Syria’s currency reserves may have been cut in half due to the impact of sanctions on the government of President Bashar al-Assad by western and other nations.
BBC reported that Syria had foreign reserves of about $17-billion before the uprising erupted last March in the Mideast country. French officials also said that Syria is losing about $525-million monthly in oil export revenues, as a result of the European Union’s prohibition of oil imports .
Prior to the block, about 90 percent of Syrian crude exports went to Europe -- oil revenues represented about one-fifth of Syria’s GDP.
Sanctions have also been imposed by the EU on Syria’s trade in gold, precious metals and diamonds; as well as on the Syrian central bank and financial services companies.
France’s Foreign Minister Alain Juppe told a ‘Friends of Syria’ conference in Paris: We know that the Syrian authorities, whose financial reserves have, according to our information, been cut in half, are continuing to actively seek alternative routes to get around these sanctions.
Juppe urged the international community to uniformly stand against Damascus.
We must respond to these maneuvers [to evade sanctions], he added.
Moreover, Syria’s economy is in deep trouble – GDP fell by 2 percent last year, the pound currency had plunged in value, unemployment is in excess of 20 percent and the inflation rate reached 11 percent last month.
Juppe said the weakening economy is contributing effectively to the weakening of a regime that bases its legitimacy on fear, propaganda and manipulation.”
The foreign minister also said that pressure must be increased on Assad to abide by the terms of Kofi Annan’s six-point peace plan, which Syrian troops have apparently violated by shelling opposition strongholds like Homs.
“Our meeting is in itself a message: the Syrian regime must understand that it cannot continue its repression with impunity, and refuse the political transition laid out under the Annan plan and expected by the Syrian people, Juppe said.
Even Russia, a long-time ally of Assad, has criticized the Damascus leader for his continued use of violence and has had urged him to follow the Annan program.