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EU reveals plans to buy oil from rebel-held parts of Syria

The EU’s member states have a trade embargo against the Syrian government – but will import petrol from rebel territory.

An oil field under control of Kurdish militias near the town of Deriq, in a Kurdish area of Syria,.
An oil field under control of Kurdish militias near the town of Deriq, in a Kurdish area of Syria,.
Image: Manu Brabo/AP

THE SYRIAN GOVERNMENT has lodged a formal complaint with the United Nations after the European Union approved plans to allow its members to import oil from parts of Syria which are under the command of rebels.

The EU has decided to allow members important oil and petrol products from rebel-held territory despite a trade embargo against the Syrian government itself.

Syria’s foreign ministry has written to the UN calling the decision illegal and an “act of aggression.”

“In an unprecedented decision that contradicts international law and the UN Charter… the European Union has decided to allow member states to import petrol… under the pretext of supporting the opposition,” state news agency SANA reported, citing the letters.

“It is an illegal decision and an act of aggression.”

Syrian rebels fighting President President Bashar al-Assad’s troops received a boost yesterday when the European Union eased its oil embargo to let them exploit the resources they control.

But the decision raised a furious response in Damascus.

The European Union will be trading “with the so-called opposition Coalition, which represents no one in Syria,” the letters to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and the Security Council said.

The decision is an act of “complicity in the theft of resources that belong to the Syrian people, represented by the current, legitimate government,” they added.

“The European Union is following its political and economic campaign that targets the national economy and the daily bread of Syrian citizens,” the ministry added, referring to EU sanctions on the Assad regime.

EU ministers’ decision to ease the 2011 oil embargo will enable companies on a case-by-case basis not only to import Syrian crude but also to export oil production technology and investment cash to areas in the hands of the opposition.

Under the deal, European firms seeking to import Syrian crude or invest in the energy sector would ask for authorisation from their government, which in turn would confer with Syria’s opposition National Coalition to secure its agreement.

At the start of the revolt that broke out in March 2011, Syria’s oil production was slashed by almost two thirds, falling to 130,000 barrels a day in March – just 0.1 per cent of the world’s total production, according to the International Energy Agency’s latest estimates.

The European Union is nonetheless concerned that most oilfields in Deir Ezzor in the east and Hasake in the northeast are controlled by Al-Nusra Front, whose leadership has pledged allegiance to Al-Qaeda.

- © AFP, 2013

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