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Moderator:  Greetings to everyone from the U.S. Department of State’s Dubai Regional Media Hub.  I would like to welcome our participants dialing in from the Middle East and around the world for this on-the-record briefing with Joel Rayburn, the Department of State’s Special Envoy for Syria.  Special Envoy Rayburn will discuss the situation in Syria and provide an update on the pressure campaign targeting those obstructing efforts to bring the Syrian conflict to an end.  He will then take your questions. 

 We are pleased to offer simultaneous interpretation for this briefing in Arabic.  We request that everyone keep this in mind and speak slowly. 

I’ll now turn it over to Special Envoy Rayburn for his opening remarks.  Sir, the floor is yours.  

Mr. Rayburn:  Thank you, Sam.  Happy Holidays to everyone and thank you for joining. 

 One year ago this week, with bipartisan support, President Trump signed into law the Caesar Syria Civilian Protection Act, known as the Caesar Act, under which the U.S. Congress authorized economic sanctions to promote accountability for the Assad regime’s brutal atrocities against the Syrian people, some of which rise to the level of war crimes and crimes against humanity.  As we mark this anniversary of the signing into law of the Caesar Act, I want to reiterate that the United States remains committed to carrying out a sustained campaign of economic and political pressure to prevent the Assad regime and its staunchest supporters from amassing resources to fuel their war against the Syrian people. 

To that end, today the United States is imposing sanctions on 18 more individuals and entities, including the Central Bank of Syria.  These individuals and corrupt businesses are impeding efforts to reach a political and peaceful resolution to the Syrian conflict, as called for by UN Security Council Resolution 2254.  Today’s sanctions demonstrate our resolve to curtail the ability of pro-regime actors, including military commanders, members of the Syrian parliament, Assad regime entities, and financiers, from using their positions to perpetuate Bashar al-Assad’s futile and brutal war.  Their actions highlight the extent to which Assad and his corrupt cronies have exploited the conflict to plunder the Syrian economy.  While average Syrians suffer and struggle to meet basic needs, the Syrian regime squanders tens of millions of dollars each month on a military that arbitrarily detains and kills Syrian civilians and forces millions to flee away from Syria. 

Among those individuals sanctioned today are Asma al-Assad and some of her immediate relatives, all of whom are based in the United Kingdom.  Asma al-Assad has spearheaded efforts on behalf of the regime to consolidate economic and political power, including by using her so-called charities and civil society organizations.  Her and her family’s corruption is one of the many reasons that this conflict lingers on. 

 

Our pressure campaign is being carried out in full cooperation with other like-minded nations, especially our European partners who themselves have sanctioned hundreds of Syrians responsible for prolonging the horrific situation inside Syria.  Until there is meaningful progress to implement UN Security Council Resolution 2254, we will not normalize relations with the Syrian regime nor help Assad rebuild what he has destroyed.  There is clear international consensus that UN Security Council Resolution 2254 offers the only real path to peace.  This week marks the fifth anniversary of the resolution’s adoption.  The resolution makes clear that the conflict in Syria can only be resolved by a nationwide ceasefire, the unhindered access to humanitarian aid throughout the country, the release of all those arbitrarily detained, and a political process that enables the Syrian people to determine their own political future, as set out in the Geneva Communique.  

The greatest obstacle to a stable and secure outcome in Syria has been the Assad regime’s unwillingness, even in the face of disaster, to deviate from its futile goal of military victory.  That is why today we have sanctioned one of the architects of the Syrian people’s suffering, General Kifah Moulhem, the commander of Syrian military intelligence.  Moulhem runs an institution that has been responsible for the arbitrary detention, torture, and killing of countless Syrians.   

The Assad regime, with its allies Russia and Iran, thus far has refused to answer the call of UN Secretary-General Guterres and UN Special Envoy Geir Pedersen for a nationwide ceasefire.  The regime continues to obstruct the delivery of humanitarian aid, as illustrated by the lack of services in Syria’s southwest and its refusal to allow virtually any UN humanitarian aid to reach non-regime-held areas, such as the informal Rukban settlement.  The consequences of this obstruction are exacerbating the spread of COVID-19 in Syria.   

 Although the convening of the Constitutional Committee in Geneva offered a pathway to a political end of the Syrian conflict – and it still offers one – the Syrian regime has chosen to obstruct the committee’s work and to dash the Syrian people’s aspirations thus far for a free and fair UN-supervised presidential election in Syria next year.  The Syrian people will decide the future of Syria, including its political fate.  To support them, the United States will continue working with the UN, like-minded nations, and other international partners to realize the objectives agreed upon and set forth by UN Security Council Resolution 2254.  It is long past time for this conflict to end so the Syrian people can live in peace again. 

