Syria Liquidating Gold to Mitigate Sanctions
Syria is moving to liquidate its gold reserves to raise revenue as Western and Arab sanctions targeting its central bank and oil exports cut into its cash reserves.
Syria's foreign exchange reserves have been halved from about $17 billion, French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe said on Tuesday.
"Syria is selling its gold at rock bottom prices," he said after a meeting with about 60 nations aimed at coordinating measures against President Bashar al-Assad's government.
On February 27, the European Union agreed more sanctions including prohibiting trade in gold and other precious metals with Syrian state institutions, including the central bank.
According to reports Syrian officials have been offering to sell gold at a 15 percent discount in discret amounts of 20-30 kilograms, which are easier to move in private sales and online auctions.
Syria had an estimated 25.8 metric tons of gold as of February 2012. At Wednesday's spot prices, Syria's total gold reserves are worth around $1.36 billion.
Syria has not published economic statistics since May 2011, making it impossible to verify gold figures or forex reserves.
However, economic analysts estimated sanctions have cut Syria's oil output by 30 percent, costing Assad's government $2 billion since November.
Meanwhile, the Syrian pound hit a record low on the black market in March of around 100 to the dollar, compared to 47 before the protests erupted, sharply raising the cost of imports.
"Sanctions are a particularly effective instrument to deprive the Syrian regime of the resources it uses to finance and arm militias," Juppe said on Tuesday.
Assad's government has killed at least 9,100 civilians in a brutal 13-month crackdown on anti-regime protesters, the United Nations says.
There have also been persistent reports of war crimes by Assad's forces in recent months, including the systemic rape, torture, and summary execution of dissidents and rebels.
Syrian forces have also shelled civilian neighborhoods in focal protest and rebel cities. Daily death tolls frequently top 100.