 years of age who failed to pay the fee for not performing military service pursuant to the Public Funds Law. In 2014, the Military Service Law was amended to require men aged above 42 years who failed to perform military service without valid justification to pay a fee equivalent to $8,000 (US). The recently approved amendment will be enforced without notice to the said individual.

Media

  • The Chairman of the Syrian Journalists Union confirmed that its Saudi counterpart offered to sign a cooperation agreement between the two syndicates.

Crime

  • Whereas President Bashar Al-Assad confirmed that foreign fighters would be tried in the Syrian courts, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson stated that the English legal system makes it very difficult to secure convictions for fighters returning to the UK from abroad.
  • The Director of the Criminal Security Department Major General Nasser Deeb revealed that between last year and this year, the crime rate in Syria in general has dropped by more than 50% due to the return of state authority throughout the country.

Public Administration

  • The Minister of Justice confirmed that provisions in legislation that grant officials the authority to issue exemptions at their own discretion such as when a law uses the term ‘may’ as opposed to ‘shall’ help breed corruption and will therefore be removed accordingly.

International

  • The Caesar Act 2019 became law in the United States after it was ratified by President Donald Trump following its passage by both the House of Representatives and the Senate in the US Congress. It was passed three times by the House of Representatives since 2016 but was recently amended before the latest vote, which also saw it clear the Senate this time. It was attached to a package of other legislation which was also sent to President Donald Trump for ratification. The Caesar Act lays down the mechanisms for the imposition of US secondary sanctions against Syria with respect to the governmental, military, aviation and oil sectors. According to the Caesar Act, the Secretary of the Treasury has six months to determine whether reasonable grounds exist for concluding that the Central Bank of Syria is a financial institution of primary money laundering concern. After six months, President Trump shall impose sanctions against foreign persons if he determines that they knowingly support or deal significantly with the Syrian government, or members of the government or its allies in Syria. After six months, President Trump shall impose sanctions against foreign persons if he determines that they knowingly sell or provide significant goods or services that contribute to the Syrian government’s domestic production of natural gas, petroleum or petroleum products. After six months, President Trump shall impose sanctions against foreign persons if he determines that they knowingly sell or provide goods or services associated with aircrafts to any foreign person that are used for military purposes in Syria for or on behalf of the Syrian government. After six months, President Trump shall impose sanctions against foreign persons if he determines that they knowingly, directly or indirectly provide significant construction or engineering services to the Syrian government. President Trump has six months to develop a strategy to deter foreign persons from entering into contracts related to reconstruction in the areas controlled by the Syrian government and its allies for or on behalf of the Syrian government or its allies.
  • Presidential advisor Bouthaina Shaaban confirmed that Syria has started exploring for oil in cooperation with Russian companies while denying that the US Caesar Act would have any further impact on the Syrian economy.
  • Although Syria is considering legal action against the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons on allegations that its report on Douma was doctored, it has grave doubts that there is an impartial judiciary that will hear such a case free from political interference.
  • UAE National Day celebrations were held at the UAE Embassy in Damascus.
  • In a poll conducted by the Syrian Law Journal, 71% of respondents think that a resolution to the conflicts in Idlib and Rural Aleppo will involve Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan transporting the anti-Syrian government fighters and their families to Libya via Turkey to build a popular base for himself there after establishing ties with his new Libyan allies.