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Sanction hit Syria tries to sell its Gold Reserves

20 April 2012

From Arab News

Original source

PARIS/DUBAI: Syria is trying to sell gold reserves to raise revenue as Western and Arab sanctions targeting its central bank and oil exports begin to bite, diplomats and traders said.

Another diplomatic source said Turkey intercepted a vessel in the Mediterranean suspected of carrying weapons and ammunition to Syria yesterday.

"We received information that the vessel has a cargo of arms and ammunition headed for Syria," the source said.

Western sanctions have halved Syria’s foreign exchange reserves from about $17 billion, French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe said on Tuesday after a meeting with about 60 nations aimed at coordinating measures against President Bashar Assad’s government.

“Syria is selling its gold at rock bottom prices,” said a Western diplomatic source, declining to say where it was being sold.

A second diplomatic source confirmed the information, adding that Damascus was looking to offload everything it could to raise cash, including currency reserves. On Feb. 27, the European Union agreed more sanctions including prohibiting trade in gold and other precious metals with Syrian state institutions, including the central bank.

Two gold traders in the United Arab Emirates said the Syrian government had been offering gold at a discount, with one saying it was making offers at about 15 percent below the market price.The trader said Damascus was selling small volumes of around 20-30 kg which were easier to offload, with offers being made through private accounts set up with free e-mail providers.

Another trader said deals as of yet had not gone through in Dubai because the Emirati authorities were blocking unauthorized trades and few potential buyers were willing to take the risk of these deals.

“We have been getting offers for gold purchases from Syria and North African countries at 15 percent discount, but there are tough restrictions in Dubai that don’t allow any unauthorized trades,” said the trader.

The meeting on Tuesday was aimed in part at tightening up existing sanctions and trying to pinpoint countries that were offering Damascus ways to sidestep them.

The World Gold Council estimates Syria had about 25.8 metric tons of gold as of February 2012, representing about 7.1 percent of its total reserves.

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