The Syrian government is negotiating deals with firms in London, Singapore and the Middle East to sell crude oil in return for the fuel it needs to survive in the face of an increasingly bloody insurgency, documents seen by Reuters show. Syria has been starved of diesel for its army and fuel to keep the economy running because US and European Union (EU) sanctions have cut off its usual suppliers.
As sanctions bite, income from crude oil sales becomes increasingly important. Despite political support from China and Russia, which have repeatedly blocked UN sanctions on Syria and opposed military intervention to end the conflict, President Bashar Al-Assad’s fuel and cash lifelines have all but dried up. “The war is costing him about 1 billion euros a month and he has fewer and fewer resources. We estimate he only has a few months left without the support of Russia and Iran,” French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said.
Syria has been largely cut off from fuel supplies as sporadic diesel deliveries from Iran, its main regional ally, are meeting only a fraction of its needs and fresh deals with Russia have not yet been finalised, Syrian Deputy Prime Minister for Economic Affairs Qadri Jamal said. Commercial documents, correspondence, shipping records and other papers reviewed by Reuters show how the Syrian government is seeking and sometimes clinching fuel deals, which even if not huge are vital for the government’s survival. Syria’s new business partners include firms domiciled in Britain, Egypt and Lebanon, all countries critical of Assad’s crackdown on the opposition.
In one instance, the papers show a Lebanese broker working on behalf of the Syrian government signed contracts in July and August with an Egyptian firm to trade crude oil and refined oil products and has already succeeded in making some deliveries.