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EMBASSY/CONSULATE ADDRESSES

Diplomatic Representation in US:
Ambassador: Imad MOUSTAPHA
Embassy: 2215 Wyoming Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20008
Telephone: [1] (202) 232-6313
Fax: [1] (202) 234-9548

US Diplomatic Representation:
Ambassador: Robert Stephen Ford
Embassy: Abou Roumaneh, Al-Mansur Street No. 2, Damascus
Mailing Address: P. O. Box 29, Damascus
Telephone: [963] (11) 3391-4444
Fax: [963] (11) 3391-3999.

Embassy and Consulate Web Sites for Syria

U.S. Embassy Web Site in Syria
Embassy of Syria in Washington DC


FOREIGN RELATIONS

Ensuring regime survival, increasing influence among its Arab neighbors, and achieving a comprehensive Arab-Israeli peace settlement, which includes the return of the Golan Heights, are the primary goals of President Asad's foreign policy.

Relations with Other Arab Countries
Syria reestablished full diplomatic relations with Egypt in 1989. In the 1990-91 Gulf War, Syria joined other Arab states in the U.S.-led multinational coalition against Iraq. In 1998, Syria began a slow rapprochement with Iraq, driven primarily by economic needs. Syria continues to play an active pan-Arab role and has emerged from its relative isolation following the Hariri assassination, to assert its influence regionally and expand diplomatic relations with Europe, Latin America, and China.

Though it voted in favor of UNSCR 1441 in 2002, Syria was against coalition military action in Iraq in 2003. However, the Syrian Government accepted UNSCR 1483 (after being absent for the actual vote), which lifted sanctions on Iraq and established a framework to assist the Iraqi people in determining their political future and rebuilding their economy. Syria also voted for UNSCR 1511, which called for greater international involvement in Iraq and addressed the transfer of sovereignty from the U.S.-led coalition. Since the transfer of sovereignty in Iraq on June 28, 2004, Syria extended qualified support to the Iraqi Government and pledged to cooperate in the areas of border security, repatriation of Iraqi assets, and eventual restoration of formal diplomatic relations. While Syria has taken some steps to tighten controls along the Syria-Iraq border, Syria remains one of the primary transit points for foreign fighters entering Iraq. Consequently, relations between Syria and the Iraqi Government remained strained. Following a series of visits between high-level officials from both governments--including Foreign Minister Mu'allim's November 2006 visit to Baghdad and Iraqi President Talabani's subsequent visit to Damascus--formal diplomatic relations were established in December 2006. That same month, the Ministers of Interior from both countries signed a Memorandum of Security Understanding aimed at improving border security and combating terrorism and crime. However, both nations withdrew their ambassadors following August 2009 bombings in Baghdad. While Iraq continues to call for more action on the part of Syria to control its border and to prevent Iraqi and Arab elements residing in--or transiting--Syria from contributing financially, politically, or militarily to the insurgency in Iraq, relations have improved. Both countries returned their ambassadors in 2010.

Up to an estimated 1 million Iraqi refugees live in Syria since the 2003 U.S.-led intervention in Iraq, of which more than 224,000 have officially registered with the UN High Commissioner for Refugees. The U.S. remains the largest single contributor to UN and non-governmental organization (NGO) efforts to assist Iraqi refugees in the region. Total U.S. support region-wide in 2008 approached $400 million--up from $171 million in 2007. By the end of September 2008, 13,823 Iraqi refugees had arrived for resettlement in the United States, surpassing the target of 12,000. This figure represents a more than eightfold increase over the 1,608 Iraqis admitted in the previous year. Most of the Iraqis who arrived in the U.S.--over 9,000--came from Jordan and Syria, the two countries hosting the most Iraqi refugees. Smaller groups came from Turkey, Lebanon, and Egypt. The U.S. remains committed to assisting Iraqi refugees and plans to continue to help meet the needs of Iraq’s displaced population. Between October 2008 and September 2009 the U.S. pledged to admit a minimum of 17,000 of the most vulnerable Iraqis for resettlement in the U.S. through the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program.

Involvement in Lebanon
Syria has played an important role in Lebanon by virtue of its history, size, power, and economy. Lebanon was part of post-Ottoman Syria until 1926. The presence of Syrian troops in Lebanon dated to 1976, when President Hafiz al-Asad intervened in the Lebanese civil war on behalf of Maronite Christians. Following the 1982 Israeli invasion of Lebanon, Syrian and Israeli forces clashed in eastern Lebanon. However, Syrian opposition blocked implementation of the May 17, 1983, Lebanese-Israeli accord on the withdrawal of Israeli forces from Lebanon.