And with that, I’m happy to take a few of your questions.  Thank you. 

 Moderator:  Thank you, Special Envoy Rayburn.  We will now begin the question and answer portion of today’s call.   

 

Our first question is a pre-submitted question from Naama Al-Alwani from Halab Today TV, and she asks: “Special Envoy Rayburn, do you see a clear path for a post-Assad political transition?”  Over to you, sir. 

 Mr. Rayburn:  I do see a clear path to a political transition in Syria, and it’s contained in 2254.  2254 is a document of genius and inspiration whose drafters had a very clear vision for a political process in which the Syrian people could express their voice and their desire for who they want to govern Syria and under what format, under what kind of system.  So the steps that are outlined in 2254 we think are necessary and they’re very clear, and the pressure that we are applying to the Assad regime and its supporters is all designed to hold the Assad regime accountable for the atrocities that it’s committed, but also to compel the Assad regime into the 2254 process in a meaningful way so that we can see the Syrian people taking charge of their own political transition. 

Moderator:  Thank you.  Our next question goes to the live queue, to Nadia Charters from Al Arabiya.  

Question:  Hello, thank you for doing this.  We’re talking about these sanctions and everything that this administration did towards the Syrian regime 30 days before President Trump leaves office.  Can you tell us what exactly do you want the Biden administration to follow from your policy, and specifically what policies on the Syrian regime, considering the complexity of allies with Russia and Iran?  If you can take one advice and give it to the new administration, what that will be?  Thank you. 

Mr. Rayburn:  Okay, the first thing, Nadia – and thank you for this question – the first thing I would say is that this – the policy that we are following, it’s not my policy per se, it’s not a Trump administration policy.  This is the policy of the United States that has broad bipartisan support.  It’s a policy that is built around the three goals of achieving an enduring defeat of Daesh, al-Qaida, and other terrorist groups of that kind; of seeing the withdrawal of all Iranian military forces and militias from Syria; and of achieving a political solution to the conflict under Security Council Resolution 2254.  And as we have seen for several years now in Washington, there is broad support for continuing to seek those three goals in the U.S. national interest as well as in the interest of the Syrian people and others in the international community. 

So I think that those goals already have a consensus behind them in Washington, and I really don’t think you’re going to see a significant change away from those goals.  You can – there are different people who will come into different positions; they can have good ideas about how to implement those goals better.  But I don’t think you’re going to see a discarding of those goals.  I think you can count on the United States as well as the other like-minded countries to continue seeking those goals regardless of who is in the White House. 

 

Moderator:  Thank you, sir.  Our next question is another pre-submitted question from Emad Karkas from Al-Araby al-Jadeed, and he asks: “Does the U.S. and its Western allies have other means of pressure against the Assad regime other than economic sanctions and diplomatic pressure to force the regime to negotiate?”  Over to you, sir. 

Mr. Rayburn:  Okay, thank you.  I think the first thing is don’t – don’t underestimate the power of economic pressure combined with political isolation.  This, over time, can have a very severe effect.  I think what we are seeing now, we are six months into the active Caesar Act.  It was launched on June 17th of this year.  And I think we’re seeing that the Assad regime and its allies have no answer for it.  They have no answer for the economic pressure and the political isolation under the Caesar Act.  So I think you can really look in the coming months to see it have a greater and greater effect on constraining them and ultimately compelling them to come to a political solution and to discard their quest for a military conquest. 

Now, we do have some other tools that we can use and that we do intend to use.  I would say there – you can see a lot of accountability tools.  For example, you’re seeing some law enforcement actions now being taken, some criminal justice actions being taken.  I would note, for example, the prosecutions that Germany is doing against some key members, former members of the Assad regime for the atrocities that they allegedly had a hand in.  And I think you’ll see more of this.  But the bottom line – the bottom line is that there’s a broad range of pressure, and I think economic pressure and political isolation should not be underestimated. 

Moderator:  Thank you, sir.  Our next question comes from the live queue, and it goes to Mirna Jammal from France 24.   

Question:  Hello, everybody.  Do you hear me? 

Mr. Rayburn:  Yes, go ahead. 

 Question:  Okay.  About the negotiation in Geneva, how would you explain it’s not deadline limit to finish these negotiations?  Mostly, Syrian foreign minister of affairs, he expressed from Russia: don’t worry about this negotiation.  And do you have a plan to retire from Syria?  Thanks. 

