Syria eyes ruble, yuan to head off EU sanctions
Syria's central bank added the Russian ruble and China's yuan to its list of convertible currencies ahead of tougher European Union sanctions, a newspaper reported on Tuesday.
"The Russian and Chinese currencies were added two days ago to the list of exchange rates of Arab and foreign currencies issued by the Central Bank of Syria," the bank's governor, Adib Mayaleh, said in Al-Watan daily.
The listing allows foreign currencies to be traded against the Syrian pound.
Mayaleh said the decision was taken in anticipation of tougher EU sanctions.
The United States, for its part, has "applied sanctions against Syria and its people, and prevented them from dealing in US dollars as well as from using international Visa and MasterCard credit cards," he noted.
Such measures "in reality target the Syrian people, contrary to what they say," the governor said.
Mayaleh said Syria's strategic reserves of US dollars were worth $18 billion. But $1.2 billion earmarked for projects by the EU, European Investment Bank and other European institutions had been lost due to sanctions.
European Union leaders on Sunday said they were ready to slap more sanctions on Syria until the regime halts the use of violence against dissenters.
It has already issued several rounds of sanctions against President Bashar al-Assad's regime, extending measures against members of his inner circle to banks and the oil sector.
In an eighth round of sanctions earlier this month, the EU targeted a Syrian commercial bank.
Last month, it banned the delivery to Syria's central bank of bank notes and coins produced in the EU and prohibited European firms from making new investments in Syria's oil industry.
That measure followed a ban on imports of Syrian crude to Europe. The continent buys 95 percent of Syria's oil exports, providing the regime with one-third of its hard currency earnings
© 2011 AFP