Syria crisis

Syria’s government criticizes US decision to allow investment in country’s north

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Syria’s foreign ministry on Friday criticized a US decision to allow some foreign investment in areas of northern Syria that are outside of government control, vowing to “defeat” the move.

On Thursday, the US Treasury Department approved activities in 12 sectors including agriculture, construction and finance, in what it said was a strategy designed to defeat ISIS terrorist group through economic stabilization.

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The decision does not permit any transactions with the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad or others blacklisted by the US during the 11-year-long Syrian war.

In a statement on Friday, the foreign ministry in Damascus said Syria was “determined to defeat this new conspiracy,” encouraging people in the country’s north to “bring it down.”

It described the decision as part of Washington’s “destructive approach” to Syria. Damascus blames Western sanctions for widespread civilian hardship in the country, where a collapse of the currency has led to soaring prices and people struggling to afford food and basic supplies.

Government troops and allied forces have recaptured most of the territory they had lost after demonstrations against al-Assad in 2011 devolved into a brutal conflict.

Swathes of territory in the northwest are held by Turkish-backed forces, while the northeast is mostly controlled by the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF).

The northeast holds much of Syria’s oil reserves and wheat production, while the northwest was once an agricultural and industrial zone.

The license authorizes purchases of oil products such as gasoline in the area, but does not permit transactions with the government or sanctioned individuals or the import of Syrian petroleum products to the United States.

In a call with reporters, US officials rejected assertions that the move could be seen as helpful to efforts by some Arab allies to bring back Assad in from the cold, and repeated that Washington had no intention of lifting sanctions on him.

Instead, officials have insisted that economic revitalization would stymie efforts by the remnants of ISIS to recruit new members.

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