On February 15, 2023, HM Treasury’s Office of Financial Sanctions Implementation (“OFSI”) issued General Licence INT/2023/2711256 (“GL”) in relation to humanitarian activity associated with earthquake relief efforts in Syria and Turkey. OFSI’s action follows a similar move by OFAC last week, which is discussed in our blog post (here). On the same day, the Export Control Joint Unit (“ECJU”) also issued General Trade Licence Syria Sanctions – Earthquake Relief Efforts in Syria (“GTL”), to further facilitate humanitarian assistance in relation to the earthquake relief efforts.
UK Sanctions Regime Targeting Syria
Unless authorised by an exception or licence, UK sanctions targeting Syria generally prohibit persons subject to UK sanctions jurisdiction from:
- dealing with assets, or making funds and economic resources available to, or for the benefit, of UK designated persons (or entities that they own or control);
- certain dealings with Syrian domiciled, owned, or controlled banks (if they are a UK credit or financial institution);
- engaging in certain bond transactions involving the Syrian regime or Syrian domiciled, owned, or controlled banks;
- providing insurance or reinsurance services to the Syrian regime;
- certain investments in relation to crude oil and electricity production;
- exporting, importing, or providing certain related services involving crude oil, petroleum products, electricity production, weaponry and military items, luxury goods, currency, gold, precious metals, and diamonds; and
- involvement in the landing of certain aircraft associated with Syria in the UK.
GL for Earthquake Relief Efforts
The GL authorises, subject to certain exceptions, activities necessary to facilitate humanitarian assistance in relation to earthquake relief efforts in Syria and Turkey. This includes the:
- provision, processing, and payment of funds or economic resources; and
- provision of goods and services necessary to ensure the timely delivery of such assistance, or to support such activities (“Relevant Activity”).
The authorisation in the GL will remain in effect until August 15, 2023.
The authorisation in the GL applies to: (1) the UN; (2) humanitarian organisations having UN General Assembly observer status (and their members); (3) bilaterally or multilaterally funded NGOs participating in certain, specified response plans; (4) international organisations carrying out relief activities in Syria; and (5) any employee, grantee, subsidiary, or implementing partner of any of the foregoing organisations to the extent acting in those capacities (“Relevant Person”).
To fall within the scope of the authorisation, a Relevant Person must believe that carrying out the Relevant Activity is necessary to ensure the timely delivery of earthquake relief efforts in Syria and Turkey, and there must be no reasonable cause for the Relevant Person to suspect otherwise.
The GL also authorises, subject to certain exceptions, certain specified institutions (e.g., banks, clearing houses, payment systems providers) to carry out any activity necessary to give effect to Relevant Activities undertaken by Relevant Persons.
The GL does not authorise the use of any funds or economic resources owned, held, or controlled by a UK designated person to give effect to Relevant Activities, save for funds controlled by certain designated financial institutions (i.e., Agricultural Cooperative Bank, Central Bank of Syria, Commercial Bank of Syria, Industrial Bank, Popular Credit Bank, Real Estate Bank of Syria, Saving Bank, and Syrian Lebanese Commercial Bank) provided that they are not owned, held, or controlled by any other UK designated person, or are subject to an OFSI licence.
The GL also does not authorise any act that the person carrying it out knows, or has reasonable grounds for suspecting, will result in a breach of any other provisions of the UK’s Syria sanctions regime pursuant to The Syria (Sanctions) (EU Exit) Regulations 2019.
GTL for Earthquake Relief Efforts
Subject to certain exceptions, the GTL permits persons subject to UK sanctions jurisdiction acting exclusively for the purpose of facilitating humanitarian assistance in relation to earthquake relief efforts in Syria and Turkey to:
- acquire, supply or deliver petroleum products that originate, or are located in, Syria;
- acquire petroleum products from a person connected with Syria (i.e., an individual located, or ordinarily resident, in Syria or an entity incorporated/constituted under the law of Syria, or domiciled in Syria);
- supply or deliver from Syria to Turkey petroleum products that originate in, or are consigned from, Syria;
- provide financial services or funds in pursuance of, or connection with, an arrangement with the object or effect of (1) acquiring petroleum products that originate, or are located in, Syria or (2) supplying or delivering from Syria to Turkey petroleum products that originate, or are consigned from, Syria.
The GTL is a temporary licence and will expire on August 31, 2023.
The GTL does not authorise any act that is prohibited under any other provisions of the UK’s Syria sanctions regime. It also does not apply when the person placing reliance on the GTL:
- has been informed by a competent UK authority, or is aware, that the activities covered by the GTL will be provided contrary to the export or import laws and regulations of the exporting/importing country; or
- has been served with a notice suspending, or revoking, its ability to use the GTL (unless the suspension/revocation period has expired).
The activities authorised by the GTL are also subject to a number of conditions. Within 30 days of first use of the GTL, a person placing reliance on it must provide details of the name and address at which records relating to its use of the GTL are kept via the ECJU’s SPIRE system.
Any person placing reliance on the GTL is also required to keep records of the activities undertaken pursuant to the GTL, including:
- a description of the activity;
- a description of any goods, technology, services or funds to which the activity relates;
- the date of the activity, or the date range during which activities took place;
- the quantity of any goods or funds to which the activity relates;
- the name and address of the person placing reliance on the GTL;
- the name and address of any consignee of goods to which the activity relates, or any recipient of technology, services or funds to which the activity relates;
- in so far as it is known to the person placing reliance on the GTL, the name and address of the end-user of the goods, technology, services or funds to which the act relates; and
- if different from the person placing reliance on the GTL, the name and address of the supplier of any goods to which the act relates.
The foregoing records must be maintained for a period of four years beyond the end of the calendar year in which the record was created and the person placing reliance on the GTL must permit the records to be inspected and copied by any person authorised to do so.
Failure to comply with any of these conditions may result in the revocation or suspension of the right to use the GTL and also could result in enforcement action. For more information on how these developments could impact your organisation, contact the author of this post, Alexandra Melia, in Steptoe’s Economic Sanctions team in London.