US eases sanctions on Syrian opposition

Updated: 2013-06-13 10:35


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WASHINGTON - The Obama administration on Wednesday announced eased sanctions on the Syrian opposition, just as the United States and Britain were holding discussions on more efforts to aid the rebels in their fighting against the government troops.

The fresh move, involving the departments of state, commerce and Treasury, aimed to enable additional relief and reconstruction activities in opposition-controlled areas of Syria, the State Department said in a statement.

A limited waiver signed by Secretary of State John Kerry authorizes the export and re-export of certain U.S.-origin items to opposition-controlled areas in Syria, including commodities, software and technology, among them water supply and sanitation, agricultural production and food processing, power generation, oil and gas production, construction and engineering, transportation and educational infrastructure.

"Of note, the export of food and medicine does not currently require a license and medical devices are covered under an existing waiver," the statement said.

The Treasury, for its part, issued a Statement of Licensing Policy (SLP) inviting American citizens to apply for specific licenses that enable them to participate in certain economic activities in Syria.

"The SLP specifically focuses on applications by U.S. persons seeking to engage in oil-related transactions that benefit the National Coalition of Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces, or its supporters, and transactions involving Syria's agricultural and telecommunications sectors," said the statement.

Washington recognized the coalition as the sole legitimate representative of the Syrian people in December last year.

In addition, the Treasury was amending rules to authorize the exportation of services and fund transfers in support of not-for- profit activities to preserve Syria's cultural heritage sites.

The Syrian rebels were losing ground in their 26-month conflict with the government, as they lost the border city of al-Qussair early this month. The Syrian army has launched a fresh offensive to secure the countryside of northern province of Aleppo.

As the Obama administration was discussing arming the Syrian rebels, Kerry and his British counterpart William Hague vowed on Wednesday to do their utmost to help the opposition.

"We are determined to do everything that we can," Kerry told reporters following his talks with Hague at the State Department, adding he had nothing to announce "at this moment".

"The United Kingdom believes that the situation demands a strong, coordinated and determined approach by the UK, the U.S. and our allies in Europe and the region," Hague said.

The European Union lifted its arms embargo on the Syrian opposition in late May.