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Airline Grounded due to US Sanctions?

17-Jun-09
By IWPR


Sanctions imposed by the United States against Syria have prevented a private Syrian-owned airline company from using its aircrafts, said pro-government website Syria Steps in a June 9 article.



The Syrian company Pearl Airlines told its customers that it was suspending all its flights until further notice, reported the website.



While the company gave no official reasons for the decision, the site reported that a well-informed source said the airline was forced to put flights on hold after the US pressured a Spanish company to stop renting out its two aircrafts to the Syrian airline, according to Syria Steps.



The source explained that the aeroplanes in question used US-made engines.



He said that the US foreign trade bureau told the Spanish company that it was breaching American sanctions against Syria, and urged it to scrap its deal with Pearl Airlines.



Under sanctions which former president George Bush imposed in 2004, US companies are prohibited from doing business with Syria, and all US exports to the country are banned except for basic items, like medicine and food.



In February, it was reported that the US had allowed Syria to purchase some American aircraft parts.



But despite a rapprochement between Damascus and Washington, the new US administration recently renewed sanctions against Syria for another year.



In May, Pearl Airlines rented two British aeroplanes from the Spanish company to meet the increasing demand for flights to and from Syria, according to earlier media reports.



Pearl Airlines is partly owned by Rami Makhlouf, the cousin of Syrian president Bashar al-Assad.



Last year, Washington decided to freeze all the assets of the Syrian businessman in the US.



The website said the alleged new restrictions against Pearl Airlines were “a clear contradiction” of the new US administration’s calls for dialogue with Damascus.