In 1989, Syria endorsed the Charter of National Reconciliation, or "Taif Accord," a comprehensive plan for ending the Lebanese conflict negotiated under the auspices of Saudi Arabia, Algeria, and Morocco. In May 1991, Lebanon and Syria signed the treaty of brotherhood, cooperation, and coordination called for in the Taif Accord.

According to the U.S. interpretation of the Taif Accord, Syria and Lebanon were to have decided on the redeployment of Syrian forces from Beirut and other coastal areas of Lebanon by September 1992. Israeli occupation of Lebanon until May 2000, the breakdown of peace negotiations between Syria and Israel that same year, and intensifying Arab/Israeli tensions since the start of the second Palestinian uprising in September 2000 helped delay full implementation of the Taif Accords. The United Nations declared that Israel's May 2000 withdrawal from southern Lebanon fulfilled the requirements of UN Security Council Resolution 425. However, Syria and Lebanon claimed that UNSCR 425 had not been fully implemented because Israel did not withdraw from an area of the Golan Heights called Sheba Farms, which had been occupied by Israel in 1967, and which Syria now claimed was part of Lebanon. The United Nations does not recognize this claim. However, Hizballah uses it to justify attacks against Israeli forces in that region. The danger of Hizballah's tactics was highlighted when Hizballah's abduction of two Israeli soldiers on July 12, 2006 sparked a 34-day conflict in Lebanon. After the conflict, the passing of UNSCR 1701 authorized the enhancement of the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL). Before the conflict, UNIFIL authorized a presence of 2,000 troops in southern Lebanon; post-conflict, this ceiling was raised to 15,000. UNIFIL is tasked with ensuring peace and security along the frontier and overseeing the return of effective Lebanese government and military authority throughout the border region.

Until its withdrawal in April 2005, Syria maintained approximately 17,000 troops in Lebanon. A September 2004 vote by Lebanon's Chamber of Deputies to amend the constitution to extend Lebanese President Lahoud's term in office by 3 years amplified the question of Lebanese sovereignty and the continuing Syrian presence. The vote was clearly taken under Syrian pressure, exercised in part through Syria's military intelligence service, whose chief in Lebanon had acted as a virtual proconsul for many years. The UN Security Council expressed its concern over the situation by passing Resolution 1559, which called for the withdrawal of all remaining foreign forces from Lebanon, disbanding and disarmament of all Lebanese and non-Lebanese militias in accordance with the Taif Accord, the deployment of the Lebanese Armed Forces throughout the country, and a free and fair electoral process in the presidential election.

Former Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri and 19 others were assassinated in Beirut by a car bomb on February 14, 2005. The assassination spurred massive protests in Beirut and international pressure that led to the withdrawal of the remaining Syrian military troops from Lebanon on April 26, 2005. Rafiq Hariri's assassination was just one of a number of attacks that targeted high-profile Lebanese critics of Syria. The UN International Independent Investigative Commission (UNIIIC) investigated Hariri's assassination until the Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL) was established by the UN Security Council. The STL began operating in March 2009, continuing UNIIIC’s work with an aim toward prosecuting the individuals suspected of being behind the attacks.

Syrian-Lebanese relations have improved since 2008 when, in response to French and Saudi engagement with Syria, Damascus recognized Lebanon’s sovereignty and the two countries agreed to exchange ambassadors. Syria sent Ali Abdul Karim Ali to Beirut as its ambassador to Lebanon in May 2009. Following his election in November 2009, Prime Minister Saad Hariri, son of the slain leader, traveled to Damascus for discussions with President Asad. During the visit, the two countries agreed to demarcate their border for the first time. As of March 2011, the border had yet to be demarcated.

Syrian relations with Prime Minister Saad Hariri became strained due to his support for the STL and Syria’s continued support of Hizballah. Hizballah and its parliamentary allies engineered the fall of the Hariri government on January 12, 2011 when they resigned from the cabinet en masse, triggering a constitutional crisis. The new Prime Minister-designate, Najib Mikati, has strong connections to the Syrian regime.

The United States supports a sovereign, independent Lebanon, free of all foreign forces, and believes that the best interests of both Lebanon and Syria are served by a positive and constructive relationship based upon principles of mutual respect and non-intervention between two neighboring sovereign and independent states. The United States calls for Syrian non-interference in Lebanon, consistent with UNSCR 1559 and 1701.

