New Syrian 2,000-pound banknote with portrait of Assad
New Syrian 2,000-pound banknote with portrait of AssadReuters

Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad's portrait is printed on a new 2,000-pound banknote that went into circulation on Sunday, marking the first time the Syrian leader has appeared on the Syrian currency, Reuters reported.

Central bank governor Duraid Durgham said the 2,000-pound note was one of several new notes printed years ago but the decision to put it into circulation was delayed "due to the circumstances of the war and exchange rate fluctuations".

The new note is equal to around $4 at current exchange rates, according to Reuters. The Syrian currency has plunged in value since the civil war in the country began in 2011, from 47 pounds to the dollar in 2010 to around 500 pounds to the dollar at present.

Citing wear and tear of the existing notes, Durgham said the time was right to put the new note into circulation.

Previously, the highest denomination of Syrian banknote was 1,000 pounds. Assad's father, the late President Hafez al-Assad who died in 2000, appeared on coins and on an older version of the 1,000 pound note, which is still in circulation.

Durgham said the new note was put into circulation "in Damascus and a number of the provinces".

When the civil war in Syria first began, there were calls from around the world for Assad's removal. In recent months, however, the tide may have somewhat changed.

Nikki Haley, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, recently declared that the Trump administration does not consider it a priority that Assad be removed from power.

"Our priority is no longer to sit there and focus on getting Assad out," she said, adding, "Our priority is to really look at how do we get things done, who do we need to work with to really make a difference for the people in Syria.”

The comments echoed a sentiment by Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, who was asked whether Assad needs to go and replied, "I think the status and the longer-term status of President Assad will be decided by the Syrian people.”

Similarly, French President Emmanuel Macron said late last month that he saw no legitimate successor to Assad, adding that France no longer considered his departure a precondition to resolving the six-year conflict.

France has in the past insisted that Assad step down, but that stance appeared to change in late 2015, when then-Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said that Assad's departure is no longer necessary before any political transition in the war-torn country.