The U.S. Department of the Treasury today hosted the Friends of the Syrian People International Working Group on Sanctions as part of the international effort to increase the financial and economic pressure on the Assad regime. The meeting comes amid increasing international outrage over the Assad regime's continued campaign of violence against the Syrian people and recognition that increased international pressure is needed to spur progress toward a political transition in Syria that removes the Assad regime. More than 55 countries attended the meeting, which was co-chaired by Qatar, Turkey, and the United States. This second meeting follows the inaugural meeting, which was held in Paris on April 17.
"More than 55 nations are represented here today -- united in our condemnation of the Assad regime's brutality We gather in the shadow of a massacre. Nothing we say can adequately respond to such an event. Nor can sanctions alone bring about the change we seek. But sanctions can play an important role," said Secretary Geithner in remarks to open the meeting. "Strong sanctions, effectively implemented and aggressively enforced, can help deprive the Syrian regime of the resources it needs to sustain itself and to continue its repression of the Syrian people And strong sanctions can help hasten the day the Assad regime relinquishes power."
He continued: "We, the United States, hope that all responsible countries will soon join in taking appropriate economic actions against the Syrian regime including, if necessary, Chapter 7 action in the UN Security Council, as called for by the Arab League last weekend. Absent meaningful compliance by the regime with the Annan plan, that is the direction in which we are soon headed .as Friends of the Syrian People, our task is to impose maximum financial pressure on the Assad regime and its supporters, as quickly as we can and as effectively as we can, to stop their violence and to yield to conscience and to peaceful political change."
The aim of the working group is to bring likeminded countries from around the world together to coordinate the implementation of international sanctions in order to amplify the financial and economic impact of sanctions on the Assad regime. Today's meeting focuses on harmonizing existing sanctions across jurisdictions, identifying additional actions that increase the pressure on the Assad regime, and sharing information and sanctions best practices to ensure the Assad regime is unable to evade international sanctions.
In the lead up to the meeting, a number of participating countries announced new sanctions against the Assad regime. Last week, the United States, in consultation with the Government of Qatar, took action against Syria International Islamic Bank, which has helped the Commercial Bank of Syria evade international sanctions. The Government of Qatar took corresponding actions. Additionally, the Arab League issued a statement this weekend calling for the U.N. Security Council to secure immediate implementation of the Annan Plan by invoking Chapter VII of the U.N. Charter. At the meeting this morning, Turkey announced an expansion of its sanctions regime, adding a significant number of Syrian regime-affiliated individuals to its sanctions list.
Summary of United States Government Sanctions Programs Pertaining to Syria Implemented since the Start of the Syria Uprising
April 29, 2011.
The President issues E.O. 13572, providing authority to block the property of, among others, persons determined to be responsible for human rights abuses in Syria, including those related to repression.
May 18, 2011.
The President issues E.O. 13573,blocking the property of senior officials of the Syrian government, including President Bashar al-Assad.
August 17, 2011.
The President issues E.O. 13582, blocking the property of the Government of Syria (which generally prohibits transactions between U.S. persons and the Government of Syria), banning the export of U.S. services to and new investment in Syria, and banning the importation into the United States of, and transactions or dealings by U.S. persons in, Syrian-origin petroleum and petroleum products. Treasury identifies five state-owned oil companies in Syria subject to the blocking.
April 22, 2012.
The President issues E.O. 13606, providing authority to block the property and suspending entry into the United States of certain, among others, persons determined to have operated, or to have directed the operation of, information and communications technology that facilitates computer or network disruption, monitoring or tracking that could assist in or enable human rights abuses by or on behalf of the Government of Syria.
May 30, 2012.
Most recently, Treasury designated Syria International Islamic Bank (SIIB) pursuant to E.O. 13382 for acting for or on behalf of the Commercial Bank of Syria and providing services to the Syrian Lebanese Commercial Bank, both of which are subject to U.S. and international sanctions. Treasury took action alongside the Government of Qatar, which took its own steps to isolate SIIB from the Qatari financial system.