Mr. Rayburn:  Okay.  I think, first of all, Mirna, I didn’t understand the second question. 

 Question:  Do you have a plan to retire from Syria, to finish your mission? 

 Mr. Rayburn:  Ah, I see. 

Question:  Military mission.  Yeah. 

 

Mr. Rayburn:  You mean – in other words, the United States.

Question:  Yes. 

Mr. Rayburn:  Okay, I can – I can address that one.  The U.S. military is continuing its mission to – under the – as part of the global coalition and the campaign to defeat ISIS.  There’s still more work to be done.  ISIS has been defeated as a territorial caliphate, they’ve been defeated as an army in the field, but they’re still there as a clandestine terrorist network and they’re still trying to evolve into a guerilla-type insurgency both in Syria and Iraq.  So there’s more work to be done and I think you can – you will continue to see the United States and the global coalition to do that work.  I don’t see that mission ending until the job is done.

Your first question I think had to do with – as I understand it, Mirna, you’re saying that the Assad regime is claiming the talks in Geneva can be ignored, really, I think is what you’re saying Faisal Mekdad said.  Listen, Faisal Mekdad is not the UN Security Council.  Faisal Mekdad can say whatever he wants, just like his predecessor Muallem did.  They do a lot of talking.  I think mostly they’re talking to their own people, their own regime supporters, and trying to tell their supporters, oh, don’t worry, don’t read the news about the pressure on the Assad regime, really these talks in Geneva are nothing.   

But you know at the end of the day, it’s the United States and the European Union that are in charge of the sanctions on Syria, and we’re going to continue those, we’re going to continue the political isolation, and Faisal Mekdad’s not going to have anything to say about it.  We don’t pay attention to anything he says. 

 Moderator:  Thank you, sir.  Our next question is another pre-submitted question, and it comes from Guldener Sonumut from NTV Turkey, based in Belgium, and he asks: “What are the areas of cooperation between the current U.S. administration and Turkey on Syria?”  Over to you, sir.

Mr. Rayburn:  Okay, I’m glad you highlighted this because, of course, there are a lot of challenges in the relationship between the United States and Turkey in the bilateral relationship, but regardless of those challenges we in the State Department and elsewhere in the U.S. Government team and our Turkish counterparts who work on Syria, we’ve always considered it important to try to maintain as constructive a cooperation as possible and to keep an open channel at all times, even in the roughest times – and we have had some rough times – because there are a lot of ways in which our interests overlap.   

 So, for example, the United States and other likeminded countries have a very strong interest in Turkey continuing to support the refugee population inside Turkey to give shelter to those people, and also for Turkey to facilitate and be the launch pad for humanitarian assistance that goes across the border into northern Syria, and also there’s a lot of room for cooperation because of what Turkey does to try to protect Idlib from being attacked by the Assad regime and its allies.  The United States has a strong interest in Turkey continuing to do that, and so there are a lot of ways in which the United States and Turkey can cooperate.  We try to keep that as constructive as possible, even while there are serious challenges that we have to work on all the time.  There are tensions that come up in some parts of the Syrian file that we have to try to work on to reduce and de-escalate. 

 Question:  [In Arabic.] 

 Mr. Rayburn:  Okay, yes, someone’s microphone is – someone’s not muted. 

 Moderator:  Operator, can you go ahead and mute that microphone, please?   

Thank you, sir.  Our next question is from the live queue, and it goes to Hiba Nasr from Asharq News. 

 Question:  Hi, how are you?  I want to ask, since you mentioned that all these Asma relatives sanctioned today – Asma al-Assad relatives sanctioned today are all based in the UK, was this action coordinated with the British government?  And do we expect a similar also action from the British government?  And I want to ask about are there secondary sanctions applicable to these actions today?  Thank you.

Mr. Rayburn:  Okay.  So you were quite right to point out, and this is quite significant in today’s sanctions, that we are designating Asma al-Assad’s immediate family members – her father, Fawaz Akhras; Asma al-Assad’s mother, Sahar Otri Akhras; Asma al-Assad’s brothers, Firas Akhras and Eyad Akhras – all of whom are dual Syrian and UK citizens and all of whom are based in the UK.  Yes, absolutely, we coordinated this action with our UK counterparts.  Our UK counterparts are very, very close partners of ours on the Syria file.  And so we did everything in conjunction with them.  We would never surprise them on this because we’re in a very close strategic partnership with the UK on Syria. 