Arab-Israeli Relations
Syria was an active belligerent in the 1967 Arab-Israeli War, which resulted in Israel's occupation of the Golan Heights and the city of Quneitra. Following the October 1973 Arab-Israeli War, which left Israel in occupation of additional Syrian territory, Syria accepted UN Security Council Resolution 338, which signaled an implicit acceptance of Resolution 242. Resolution 242, which became the basis for the peace process negotiations begun in Madrid in 1981, calls for a just and lasting Middle East peace to include withdrawal of Israeli armed forces from territories occupied in 1967; termination of the state of belligerency; and acknowledgment of the sovereignty, territorial integrity, and political independence of all regional states and of their right to live in peace within secure and recognized boundaries.

As a result of the mediation efforts of then U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, Syria and Israel concluded a disengagement agreement in May 1974, enabling Syria to recover territory lost in the October war and part of the Golan Heights occupied by Israel since 1967, including Quneitra. The two sides have effectively implemented the agreement, which is monitored by UN forces.

In December 1981, the Israeli Knesset voted to extend Israeli law to the part of the Golan Heights over which Israel retained control. The UN Security Council subsequently passed a resolution calling on Israel to rescind this measure. Syria participated in the Middle East Peace Conference in Madrid in October 1991. Negotiations were conducted intermittently through the 1990s, and came very close to succeeding. However, the parties were unable to come to an agreement over Syria's nonnegotiable demand that Israel withdraw to the positions it held on June 4, 1967. The peace process collapsed following the outbreak of the second Palestinian (Intifada) uprising in September 2000, though Syria continues to call for a comprehensive settlement based on UN Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338, and the land-for-peace formula adopted at the 1991 Madrid conference.

Tensions between Israel and Syria increased as the second Intifada dragged on, primarily as a result of Syria's unwillingness to stop giving sanctuary to Palestinian terrorist groups conducting operations against Israel. In October 2003, following a suicide bombing carried out by a member of Palestinian Islamic Jihad in Haifa that killed 20 Israeli citizens, Israeli Defense Forces attacked a suspected Palestinian terrorist training camp 15 kilometers north of Damascus. This was the first such Israeli attack deep inside Syrian territory since the 1973 war. During the summer of 2006 tensions again heightened due to Israeli fighter jets buzzing President Asad's summer castle in response to Syria's support for the Palestinian group Hamas, Syria's support of Hizballah during the July-August 2006 conflict in Lebanon, and the rearming of Hizballah in violation of UN Resolution 1701. Rumors of negotiations between the Israeli and Syrian Governments were initially discounted by both Israel and Syria, with spokespersons for both countries indicating that any such talks were not officially sanctioned. However, the rumors were confirmed in early 2008 when it was announced that indirect talks facilitated by Turkey were taking place. The talks continued until December 2008 when Syria withdrew in response to Israel's shelling of the Gaza Strip.

Membership in International Organizations
Syria is a member of the Arab Bank for Economic Development in Africa, Arab Fund for Economic and Social Development, Arab Common Market, Arab League, Arab Monetary Fund, Council of Arab Economic Unity, Customs Cooperation Council, Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia, Food and Agricultural Organization, Group of 24, Group of 77, International Atomic Energy Agency, International Bank for Reconstruction and Development, International Civil Aviation Organization, International Chamber of Commerce, International Development Association, Islamic Development Bank, International Fund for Agricultural Development, International Finance Corporation, International Labor Organization, International Monetary Fund, International Maritime Organization, INTERPOL, International Olympic Committee, International Organization for Standardization, International Telecommunication Union, International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, Non-Aligned Movement, Organization of Arab Petroleum Exporting Countries, Organization of the Islamic Conference, United Nations, UN Conference on Trade and Development, UN Industrial Development Organization, UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East, Universal Postal Union, World Federation of Trade Unions, World Health Organization, World Meteorological Organization, and World Tourism Organization.

Syria's 2-year term as a nonpermanent member of the UN Security Council ended in December 2003.

U.S.-SYRIAN RELATIONS
U.S.-Syrian relations, severed in 1967, were resumed in June 1974, following the achievement of the Syrian-Israeli disengagement agreement. In 1990-91, Syria cooperated with the United States as a member of the multinational coalition of forces in the Gulf War. The U.S. and Syria also consulted closely on the Taif Accord ending the civil war in Lebanon. In 1991, President Asad made a historic decision to accept President George H.W. Bush's invitation to attend a Middle East peace conference and to engage in subsequent bilateral negotiations with Israel. Syria's efforts to secure the release of Western hostages held in Lebanon and its lifting of restrictions on travel by Syrian Jews helped to further improve relations between Syria and the United States. There were several presidential summits; the last one occurred when President Bill Clinton met the late President Hafiz al-Asad in Geneva in March 2000. In the aftermath of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks in the United States, the Syrian Government began limited cooperation with U.S. counterterrorism efforts.

