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Lebanon–Syria relations

Assad says funds frozen in Lebanese banks are the biggest impediment to investment in Syria

Assad says funds frozen in Lebanese banks are the biggest impediment to investment in Syria

A handout picture released by the official Facebook page of the Syrian president’s office shows Bashar al-Assad delivering a speech at the swearing-in ceremony for his fourth term as chief of state in Damascus on Saturday. (Credit: AFP/Syrian Presidency)

BEIRUT — Syrian President Bashar al-Assad said on Saturday that the main impediment to investment in the country was money stuck in ailing Lebanese banks.

In a speech after being sworn in as president for a fourth term, Assad said estimates suggested the frozen funds were worth between $40 billion and $60 billion.

“Both figures are enough to depress an economy like ours,” he said.

Lebanon is in the throes of a deep economic meltdown that is threatening its stability. Lebanese banks have locked depositors out of their accounts and blocked transfers abroad since the start of the country’s crisis in 2019.

Many Syrian front companies had long circumvented Western sanctions by using Lebanon’s banking system to pay for goods that were then imported into Syria by land.

Assad also said Syria would continue working to overcome difficulties caused by the Western sanctions imposed over its decade-old war.

“Sanctions haven’t prevented us from securing our basic needs, but they have created some choke points,” he said.

“We will continue to work to overcome them without announcing what methods we used before to do that or what we will use in the future.”

Syrian authorities blame Western sanctions for widespread hardship, including soaring prices and people struggling to afford food and basic supplies.

Assad secured a fourth term in office in a May election, winning more than 95 percent of the vote.

Opponents and the West say the election was marked by fraud, but the government says it shows the country is functioning normally despite the long war.

Assad’s biggest challenge, now that he has regained control of around 70 percent of the country, is an economy in decline.


BEIRUT — Syrian President Bashar al-Assad
said on Saturday that the main impediment to investment in the
country was money stuck in ailing Lebanese banks.
In a speech after being sworn in as president for a fourth
term, Assad said estimates suggested the frozen funds were worth
between $40 billion and $60 billion.
“Both figures are enough...