Shell quits Syria after latest EU sanctions

Supermajor suspends operations as violence continues

The city of Homs, where the Syrian government launched a brutal crackdown on protests earlier this year. GETTY IMAGES
The city of Homs, where the Syrian government launched a brutal crackdown on protests earlier this year. GETTY IMAGES

New EU sanctions on Syrian oil have prompted Shell to suspend operations in the country. The Anglo-Dutch supermajor said it was downing tools in Syria "in compliance with sanctions.”

On Friday a forum of the EU Parliament voted to extend sanctions to three state-owned Syrian oil firms, including General Petroleum Corporation and Syria Trading Oil, in a bid to starve the Assad government of a crucial source of revenue. The third was Al Furat Petroleum Co, in which Shell has a stake.

A further eight companies and 12 prominent Syrian government figures were added to the EU blacklist.

Other companies may follow Shell’s lead, as Syria’s ability to pay for oil exports will now be severely hampered. Total is reportedly assessing its position, and the independent firm Gulfsands Petroleum has suffered severe production cuts as domestic stockpiles of crude reach capacity.

The exit of Western oil companies may prompt the Syrian government to turn oil contracts over to Chinese or Russian companies in a bid to keep the crude flowing.

The sanctions have been implemented amid international outcry at the Assad regime’s brutal suppression of civilian opposition. UN rights chief Navi Pillay told the session that more than 4,000 people have been killed in the crackdown against protesters that began in March, with 950 killed in November alone.

The Arab League has also implemented a sweeping sanctions regime, which according to a recent New York Times article is already making civilian life in the country difficult.

Through a combination of ersatz militia and defecting cadres of Syrian’s armed forces, the opposition is becoming increasingly militarized, prompting fears of civil war.

 

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