SYRIA

Surface area: 185,180 km².

Comparison with a European country : about half of Germany.

Capital: Damascus.

Administrative Divisions: 14 provinces (muhafazah / muhafazat).

Population (2012): 22’530’746

Population density (2012): 1021.6 habitants/km²

Growth rate (2000-2005): 2,5 %

Fecundity rate (2000-2005): 3,47

Life expectancy (2000-2005): 73,2

Infant mortality (2000-2005): 18,2 %o

Young people under 15 Years Old (est. 2004) 38%

Urban population (2005): 50,2 %

Iliteracy rate (2005): Males 14 %, females 26,4 %

Ethnic background: Arabs 89% Kurds 8%, others (including Armenians) 3%.

Religions: Sunni Muslims 75% Alawi Muslims 11% – Christians (all rites) 10% Druzes 3%.

Language: Arabic (official), Kurdish, Armenian, Aramaic, Circassian, French and English.

HDI (Human Development Indicator, UNDP 2008): within the 177 countries selected Syria is ranked 108 (rate 0,724 Medium level).

Currency: 1 Syrian pound (SYP) = 100 Piastres. (1Euro =  68,23 SYP – July 2008)

Gross Domestic Product (GDP) (2005): 71 736 millions US $

Gross Domestic Product (GDP) per capita (2005): 3847 US $

Annual growth: (1994 – 2004) : 2,0% – (2005) : 3,5%

Unemployment rate (est. 2012): 12.3%

Labour Force by Economic Sector : Agriculture 28.5%, Industry 29.4% and Services 42.1%.

Industries: petroleum, textiles, food processing, beverages, tobacco, phosphate rock mining

Agricultural products: wheat, barley, cotton, lentils, chickpeas, olives, sugar beets; beef, mutton, eggs, poultry, milk

Exports (2005): 14 956 million US

Imports (2005): 42 907 million US $

Total External Debt (2003): 21,550 million US $

Major Trading Partners: Imports: Italy, Germany, France, Lebanon, Chine, South Korea, Turkey, US; Exports: Germany, Italy, France, Turkey,Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, Spain.

Major Export Products : crude oil 68%, textiles 7%, fruits and vegetables 6%, raw cotton 4%

Major Import Products: machinery and transport equipment 21%, food and livestock 18%, metal and metal products 15%, chemicals and chemical products 10%

Oil Export Revenues/Total Export Revenues (est 2000): 65%.

Proven Oil Reserves (est 2002): 2,5 billion barrels

Oil Production (est. 2001): 527,000 barrels per day of which 519,000 bbl/d was crude oil (EU members are the major customers)

Oil Consumption (est. 2001): 260,000 barrels per day

Crude Oil Refining Capacity (est. 2002): 242,140 barrels per day

Natural Gas Reserves (est.2002): 8.5 trillion cubic feet

Year of independence: 1946 (from French Mandate)

Territorial dispute with: Israel and Turkey.

Political system: Republic «Democratic, Popular and Socialist». The legislature is unicameral. The sole chamber, the People’s Council (Majlis al-Chaab), has 250 members, directly elected for a four-year term.

Head of State (President): Bashar AL-ASSAD (since 17 July 2000)

First Vice-President : Farouq Charaa (Feb 2002)

Prime Minister:  Wael Nader al-Halqi (since august 2012)

 

Some features:

Syria’s oil production is currently estimated at 527,000 barrels/day. With proven oil reserves expected to last only about 10 more years and a population growing at 2’6% per year, Syria may become a net importer of oil within the next decade.

Syria maintains claims on the Sandjak of Alexandretta (now the Hatay province of Turkey) which the French handed to Turkey in 1939 as a gift to guarantee Turkisch neutrality in a possible war with Germany.

From February 1958 until September 1961, Syria and Egypt were unified in the United Arab Republic (U.A.R), with Gamal Abd El Nasser as President.

Bashar AL-ASSAD replaced his father Hafez AL ASSAD soon after his death on 10th June 2000.

