News / Middle East

Syrian Rebels Eye EU Oil Trade

Syrian Rebels Eye EU Oil Tradei
X
April 30, 2013 8:20 PM
The European Union recently lifted the embargo on oil coming from opposition-controlled areas in Syria. But there are doubts about how quickly the rebels will be able to start trading with the EU. Meanwhile, ‘backyard' refineries are springing up as impoverished Syrians try to make some money. Henry Ridgwell reports.
Henry Ridgwell
The European Union recently lifted the embargo on oil coming from opposition-controlled areas in Syria. But there are doubts about how quickly the rebels will be able to start trading with the EU. Meanwhile, "backyard" refineries are springing up as impoverished Syrians try to make some money.

In his backyard north of the city of Idlib, Ahmed Abu Taleb and his friend use handpumps to transfer a barrel of crude oil into a tank.

A fire burns in a pit dug below the tank. Then drip by drip, through a simple system of pipes, the distilled products - fuel oil and diesel - empty into lined trenches nearby.

Few of the workers are trained. No one wears protective gear, and the fires burn next to tanks full of fuel. Abu Taleb said the risks are worth it. In 24 hours, he extracts nine barrels of fuel.

Taleb said he gets the crude oil from the freed areas, or from oil wells freed by the Free Syrian Army. He says it's used to provide gasoline to areas that need it. The makeshift gas stations, he said, provide a lifeline for local residents who struggle to heat their homes.

As the Syrian civil war has intensified, U.S. data indicates that oil production in the country more than halved between 2011 and 2012. That’s mainly due to EU sanctions, said David Butter of London-based policy institute Chatham House.

“The sanctions actually did stop production because foreign operators pulled out. Also the Syrian government didn’t really have anywhere to put the oil, it had limited capacity to put the oil through their refineries," Butter explained. "And limited storage capacity when their export options were cut off.”

In recent days, EU ministers lifted the embargo on oil coming from areas of Syria held by the opposition.

The EU’s foreign policy chief is Catherine Ashton. “Three types of transactions will now be possible: imports of oil and petroleum products, exports of key equipment and technology for the oil and gas industry and investments in the Syrian oil industry,” she said.

But David Butter of Chatham House says it will be a long time before the EU starts buying oil from the opposition. “Most of the oil is under the control of various other groups. Most notorious of course is Jabhat al-Nusra which has an al-Qaida connection, and many other groups. So there’s no sense that they are centrally controlled by an opposition body with which companies in the EU could actually do business with,” he added.

Syria has denounced the EU’s decision. Before the uprising, the IMF estimates oil exports accounted for a quarter of government revenue.

Abeed Mayaleh, governor of Syria's Central Bank, said he does not understand how the European Union can give what he calls armed terrorist groups the right to export oil to Europe. This is money laundering, he said. This is stolen money and these are stolen goods.

As Syria's economy continues to suffer, primitive refineries are springing up in backyards across the country: a dangerous business but a way to survive amid the conflict.

You May Like

Obama: Alaskans Feel Signs of Climate Change

Alaskans experiencing bigger storm surges as sea ice melts, more frequent and extensive wildfires, deteriorating glaciers, and swift shoreline erosion More

Katrina Brought Enduring Changes to New Orleans

The city’s recovery is the result of the people and culture the city is famous for, as well as newcomers and start-up industries More

Magical Photo Slides Show Native Americans in Late 1800s

Walter McClintock spent 20 years photographing the Blackfoot Indians and their vanishing culture at the dawn of the modern age More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalatesi
X
August 27, 2015 2:08 AM
Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Is China's Economic Data Accurate?

Some investors say China's wild stock market gyrations have been made worse by worries about the reliability of that nation's economic data. And some critics say the reports can mislead investors by painting an unrealistically-strong picture of the economy. A key China scholar says Beijing is not fudging ((manipulating)) the numbers, but that the economy is evolving quickly from smoke-stack industries to services, and the ways of tracking new economic activity are falling behind the change. V
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Shipping Containers Provide Experimental Housing

Housing prices around the San Francisco Bay area are out of reach for many people, so some young entrepreneurs, artists and tech industry workers are creating their own houses using converted shipping containers. But as VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports from Oakland, the effort requires ingenuity and dealing with restrictive local laws.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video Technique May Eliminate Drill-and-Fill Dental Care

Many people dread visiting dentists because they're afraid of drills. Now, however, a technology developed by a British firm promises to eliminate the need for mechanical cleaning of dental cavities by speeding a natural process of tooth repair. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.
Video

Video French Experiment in Integrating Roma Under Threat

Plans to destroy France’s oldest slum have sparked an outcry on the part of its Roma residents. As Lisa Bryant reports from the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, rights groups argue the community is a fledgling experiment on integrating Roma who are often outcasts in many parts of Europe.
Video

Video Kenyans Turn to Agriculture for Business

Each year Kenyan universities continue to churn out graduates for the job market despite the already existing high rate of unemployment among youth in the country. Some of these young men and women have realized that agriculture can be as rewarding as any other business or job, and they are resorting to agribusiness in large numbers as a way of tackling unemployment. Rael Ombuor reports for VOA.
Video

Video First Women Graduate Elite Army Ranger School

Two women are making history for the U.S. Army by proving they are among the toughest of the tough. VOA's Carla Babb reports from Fort Benning, Georgia as 94 men and those two women rise as graduates of the difficult Ranger school.

VOA Blogs