Switzerland extends sanctions exemptions against Syria

Collapsed buildings in the city of al-Atareb in western Aleppo countryside following an earthquake that struck the northwestern areas of Syria - February 9, 2023 (Enab Baladi)

Collapsed buildings in the city of al-Atareb in western Aleppo countryside following an earthquake that struck the northwestern areas of Syria - February 9, 2023 (Enab Baladi)


The Swiss Federal Council, a governmental body, has announced the extension of the temporary humanitarian exemption from sanctions against the Syrian regime for another six months, as a continuation of the previous exemption after the earthquake that hit the country in February 2023.

On Wednesday, February 21, the Council stated through its official website that the exemption will continue for another six months and will end on September 12, 2024.

The Swiss announcement pointed out that the exemption was due to the “serious humanitarian crisis” in Syria, which was exacerbated by the earthquake. About a year ago, a six-month humanitarian exemption was granted to international organizations and certain categories of humanitarian actors.

It was clarified that on March 10, 2023, the Swiss Federal Council included the European Union’s temporary humanitarian exemption in the ordinance on measures against Syria.

The exemption means that targeted financial sanctions do not apply to humanitarian work activities of international organizations and certain categories of humanitarian actors, which will continue for another six months, according to the announcement.

Switzerland had previously adopted sanctions against the Syrian regime on May 18, 2011, announcing its joining of the European Union measures adopted on the 9th of the same month. This was followed by several amendments to the ordinance relating to measures against the Syrian regime to align with the decisions of the European Union.

The sanctions included listing the Central Bank of Syria (CBS) on the sanctions list, according to an appendix adopted by the Swiss government, with the accusation that it “provides financial support to the regime.”

In May 2023, the Swiss Secretariat for Economic Affairs announced an expansion of the sanctions to include cousins of the head of the regime, Bashar al-Assad, in addition to many entities, due to their involvement in the smuggling of Captagon drugs.

The European Union announced last January the extension of exemptions for asset freezing and restrictions on making funds and economic resources available to specific natural or legal persons and entities for the benefit of international organizations and certain specified categories participating in humanitarian activities.

It said at the time that the exemption is valid until June 1, 2024.

On February 23, 2023, a group of countries represented by the European Union and the United States issued a modification to the sanctions laws for a period of six months, which included exemptions regarding the sanctions imposed on the Syrian regime.

According to the European amendment, the Union waived the requirement for humanitarian organizations to obtain prior permission from the competent national authorities in the member states to transfer or provide goods and services intended for humanitarian purposes to Syrian individuals and entities listed on the European Union sanctions lists.

The US Treasury Department also issued a decision granting Syria an exemption from the Caesar Act sanctions for six months for all transactions related to the earthquake response.

In August 2023, the American Coalition for Syria announced that the US government had officially notified the Congress of its intention not to renew the exemptions related to sanctions on the Syrian regime. No decision on renewal has been issued by the United States after the expiration of the period, nor has any announcement been made about resuming the sanctions.

On February 6, an earthquake of magnitude 7.7 struck the southern Turkish province of Kahramanmaras, affecting four Syrian provinces and resulting in thousands of deaths and injuries on both sides of the border, in addition to widespread destruction in Syrian and Turkish cities.


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