Syria has a mutual defence pact with Saudi Arabia, Libya and Egypt.

Higher oil prices and a better off agricultural sector are the key factors in the current signs of economic recovery.

EU-Syria relations :

The EU is the main trading partner of Syria. The EU receives 34% of Syrian exports and 50% of Syrian imports come from the EU (1998).
The trade deficit in 1998 was US $ 29,900,000 in favour of Syria. The rising oil prices will certainly increase this trade gap.

A Cooperation Agreement with the EU has been signed in 1977.

In the context of the Barcelona process, Syria signed the MEDA framework convention in August 1998.

Negotiations for a Partnership Agreement with the EU started in 1997 but have not reached conclusion.

 

Situation since 2011:

Influenced by uprisings of the « Arab Spring », in Syria the antigovernmental demonstrations burst in the Southern province of Dar’ has in March 2011, with the demonstrators calling up to the abrogation of the state of emergency, the legalization of the political parties and the elimination of the corruption of the local state employees. Successively, demonstrations and disorders extended in all the Syrian cities, but the dimension and the intensity of the protests varied in the time. The government reacted to the excitements with a mixture of concessions – in particular the abrogation of the state of emergency and approving the new laws which allow of the training of the political parties and the liberalization of the local and national elections – and of strength, by leading violent confrontations between the governmental strengths and the opponents. However, the answer of the government did not manage to satisfy the requests of the opposition of the resignations of Bashar al-Asad and, maintaining, the international pressure on al-Asad became intensified: since the end of 2011, the League of Arab States, the European Union, Turkey and the United States widened the economic sanctions against the regime. Besides, of March, 2012 the former General Secretary Kofi Annan, appointed as mediator of the UNO and the League of Arab States in Syria, worked on the promotion of a cessation of the violence enter the regime of al-Asad and the Syrian opposition. In spite of a quiet news in brief in the hostilities, however, there was an intensification of the fights and, on 2nd, Kofi Annan announced his resignation. According to certain estimations, the number of deaths is more than 100 ‘ 000 since the fights began in March, 2011.

The opposition also tries to form itself on the political level: under the presidency of Burhan Ghalioun, the Syrian National Council ( CNS), established in Istanbul on September 15th, 2011, unifies a big part of the internal and outside opposition of various sensibilities (liberal, Islamist, nationalist), receiving in particular the support of the local committees of coordination, laic groups of opposition were created in April, 2011. The CNS calls up to a political transition involving the departure of Bachar al-Assad.

Bachar al-Assad maintains the illusion of reforms: a referendum on the adoption of a new constitution is organized on February 26th, 2012. The regime announces a rate of 57 % participation; 89 % of the Syrians would have voted « yes ». This vote is followed by general election on May 7th. But the regime is weakened by the desertion of leading personalities, in particular those of Syrian Vice Minister of the oil, Abdo Hussammedine, in March, of Manaf Tlass, high-ranking officer of the army and the childhood friend of Assad, in July, and of Riad Hijab, Prime Minister for hardly more than a month, in August. Besides, attacks strike the device of safety of the regime, in particular that of July 18th, which kills four senior officials of the security, among whom the brother-in-law of Assad, Assef Chawkat.

The Coalition is chaired by a Sunni dignitary, the former imam of the mosque of Omeyyades in Damascus(damask), the sheik Ahmad Moaz al-Khatib, the long-time opponent. On the ground, the opposition pursues an effective action in particular in said zones released, administered by revolutionary councils.

At this stage, the revolutionaries took the control of an important east part- valley of the Euphrate – and of the North of the country – Turkish border – as well as of certain districts of big cities – Homs, suburb is from Damascus. But the fights remain intense in some of these zones, and the Syrian aviation continues to bombard the freed zones, killing numerous civil.

 

Sources (figures) : L’Etat du Monde 2003 (La Découverte), CIA World Factbook 2002, Human Development Report 2001, Energy Information Administration, L’Etat du Monde 2007.