Further to our post about General License (GL) No. 23, on February 21, 2023, the US Department of the Treasury, Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC), issued Guidance on Authorized Transactions Related to Earthquake Relief Efforts in Syria (the Guidance). Although it does not appear that OFAC has published the Guidance as part of formal Frequently Asked Questions, affected US persons and non-US persons who are relying on GL 23 should review the Guidance, which provides additional OFAC interpretations about the scope of GL 23 until it is scheduled to expire on August 8, 2023. More specifically, the Guidance covers topics such as:
(1) donating money and raising funds for earthquake relief efforts in Syria;
(2) sending money to the people of Syria;
(3) sending any goods or providing any services to Syria;
(4) processing financial transactions related to earthquake relief in Syria;
(5) earthquake relief activity or efforts involving the Government of Syria (GOS);
(6) non-governmental organizations providing aid to Syria;
(7) activity by foreign governments in Syria; and
(8) application of US secondary sanctions under the Caesar Syria Civilian Protection Act of 2019.
Notably, while not defined by the terms of GL 23, the Guidance sets forth examples of earthquake relief efforts, including, among other things:
the provision of assistance, food, medicine, water, health, sanitation, and emergency services to people displaced or injured by the earthquake; erecting temporary shelters; search and rescue operations; removing rubble from collapsed buildings; stabilizing damaged buildings; stabilizing or repairing roads and other critical infrastructure damaged in the earthquake; remediation of pollution or environmental damage; repairing or rebuilding damaged hospitals and schools in earthquake-affected areas; and building safety inspections related to assessing the structural integrity of, and damage to, buildings from the earthquake [of February 6, 2023].
GL 23 authorizes transactions that would otherwise be prohibited by OFAC regulations, including the exportation of services to Syria from the United States or by US persons. OFAC does not regulate the exportation of goods to Syria, and as a result GL 23 does not apply to such exports; instead, as the Guidance notes, such exports are regulated by the US Department of Commerce. As discussed below, Commerce has announced an expedited licensing policy for exports of items needed to aid the survivors of the earthquake.
The OFAC Guidance notes that earthquake relief activities are authorized under GL 23 even if they involve certain components of the GOS – namely the state and government of Syria and any of its political subdivisions, agencies, or instrumentalities, including the Central Bank of Syria. The Guidance further notes, however, that GL 23 does not authorize transactions involving any entity owned 50 percent or more or controlled by the GOS; a specific license from OFAC would therefore be required for a US person to engage in earthquake relief activities that involve such Syrian state-owned or -controlled entities.
Separate and apart from the Guidance, on February 17, 2023, the US Department of Commerce, Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS), issued a statement regarding Expedited Licensing for Exports to Assist in Earthquake Relief (the Statement). As the Statement notes, exports of agricultural and medical commodities to Syria fall under a BIS license exception, but any other item (i.e., commodity, software, or technology) that is “subject to the US Export Administration Regulations (EAR)” requires an EAR license before being exported or reexported to, or transferred within, Syria. The Statement announces that export license applications for items needed to aid survivors of the earthquake will be processed on an expedited basis. The Statement indicates that the US will work to support legitimate humanitarian needs to aid in relief efforts and recovery from the earthquake disaster – by expediting EAR export licenses – despite comprehensive export controls that apply to Syria and the Assad regime, as well as any residual export controls that may apply under the EAR’s Commerce Control List for items destined to Türkiye. The Statement sets forth an illustrative list of items that may qualify for the favorable, expedited licensing policy, including “heavy equipment, telecommunications hardware and software, portable generators and other power generation equipment, medical devices, water purification and sanitation equipment, and shelter materials.”