Assad blames Syria’s current economic woes on Lebanese banks

Syrian President Bashar Assad and first lady Asma Assad visit the ‘Producers 2020’ exhibition, in Damascus, Syria, Wednesday, Nov. 4, 2020. (AP Photo)
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Updated 06 November 2020

Assad blames Syria’s current economic woes on Lebanese banks

  • Bashar Assad said that between $20 billion and $42 billion, held by Syrians, is estimated to be tied up in Lebanese banks
  • Lebanon is experiencing a serious banking crisis, which has led to the introduction of informal capital controls to combat capital flight

DAMASCUS, Syria: Syrian President Bashar Assad said much of his country’s current economic distress is a direct result of the banking crisis in neighboring Lebanon, where many Syrian businessmen have traditionally kept their money.
Assad said that between $20 billion and $42 billion, held by Syrians, is estimated to be tied up in Lebanese banks. He spoke during a tour of a trade fair in Damascus with his wife on Wednesday.
“This number for an economy like Syria is a scary number,” Assad said, according to a recording published by SANA, the state news agency.
Lebanon is experiencing a serious banking crisis, which has led to the introduction of informal capital controls to combat capital flight and prop a flailing local currency. Depositors are unable to make foreign transfers and there is a limit on how much they can withdraw.
Lebanese banks had offered a lifeline to the Syrian economy, which under the Assad family rule faced decades of Western sanctions that often targeted individual businessmen and cut off Syrian banks.
However, Assad did not blame the sanctions for the ongoing crisis as most government officials do. “When the banks in Lebanon closed, we paid the price. This is the essence of the problem,” he said.
Low oil prices and poor access to the Kurdish-held northeast of Syria, where much of the country’s wheat is grown, also played a part, he said.
Syria’s economy is in shambles and the nine-year civil war has killed more than 400,000 and displaced half the country’s population. The local Syrian currency crashed in recent months making it more difficult for many Syrians to buy food. More than 80% of the Syrian population live in poverty, according to UN
The spread of coronavirus in the war-torn country has further restricted economic activities and increased unemployment.

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UAE condemns killing of Iranian scientist, calls on all parties to exercise self-restraint

Updated 19 min 44 sec ago

UAE condemns killing of Iranian scientist, calls on all parties to exercise self-restraint

  • Mohsen Fakhrizadeh was killed in an ambush near Tehran on Friday
  • He has been described by Western intelligence services as the leader of a covert atomic bomb programme

LONDON: The UAE condemned the killing of Iranian scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh and called on all parties to exercise self-restraint on Sunday, Emirates News Agency reported. 

“The state of instability our region is currently going through, and the security challenges it faces, drives us all to work toward averting acts that could lead to escalation and eventually threaten the stability of the entire region,” the news agency quoted the UAE Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation as saying. 

“Given the current situation in the region, the UAE calls upon all parties to exercise maximum degrees of self restraint to avoid dragging the region into new levels of instability,” the ministry added.

Mohsen Fakhrizadeh was killed in an ambush near Tehran on Friday.

He has been described by Western and Israeli intelligence services for years as the leader of a covert atomic bomb programme halted in 2003, which Israel and the United States accuse Tehran of trying to restore in secret.