 I can’t speak for the British government on what they will or won’t do in the future, so I can’t answer that aspect of it.  I would say that – I will note that today’s action against the members of the Akhras family is a significant action of people who are based outside of Syria.  Your question is: will secondary sanctions attach?  Absolutely.  The Caesar Act will attach secondary sanctions to everyone that is being designated today.  So we consider all of today’s actions, regardless of the technical authority under which we do the sanctions, all of them have Caesar Act implications, all of them, so that secondary sanctions will attach to those being done, and that includes the members of the Akhras family that are being designated today. 

 Moderator:  Thank you, sir.  Our next — 

 Mr. Rayburn:  Let me – let me add one more. 

Moderator:  Go ahead. 

Mr. Rayburn:  Let me add one more line, and I think – so today’s sanctions of these individuals who are based outside Syria should demonstrate very clearly to anyone who is watching that the United States will sanction those who are violating – who are committing violations and supporting the Assad regime in a material way, regardless of where they are.  We will – so our sanctions program was never intended to be limited just to people inside Syria.  We will be under Syria sanctions authorities, including the Caesar Act, we will sanction people outside of Syria if they are violating our sanctions principles

Moderator:  Great.  Thank you, sir.  Our next question is a pre-submitted question from Waleed Sabry from Bahrain’s Al Watan newspaper, and he asks: “Special Envoy Rayburn, Iranian violations in Syria continue.  What are Washington’s plans to stop Iranian influence in Syria?”  Over to you, sir. 

 Mr. Rayburn:  Okay.  First thing is we will sanction – we will put pressure, economic and political pressure, on those within the Syrian regime who are closely associated with the Iranian regime and its activities in Syria.  We will continue to work in cooperation with our U.S. Government colleagues who are prosecuting the maximum pressure campaign against the Assad regime.  I’m speaking here about Special Representative Elliott Abrams and many others in the U.S. Government.  We work together as a team to try to synchronize the pressure that we bring against the Iranian regime and its local clients so that the message to Tehran will continue to be that there will be – one of the things that they will be required to do if they wish to get out from under the pressure from the United States is that they have to withdraw their military forces and their militias from Syria.   

Moderator:  Great.  Thank you, sir.  Our next question comes from the live queue, and is from Shawgi Mustafa from Qatar’s Lusail newspaper. 

 Question:  Can you hear me?  Hello?   

 Mr. Rayburn:  Yes. 

 Question:  Thank you, Special Envoy Rayburn, for this opportunity.  My question is: Is there any cooperation with Qatar in this pressure campaign against al-Assad regime?  And how do you evaluate the role of Al Udeid Air Base to fight Daesh in Syria?   

Mr. Rayburn:  Okay.  I can’t go into too much detail.  As a diplomat, on Al Udeid, of course Al Udeid is very important to the U.S. efforts to participate in the global coalition’s campaign against Daesh.  I would say it’s essential.  And Al Udeid of course is a very important base for U.S. operations in the region, and we value the relationship that we have with Qatar that enables that.   

In terms of U.S. cooperation with Qatar, we have appreciated Qatar’s stance on resisting and opposing normalization with the Assad regime among the Arab countries and opposing the reintroduction of the Assad regime into the Arab League and opposing the reintroduction of Damascus to the Arab League until there have been very clear conditions met by the Syrian Government.  So I think – so we continue to encourage Qatar to stand firm in that stance. 

 Moderator:  Great.  Thank you, sir.  Our next question is from the live queue and goes to Kylie Atwood from CNN.   

Question:  Hi, thank you so much for doing this.  Obviously, the Syrian conflict has not been resolved over the last four years, and I’m wondering if you are more confident that the resolution is closer now than it was at the beginning of the Trump administration, and if so, why?  And my second question is: What happens to the joint assets of Asma al-Assad and her husband, Bashar al-Assad?  Thank you. 

Mr. Rayburn:  Okay.  Kylie, can you – I didn’t understand the second question.  What has happened to the joint assets of Bashar and Asma al-Assad?  Was that your question? 

Question:  Yeah.  So anyone – so if they have joint bank accounts or something like that — 

Mr. Rayburn:  Ah, okay. 

 Question:  — do those have to be shut down as well? 

