News / Middle East

Syrian Official: UBAF Bank Unlocking Frozen Funds for Food

A woman holds bread in Minbij city in the east countryside of Aleppo, Syria, Oct. 18, 2013.
A woman holds bread in Minbij city in the east countryside of Aleppo, Syria, Oct. 18, 2013.
Reuters
Syrian bank accounts frozen abroad are gradually being freed up for use to fund food purchases, the head of Syria's General Foreign Trade Organization (GFTO) told Reuters on Sunday, with France being the most committed to releasing the money.

The European Union, United States and other Western countries have imposed sanctions on President Bashar al-Assad's government over his crackdown on the revolt in his country, but these do not apply to food.

The Paris-based Union De Banques Arabes Francaises (UBAF) has approved the release of funds for purchases, Tarek al Taweel, Director General of GFTO, said over the telephone.

“UBAF bank in France has been very cooperative,” Taweel said.

France in September cleared the use of frozen Syrian bank assets to fund the export of food to the country as part of a European Union system that allows such funds to be used for humanitarian ends.

UBAF was not immediately available for comment when contacted through phone and e-mail.

Syria's GFTO has been trying in vain for several months to buy sugar and rice in international tenders using funds frozen abroad. One of the reasons cited by traders was a failure to secure permission from governments to free the funds.

“The problem is not with us, the problem is that the traders have to seek the approval for unlocking the assets,” Taweel said.

GFTO is seeking 135,000 tons of long or short grain white rice and 276,000 tons of white sugar in two separate tenders. The deadline for sugar offers is Nov. 27, while that for rice is Nov. 26.

GFTO has asked for the same amounts of sugar and rice with the same conditions four times, and Taweel said he expected to face the same issues that hampered previous tenders when the new bids are reviewed at the end of the month.

“We have to ask that the traders have the approval to unlock funds alongside their offer, otherwise we cannot do business,” he said.

“This is what is hindering the process and the problem still exists.”

Apart from requiring prior approval to unlock frozen assets, traders have also said the low number of offers was due to tender conditions that do not reflect the risk involved in doing business with a country embroiled in civil war.

The requirement to place a one million euro ($1.4 million) bid bond was listed as one of the tender terms keeping traders away.

A bid bond is a form of guarantee which tender participants must give to ensure they will deliver under the terms of their offer.

Taweel said the one million euro bid bond condition would remain as long as some traders continued to make offers based on it.

“We might consider changing that term if it becomes an issue but so far traders have been willing to offer under these conditions,” he said.

Despite difficulties in buying food through government tenders, some deals struck through middlemen outside of the tender process have secured food for the country.

The Syrian state grain agency Hoboob said in October it concluded a deal to import 500,000 tons of wheat of which around 150,000 tons had arrived in Syria. That purchase was done outside the tender process through a local Syrian firm.

You May Like

Hezbollah Chief Says Does Not Want War But Ready for One

VOA's Jerusalem correspondent reports that with an Israeli election looming and Hezbollah's involvement in Syria, neither side appears interested in a wider conflict More

Multimedia VOA SPECIAL REPORT: Despite Danger, Best US Minds Battle Deadly Virus

Scientists at America's premier biological research center race in military confinement to find effective drugs, speedier tests and a safe vaccine amid the deadliest outbreak of Ebola in history More

Kurdish Poet Battles to Defend Language, Culture

Kawa Nemir's work is an example of what he sees as an irreversible cultural and political assertiveness among Kurds in Turkey More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Egypt's Suez Canal Dreams Tempered by Continued Unresti
X
Heather Murdock
January 30, 2015 8:00 PM
Egypt plans to expand the Suez Canal, raising hopes that the end of its economic crisis may be in sight. But some analysts say they expect the project may cost too much and take too long to make life better for everyday Egyptians. VOA's Heather Murdock reports.
Video

Video Egypt's Suez Canal Dreams Tempered by Continued Unrest

Egypt plans to expand the Suez Canal, raising hopes that the end of its economic crisis may be in sight. But some analysts say they expect the project may cost too much and take too long to make life better for everyday Egyptians. VOA's Heather Murdock reports.
Video

Video Threat of Creeping Lava Has Hawaiians on Edge

Residents of the small town of Pahoa on the Big Island of Hawaii face an advancing threat from the Kilauea volcano. Local residents are keeping a watchful eye on creeping lava. Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video Pro-Kremlin Youth Group Creatively Promotes 'Patriotic' Propaganda

As Russia's President Vladimir Putin faces international pressure over Ukraine and a failing economy, unofficial domestic groups are rallying to his support. One such youth organization, CET, or Network, uses creative multimedia to appeal to Russia's urban youth with patriotic propaganda. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video Mobile Infrared Scanners May Help Homeowners Save Energy

Mobile photo scanners have been successfully employed for navigational purposes, such as Google Maps. Now, a group of scientists from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology says the same technology could help homeowners better insulate their houses and save some money. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Filmmakers Produce Hand-Painted Documentary on Van Gogh

The troubled life of the famous 19th century Dutch painter Vincent van Gogh has been told through many books and films, but never in the way a group of filmmakers now intends to do. "Loving Vincent " will be the first ever feature-length film made of animated hand-painted images, done in the style of the late artist. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Issues or Ethnicity? Question Divides Nigeria

As Nigeria goes to the polls next month, many expect the two top presidential contenders to gain much of their support from constituencies organized along ethnic or religious lines. But are faith and regional blocs really what political power in Nigeria is about? Chris Stein reports.
Video

Video Rock-Consuming Organisms Alter Views of Life Processes

Scientists thought they knew much about how life works, until a discovery more than two decades ago challenged conventional beliefs. Scientists found that there are organisms that breathe rocks. And it is only recently that the scientific community is accepting that there are organisms that could get energy out of rocks. Correspondent Elizabeth Lee reports.
Video

Video Paris Attacks Highlight Global Weapons Black Market

As law enforcement officials piece together how the Paris and Belgian terror cells carried out their recent attacks, questions are being asked about how they obtained military grade assault weapons - which are illegal in the European Union. As VOA's Jeff Swicord reports, experts say there is a very active worldwide black market for these weapons, and criminals and terrorists are buying.
Video

Video Activists Accuse China of Targeting Religious Freedom

The U.S.-based Chinese religious rights group ChinaAid says 2014 was the worst year for religious freedom in China since the end of the Cultural Revolution. As Ye Fan reports, activists say Beijing has been tightening religious controls ever since Chinese leader Xi Jinping came to office. Hu Wei narrates.
Video

Video Theologians Cast Doubt on Morality of Drone Strikes

In 2006, stirred by photos of U.S. soldiers mistreating Iraqi prisoners, a group of American faith leaders and academics launched the National Religious Campaign Against Torture. It played an important role in getting Congress to investigate, and the president to ban, torture. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Former Sudan 'Lost Boy' Becomes Chess Master in NYC

In the mid-1980’s, thousands of Sudanese boys escaped the country's civil war by walking for weeks, then months and finally for more than a year, up to 1,500 kilometers across three countries. The so-called Lost Boys of the Sudan had little time for games. But one of them later mastered the game of chess, and now teaches it to children in the New York area. VOA’s Bernard Shusman in New York has his story.
Video

Video NASA Monitors Earth’s Vital Signs From Space

The U.S. space agency, NASA, is wrapping up its busiest 12-month period in more than a decade, with three missions launched in 2014 and two this month, one in early January and the fifth scheduled for January 29. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, the instruments being lifted into orbit are focused on Earth’s vital life support systems and how they are responding to a warmer planet.

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More

All About America

AppleAndroid