Syria has been on the U.S. list of state sponsors of terrorism since the list's inception in 1979. Because of its continuing support and safe haven for terrorist organizations, Syria is subject to legislatively mandated penalties, including export sanctions and ineligibility to receive most forms of U.S. aid or to purchase U.S. military equipment. In 1986, the U.S. withdrew its ambassador and imposed additional administrative sanctions on Syria in response to evidence of direct Syrian involvement in an attempt to blow up an Israeli airplane. A U.S. ambassador returned to Damascus in 1987, partially in response to positive Syrian actions against terrorism such as expelling the Abu Nidal Organization from Syria and helping free an American hostage earlier that year.

Relations cooled as a consequence of U.S. intervention in Iraq in 2003, declined following the imposition of U.S. economic sanctions in May 2004, and worsened further in February 2005 after the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Hariri. Issues of U.S. concern include the Syrian Government's failure to prevent Syria from becoming a major transit point for foreign fighters entering Iraq, its refusal to deport from Syria former Saddam regime elements who are supporting the insurgency in Iraq, its ongoing interference in Lebanese affairs, its protection of the leadership of Palestinian rejectionist groups in Damascus, its deplorable human rights record, and its pursuit of weapons of mass destruction. In May 2004, the U.S. Government, pursuant to the provisions of the Syrian Accountability and Lebanese Sovereignty Restoration Act, imposed sanctions on Syria which banned nearly all exports to Syria except food and medicine. In February 2005, in the wake of the Hariri assassination, the U.S. recalled its ambassador to Washington.

On September 12, 2006 the U.S. Embassy was attacked by four armed assailants with guns, grenades, and a car bomb (which failed to detonate). Syrian security forces successfully countered the attack, killing all four attackers. Two other Syrians killed during the attack were a government security guard and a passerby. The Syrian Government publicly stated that terrorists had carried out the attack. The U.S. Government has not received an official Syrian Government assessment of the motives or organization behind the attack, but security was upgraded at U.S. facilities. Both the Syrian ambassador to the U.S., Imad Mushtapha, and President Bashar Asad, however, blamed U.S. foreign policy in the region for contributing to the incident.

After a military action occurred at the Iraq-Syria border in October 2008, in which purportedly there were several Syrian casualties, the Syrian Government ordered the closure of Damascus Community, the American Language Center (ALC), and the American Cultural Center (ACC).

Since 2009, the U.S. has attempted to engage with Syria to find areas of mutual interest, reduce regional tensions, and promote Middle East peace. These efforts have included congressional and executive meetings with senior Syrian officials, including President Asad, and the return of a U.S. Ambassador to Damascus.

NATIONAL SECURITY
President Bashar Al-Asad is commander in chief of the Syrian armed forces, comprised of some 400,000 troops upon mobilization. The military is a conscripted force; males serve 18 months in the military upon reaching the age of 18, though exemptions do exist. Some 17,000 Syrian soldiers formerly deployed in Lebanon were withdrawn to Syria in 2005 in accordance with UNSCR 1559.

Syria's military remains one of the largest in the region, although the breakup of the Soviet Union--long the principal source of training, material, and credit for the Syrian forces--slowed Syria's ability to acquire modern military equipment. Syria received significant financial aid from Gulf Arab states in the 1990s as a result of its participation in the first Gulf War, with a sizable portion of these funds earmarked for military spending. Besides sustaining its conventional forces, Syria seeks to develop its weapons of mass destruction (WMD) capability, including chemical munitions and delivery systems.

In September 2007 Israeli warplanes attacked a purported nuclear facility in Syria. Investigation by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) discovered particles of enriched uranium at the site, with a low probability they were introduced by the missiles used to attack the facility. As of March 2011, the IAEA continued to investigate the issue with only limited cooperation from the Syrian Government.


Principal U.S. Officials
Ambassador--Robert Stephen Ford
Deputy Chief of Mission--Charles Hunter
Head of the Political Section--Amy Tachco
Head of the Economic Section--Joanne Cummings
Consul General--Andre Goodfriend
Management Counselor--Natalie Cropper
Public Affairs Officer--Angela Williams
Defense Attache--Robert Friedenberg

The U.S. Embassy is located at Abu Roumaneh, Al-Mansur St. No. 2; P.O. Box 29; Tel. (963)(11) 3391-4444, 3391-3333 (after hours); Public Affairs Section Tel: 3391-4162; FAX (963)(11) 3391-3999. More information about embassy hours of operation, and consular and American citizen services can be obtained at the embassy's website: http://damascus.usembassy.gov/


TRAVEL ADVISORIES

To obtain the latest Travel Advisory Information for Syria check the U.S. State Department Consular Information Sheet.


