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US Targets 3 Persons, 13 Entities in New Syria Sanctions

© AP Photo / Patrick SemanskyThe U.S. Treasury Department building at dusk, Thursday, June 6, 2019, in Washington.
The U.S. Treasury Department building at dusk, Thursday, June 6, 2019, in Washington. - Sputnik International
WASHINGTON (Sputnik) - The United States has targeted three people and 13 entities, including the Syrian Tourism Ministry, in new round of Syria-related sanctions, the US Department of the Treasury announced in a release on Wednesday.
"Today, as part of the US government’s continued effort to achieve a peaceful, political resolution of the Syrian conflict, the Department of the Treasury is taking action against key enablers of the Assad regime that are associated with the Fourth Division of the Syrian Arab Army, the Syrian General Intelligence Directorate, and the Central Bank of Syria", the release said. "Specifically, Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) added three individuals and 13 entities to the Specially Designated Nationals and Blocked Persons List, pursuant to Syria sanctions authorities."

The Treasury Department said the sanctioned persons include Syrian businessman Khodr Taher Bin Ali, Husam Muhammad Louka and Hazem Younes Karfoul.

Taher has served as a prominent local intermediary and contractor for the designated Fourth Division of the Syrian Arab Army, led by Maher al-Assad, the brother of President Bashar al-Assad, the release said.

The Treasury Department said Taher founded last year the telecommunications provider Emma Tel LLC that has spread in more than 20 locations around Syria, where it sells mobile phone equipment and provides related services.

"Bashar al-Assad’s wife, Asma al-Assad, allegedly ordered the establishment of Emma Tel LLC in order to create alternatives to the business empire of Rami Makhlouf, the cousin of Bashar al-Assad, and to break the dominance of the Makhlouf-owned Syriatel Mobile Telecom on the Syrian telecommunications market", the release said. "Despite the reported linkages to Asma Al-Assad, Taher established Emma Tel LLC and owns 100 percent of its shares."

In addition, the Treasury Department said Taher recently founded the advertising company Ella Media Services LLC with an awarded license to manage Syria’s largest billboard advertising network.

Both Emma Tel LLC and Ella Media Services LLC have been sanctioned on Wednesday, the release said.

"Today, OFAC also issued a general license authorising persons to wind down transactions prohibited by the Syrian Sanctions Regulations involving Emma Tel LLC, or any entity in which Emma Tel LLC owns, directly or indirectly, a 50 percent or greater interest, for 90 days, as well as an FAQ which provides further guidance on the scope of the general license and the wind down of transactions involving Emma Tell LLC", the Treasury Department said.

The Treasury Department also said Taher partners via a joint venture with the Syrian Transport and Tourism Company called Syrian Hotel Management LLC.

"Taher owns two-thirds of the shares of the joint venture, while Syrian Transport and Tourism Company owns the remaining shares. The Syrian Transport and Tourism Company itself is owned 67 percent by the Syrian Ministry of Tourism", the release said.

Both Syrian Hotel Management LLC and Syrian Transport and Tourism have been designated by the Treasury Department on Wednesday.

The Treasury Department said the second individual it has designated is Husam Muhammad Louka, who serves as the head of the Syrian General Intelligence Directorate (GID), and the third individual is Syria Central Bank Governor Hazem Younes Karfoul.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced in a separate release that the State Department has issued three designations.

"Specifically, we are designating 5th Corps commander Milad Jedid pursuant to Executive Order (E.O.) 13894 for his involvement in the obstruction, disruption, or prevention of a ceasefire in Syria", the release said. "Furthermore, we are designating Nasreen Ibrahim and Rana Ibrahim, the adult sisters of Assad financier Yasser Ibrahim... The Ibrahim family, led by Yasser Ibrahim, acts as a front for Bashar al-Assad and his wife Asma al Akhras."

Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem previously called on all countries targeted with sanctions to unite and take joint political and economic action to resist such measures.

The so-called US Caesar Act, signed in late 2019 by President Donald Trump, affects almost all areas of Syria’s economy, as well as foreign companies and individuals who do businesses with Bashar Assad’s government. The law, which also impacts Syria’s neighbouring Middle East countries, including Lebanon, came into effect on 17 June.

Syria has repeatedly condemned US and EU sanctions, noting that the damage caused by them was more palpable than that caused by jihadists.

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