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Syria receives plane parts from Saudi Arabia despite sanctions

The Syrian regime has reportedly received aeroplane spare parts and equipment for the country’s beleaguered air fleet from Saudi Arabia in a deal which involved Bahrain, according to Syrian media reports.

The regime of President Bashar al-Assad has been unable to sufficiently maintain the country’s commercial aircraft because of Western-imposed sanctions which have frozen assets and hampered international trade.

Spare parts and maintenance equipment provided by Saudi Arabia reportedly arrived in Syria through Bahrain in an attempt to skirt sanctions restrictions, according to a report from North Press Agency Syria (NPA).

The regime is scrambling to repair planes before the start of the Hajj season so Syrians wishing to make the annual pilgrimage can board flights to Saudi Arabia.

The delivery comes as a series of talks were held between Syrian and Saudi officials this weekend, aimed at enhancing cooperation in a number of fields.

On Saturday, Syrian regime Culture Minister Dr. Lubana Mshaweh was hosted by Saudi Undersecretary at the Ministry of Culture and a number of other officials in Riyadh, where discussions focused on popular heritage, arts, museums and cultural cooperation.

On the same day, Syrian regime Health Minister Hassan Ghobash held talks with an advisor to the Saudi diwan (royal court) and supervisor of the King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Center on ways to boost cooperation and support Syria’s health sector.

Saudi Arabia’s humanitarian relief fund has also allocated nearly $19.5m for projects in Syria, Yemen and Sudan. The aid destined for Syria would be aimed at the north-western region, equipping 17 hospitals in the area affected by last year’s devastating earthquake with essential supplies.  

The latest developments comes just days after Assad attended the 33rd Arab League summit in the Bahraini capital Manama, which marked the second time the once-ostracised leader participated in an Arab summit.

In 2012, the Arab League suspended the Syrian regime’s participation after regime forces brutally cracked down on nationwide anti-Assad protests which began the previous year.

More than 500,000 people have been killed and millions displaced in Syria’s conflict, mostly as a result of indiscriminate regime bombardment of civilian areas. Much of the country’s infrastructure has also been destroyed as a result.

In a controversial move, the Arab League allowed Assad to re-join last year in a major win for his regime.

The Syrian regime is still subject to international sanctions, including from the United States, European Union and the United Kingdom. They have included asset freezes; travel bans and trade embargoes.

The Caesar Act, imposed by Washington in 2019, placed sanctions and financial restrictions on individuals who engaged in transactions or provided goods or services to the Syrian regime, as well as those acting on behalf of Syria, Russia or Iran.

According to the NPA report, Syria’s Ministry of Awqaf, the government body responsible for religious affairs and endowments, accepted over 17,000 applications from Syrians to make the upcoming Hajj pilgrimage.

Technicians from the Syrian Civil Aviation Authority are reportedly working at Deir ez-Zor Airport in north-eastern Syria to ensure aircraft are ready in time.

Hajj will take place from 14 to 19 June in the Saudi Arabian city of Mecca, the holiest site in Islam.

Sanctions imposed by the European Union in 2012 targeted national carrier SyrianAir and effectively barred the airline from either conducting flights to the EU or buying new aircraft which contained European parts.

Source: The New Arab