Lebanon News

At the 33rd Arab League Summit, regional leaders ratified the need to continue the rapprochement process towards Damascus, but the summit concluded without any concrete economic or political concession towards Bashar Al-Assad’s government.
The Iraqi Federal Government stopped issuing work visas for Syrians in January and the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) followed suit, halting issuing not only work but also tourist visas for Syrian nationals as of March 29. These recent decisions restricting the possibility of Syrians to visit or reside in Iraq and the Iraqi Kurdistan region mark a shift in the until-now ‘welcoming’ policy environment towards Syrian refugees since the onset of the Syrian conflict. This move is expected to slash the flow of remittances from Syrians working in Iraq, a country that is hosting 263,920 Syrian refugees.
Damascus is considering further privatising the public healthcare system, a move that might lighten the budget burden of the Ministry of Health but will severely impact the lives of Syrians that depend on free medical services in public hospitals and primary healthcare centres. The Ministry of Health has begun the procedures to transform all public hospitals into entities with administrative and financial independence and has also taken steps to “explore” a public-private partnership model for the management of medical facilities.
Iran's oil exports to Syria decreased 27 percent in the first quarter of 2024 compared with the last quarter of 2023, and 24 percent on a year-on-year basis. In the last quarter of 2023, exports stood at 8.8 million barrels, an average of 95,938 bopd, while in the same quarter of last year they reached 9.1 million barrels, averaging 101,750 bopd. This quarter’s results are the lowest in two years, since Q2, 2022, when exports stood at 6.2 million barrels.
This interview with Angela Huddleston, Syria Deputy Country Director of the International Rescue Committee (IRC), is part of our series of in-depth conversations with some of Syria’s main humanitarian and development actors.
Private sector electricity providers, using small power generators working on gas oil, are increasingly spreading across regime areas, after initially starting operating in the Aleppo governorate in 2013. Since then, they have expanded to the governorates of Damascus, Rural Damascus, Lattakia and Tartous.
In 2023, Syrian exports of truffles amounted to USD 564,000, according to UN Comtrade, but this figure falls short from reflecting the real size of the trade industry due to undisclosed trade activities and smuggling practices. No Arab country appears as an importer of Syrian truffles in 2023, while Syrian officials have stated that Saudi Arabia is the main importer and Gulf countries a top destination for the Syrian truffle. Truffle hunters face landmines and ISIS attacks while picking this prized fungi in desertic areas, mostly in the Deir-ezz-Zor and Raqqa governorates.
In a major shift in the Syrian banking landscape, Banque Bemo Saudi Fransi has taken over the stakes of Lebanon’s Byblos Bank SAL in its Syrian subsidiary, Byblos Bank Syria SA, leading to BYB's official departure from the Syrian market after 19 years operating in the country.
For years, Damascus has blamed sanctions for preventing the government from rebuilding its electricity infrastructure. However, in the last decade, Damascus has repaired several power plants and built new ones. Importing more fuel oil and using it to generate more electricity would be a solution if Damascus was not so reluctant to avoid increasing its subsidy bills. On top of that, Syria seems to be gradually gearing towards a scenario where a few powerful business actors benefit from using neighbourhood power generators and oppose the increase in production of the state utility.
Recent official estimates show that the livestock sector in Syria, once a cornerstone of the agriculture sector and a key source of foreign currency, is caught in a steep decline, with sheep herds dropping by 41 percent between 2016 and 2022.
The United States has doubled down on its Syria sanctions strategy with the passing of the ‘Assad Regime Anti-Normalization Act of 2023’ at the House of Representatives on February 14.
Minister of Petroleum and Mineral Resources Firas Hassan Qaddour announced during an event organised by the ministry its plan to increase the annual phosphate production to 10 million tonnes, Tishreen reported on February 10. 
Two government delegations have recently visited Aleppo and met with local business leaders to address their electricity, customs, transportation, shipping subsidies, and finance concerns. Meanwhile, the Syrian cabinet has announced a flurry of decisions to improve the economic situation in the governorate.
Two days after being sanctioned by the European Union, Chams Wings, took part in one of the world’s largest tourism fairs, FITUR, held in Madrid. FITUR organisers said that “any presence of Chams Wings at the event is not a result of a contractual relationship with FITUR."
In 2023, the Syrian government partially reemerged from international diplomatic isolation as the regional normalisation process gained traction. After being reinstated in the Arab League in May, Bashar Al-Assad, his ministers, and Chambers of Commerce in regime areas have had a busier agenda compared to previous years, mostly re-engaging with Arab leaders and some Western countries.