 Mr. Rayburn:  Okay, yeah.  Let me – so let me address that one first.  It’s a really good question and it points to why there are a couple of other people on the sanctions list today.  I would point out to you two individuals and some – and four businesses.  Lina Kinayeh, who is a key adviser to Bashar and Asma al-Assad in the presidential office, and her husband, Mohammed Masouti, who is a member of the Syrian parliament, they were both designated today along with four businesses that they own.  Why is this important?  It’s because Lina Kinayeh and Mohammed Masouti have been basically a financial proxy, a financial front for Asma al-Assad and Bashar al-Assad.  They have been given control of assets that have been seized from other Syrian businesspeople, and little by little they have grown into a business empire of their own.  But it’s not really their money.  This is really – they’re handling these interests on behalf of Bashar al-Assad and Asma al-Assad.  This is how Bashar al-Assad maintains a lot of his money.  He allows – others hold it for him that he does – and then he politically enables them to amass these assets.   

So pay very close attention to Lina Kinayeh.  She’s the closest advisor in the presidential palace to both Asma al-Assad and Bashar al-Assad, and her husband – they’re like a regime mafia power couple.  And so we designated them and their businesses today.  That’s a way to strike at the assets of Bashar and Asma al-Assad.  Their businesses, their four businesses that we designated today – and you can see them in the Treasury press release, the specifics – those were businesses that were basically doing import-export business, especially with – in the Gulf countries.  And so it’s also cutting off – by designating them today, we’re cutting off that avenue that the Assad regime mafia was using to try to keep business interests going in the Gulf, and it’s also sending a message to the business communities of the Gulf that this is another part of the Assad regime’s money mafia that is off-limits, it’s toxic, and that Gulf business communities need to take very great care, do due diligence, and not engage in that kind of business activity. 

 So we’re very pleased.  It took us a while to build this case, but we’re very pleased about being able to render toxic this Assad mafia power couple today.   

On your first question of how do we feel, what is the level of confidence that we are closer to a resolution of the Syrian conflict than four years ago, I would say absolutely yes.  If you look at the situation in December 2016 and January 2017, at this time, Aleppo had just fallen back into the hands of the regime.  The morale of the opposition was very low.  The Assad regime and its allies were quite triumphal and they tried to tell the world that the conflict was over, they’d achieved a military solution, and it was all over except to go through the process of recognizing Bashar al-Assad’s legitimacy.  Now, four years later, none of that has happened and the Assad regime and its allies, I would say, are further away from their strategic goals than they were four years ago, and I would say that what’s happened over the last four years is it’s been clearly demonstrated that the Assad regime and its allies, the goals that they set for themselves are impossible to achieve, both because of the weakness of the Assad regime and its allies, but also because of the things that we, the United States and like-minded countries, have been able to do: the pressure campaign; maintaining the global coalition and its activities; seeing the Turkish military pressure against the Assad regime change the military balance in northwest Syria; seeing military pressure against the Iranian regime’s presence in Syria; and then, of course, what may turn out to be the coup de grace of that coalition is the extended impact of the Caesar Act and the political isolation that goes along with the economic pressure. 

My judgment is that over the course of 2020, we saw – demonstrated each of the limits of the power of the Assad regime and its allies, including Russia and Iran, and the limits of their influence on the ground in Syria.  They were not able to overcome Turkish military pressure in Idlib.  They have not been able to overcome Israeli military pressure against the Iranian regime.  They have not been able to overcome and they have no way that they’ve identified to get out from under the economic and political pressure coming from the United States and the European Union in particular.  And on the – conversely, the leverage that the U.S., the Europeans, and others hold has been accumulating month by month as we continue to bring new economic pressure and political isolation. 

 So in my view, we are entering a window where time – over time, the Assad regime and its allies are steadily weakening, and over time the United States and the European Union, if we remain committed to the pressure campaign, the leverage is growing.  And that will have a political impact.  It can’t help but have one, ultimately. 

 So I’m quite confident that we’re closer to a resolution of the conflict than four years ago.  Now, that’s not to say the situation for the Syrian people isn’t awful in every part of Syria.  It absolutely is.  But – and that’s a cause for great concern and alarm, and we need to continue to try to do – assist them with humanitarian means.  But I am optimistic that the regime and its allies have thrown their best punch and they were not able to knock out the rest of us.  We’re still standing and we’re gaining strength over time.  

Moderator:  Great.  Thank you, sir.  We’d like to do two more questions, if that’s okay.  The next question is from the live queue, and goes to Mounzer Sleiman from Al Mayadeen.  

Question:  Thank you very much.  I’d like to ask about the legal basis for the military – U.S. military presence in Syria.  And also, there is activities now in northern Syria with Turkish forces and their proxies that’s trying to probably clear the area from the Kurdish forces there.  If the Turkish forces continue their military campaign, whether directly or indirectly, would the United States military forces engage the Turkish forces to protect the Kurdish forces there? 

