Rosenthal: Shell not at fault in Syria

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Shell oil shipments to Syria do not violate European Union sanctions against the country. And the Anglo-Dutch concern’s activities in Syria are not at odds with guidelines for socially responsible business practices.

Foreign Minister Uri Rosenthal made these statements in a letter to parliament on Tuesday. The Green Left party and the Socialist Party had asked the minister for clarification about Shell’s investments in Syria, where in the past few months more than 1,000 people have been killed by the police and the army.

Through its subsidiary SSPD, Shell is the second-largest European oil company in the Syrian oil and gas market. Based in part on a report published by NGO IKV Pax Christi, the two Dutch parties pointed out that the Syrian army, police and other security forces probably use oil products to cut off cities and attack their citizens.

Shell Nederland CEO Dick Benschop said earlier that Shell as a commercial company cannot get involved in the local politics of the countries it is active in. In a reaction, Minister Rosenthal said Mr Benschop was speaking as a private person. IKV Pax Christi General Director Jan Gruiters said no company could stay neutral “when human rights are systematically being trampled on.”

In its code of conduct, Shell states it will respect human rights in all its business activities. Minister Rosenthal said there is regular contact between Shell and the foreign ministry on how to adhere to international rules for sociably responsible business practices. The ministry said it would ask Shell about its conduct in the current Syrian context. He also pointed out that fuels and oil derivatives do not fall under the EU sanctions.

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