TRAVEL TIPS

Driving U.S Driving Permit accepted
Currency (SYP) Syrian Pound
Electrical 220 Volts
Telephones Country Code 963, City Code, Damascus and Rural areas 11+7D, Al-Nebek 12+6D, Palmyra 34+6D



Safety
Syria is relatively safe and the police are extremely efficient. But take basic precautions against crime (as you do in your country). Avoid conspicuous displays of wealth and behave conservatively. Women should dress modestly, especially in small villages.

Business Hours
Banks are open 8 AM–2 PM Saturday–Thursday. Shops are open 8 AM–1 PM and 4–7 PM Saturday–Thursday in winter, 8 AM–1 PM and 4–8 PM in summer. Offices are open 8 AM–2:30 PM Saturday–Thursday. Government offices are open 8 AM–2 PM Saturday–Thursday.

Tipping
A 10 percent tip is standard for taxi drivers and restaurant staff.

Electricity
Current is 220 volts AC, 50Hz.

Emergencies
Dial 112 for police, 115 for traffic police, 113 or 91 in case of fire, and 110 to summon an ambulance.

Currency
The unit of currency in Syria is the Syrian Pound or Lira, divided into 100 Piasters. There are banknotes of 10, 25, 50, 100, 200, 500 and 1000 SP, and coins of 25 and 50 Piasters and 1, 2, 5, 10, and 25 Pounds. You will be welcomed in Syria with all foreign currencies, you will not be able to pay by cheque or credit card in many Syrian shops, but main hotels, restaurants and souvenir shops accept them.

When to travel?

You will have to travel preferably between the cold and the hot seasons (lasting respectively, between December-February and July-August). Winter is usually very cold except for the coastal region. In summer, temperatures are extremely high, especially in July and August, and the humidity on the coast is not very pleasant. Summer temperatures could rise above 35C in July and August during the day, but the evenings are usually cooler with mild breezes. If you have the choice, April and May, and also mid-September to mid-November are the best times to make a visit to Syria.

Getting There & Away
Syria has two international airports, one 35km (22mi) south-east of Damascus, the other just north-east of Aleppo. Both have regular connections to Europe, the Middle East, Africa and Asia. Flights tend to be quite expensive. There's a departure tax of about US$5. All foreign visitors require a visa, except nationals of some Arab countries. Tourist visas are usually valid for 15 or 30 days.
Buses run between Aleppo or Damascus and Istanbul (Turkey), between Damascus and Amman (Jordan), Damascus and Beirut or Tripoli (Lebanon) and Damascus and Riyadh (Saudi Arabia). Trains go from Aleppo to Istanbul and from Damascus to Amman. Service taxis also run from Damascus to most of the neighboring countries. You can bring your own vehicle into Syria, but you will need a carnet de passage and local third-party insurance. If you prefer the ferry, there's a weekly service from Lattakia for Alexandria (Egypt) via Beirut. In summer, the ferry also stops in Cyprus.


Getting Around
There are internal flights between Damascus and Aleppo, Qamishly, Lattakia and Deir ez-Zur. Syria's road network is excellent, and buses are frequent and cheap - most Syrians use the bus. Distances are short and most trips take under four hours. Bus types include the traditional coach, minibuses and small vans known as microbuses. Service taxis operate on the major bus routes but are considerably more expensive than microbuses.
Syria's trains are a modern lot, made in Russia. They're cheap and punctual, but the stations are usually a fair way out of town. The main line connects Damascus, Aleppo, Deir ez-Zur, Hasakeh and Qamishle, with a secondary line along the coast. There are a few car rental companies in Syria, but rates are around 50% higher than in the West. Syrians drive on the right.

What to take with you?
Take clothes to suit the season as if you were traveling to southern France or Italy. Do not forget that in high altitudes (Damascus has a minimum altitude of 690,) the climate may be somewhat cool from December to March, and summer is a little hotter. A raincoat is not needed from May to September. Good walking shoes are a must for visiting archaeological sites or climbing the long slopes leading to old castles. Sunglasses and a hat are useful to protect you from the burning sun of the Syrian desert.


CUSTOMS/DUTIES

Tobacco........................200 cigarettes

Liquor...........................1 pint

Gifts..............................Duty free allowance up to syl 250

Cameras.......................No restrictions

Currency.......................Must be declared on arrival

Agriculture Items.........Refer to consulate



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