 Mr. Rayburn:  Okay.  The legal basis for the U.S. military presence in Syria – I mean, we have answered this question repeatedly over time.  The answer hasn’t changed.  The U.S. military forces are in Syria as part of the global coalition and the campaign against Daesh, and under U.S. law, the U.S. Government has every right to have those forces present.  This is not something that we’re concerned about. 

 Concerning – I think you’re rightly identifying some tensions in northeast Syria.  Our goal is to see those diffuse and to use our good offices to help to de-escalate the situation in northeast Syria so that we can see an end to military clashes and for everyone to be able to focus on our real – on the most important adversaries that we all – those members of humanity and civilization have in Syria, which is Daesh, al-Qaida, the Assad regime, and the Iranian regime, Hizballah, and other terrorists and mass murderers.  That’s our proper focus in Syria.  

 Moderator:  Thank you, sir.  We have time for one final question, and our last question goes to Pronchu Verma from the New York Times.   

Question:  Hi.  I was wondering if you have any update on whether the Trump administration will designate the Houthi group as a foreign terrorist organization. 

Mr. Rayburn:  I don’t have anything for you on that today, and that’s also – that’s outside my lane.  If you — 

 Moderator:  Great, thank you.  And now, Special — 

Mr. Rayburn:  We can – we can refer your question to our colleagues who work on that issue probably. 

Moderator:  Great, thank you.  And now, Special Envoy Rayburn, if you have any closing remarks, I’ll turn it back over to you. 

Mr. Rayburn:  Okay.  Thank you for your attention.  I just want to – I just want to stress where we are with today’s sanctions.  We’re now a little over six months into the implementation of the Caesar Act.  The 18 sanctions designations that we’re releasing today now mean that since the launching of the Caesar Act in June of 2020, we have designated more than 110 individuals, entities that – for their support to the Assad regime, and this will continue.  So you can see that – you can see the kind of targets that we’re continuing to designate, and you can see that they are having a cumulative effect. 

I do want to emphasize once again the designation today of Asma al-Assad and her UK-based adult family members.  The reason for that is that Asma al-Assad and her family have been engaged in trying to control – consolidate control over more and more assets and resources at the center of the Assad regime mafia, and they have become very politically active inside the Syrian regime, and they’ve become central to the Assad regime’s efforts to continue to amass resources that they – that can fuel Bashar al-Assad’s war against the Syrian people.   

I also want to note the designation today of the commander of Syrian military intelligence, Kifah Moulhem, who has been responsible along with his entire agency not just for obstructing a ceasefire, which he certainly has done, but for being one of the architects of torture, mass detentions, and likely mass murder of the Syrian people. 

 

As I mentioned earlier, Lina Kinayeh and Mohammed Masouti and their businesses, the Assad mafia power couple, as I mentioned – this is meant to send a signal that we won’t be fooled by Bashar al-Assad and Asma al-Assad trying to work through proxies.  We’ll continue to block that and we’ll continue to make those kinds of proxies toxic so that they’ll be off limits to having others outside Syria, including in the Gulf region, do business with them.   

 I want to stress that although the Central Bank of Syria and its activities have already been blocked by the United States Treasury, today Treasury took the very significant step of formally adding the Central Bank of Syria to the SDN list of Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control so it will be explicitly off limits except for some specific for humanitarian groups, and Treasury/OFAC will be issuing some guidance about what is permissible and what’s not permissible in that regard. 

 And then lastly, we also designated several businesses today that were owned by someone we previously sanctioned, a Syrian member of parliament named Amer Khiti.  Amer Khiti is another Assad regime mafia financier, another one of Bashar al-Assad’s key supporters who was given a seat in parliament as a reward for his political loyalty.  And some of the – some of the business which we designated today will be – again be able to render toxic one of the – another significant business proxy network that Bashar al-Assad and his regime mafia were able to operate through.  

That’s the significance of the targets that the State Department and Treasury designated today.  You can expect to continue to see more of these exact kinds of sanctions in the future, at a steady clip. 

 Thank you all for your attention. 

Moderator:  That concludes today’s call.  I would like to thank Special Envoy for Syria Joel Rayburn for joining us, and thank all of our callers for participating.  If you have any questions about today’s call, you can contact the Dubai Regional Media Hub at DubaiMediaHub@state.gov.  Information on how to access the English recording of this call will be provided by AT&T shortly.  Thank you and have a great day.

U.S. Department of State

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