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Introduction Syria
Background:
Following the breakup of the Ottoman Empire during World War I, Syria was administered by the French until independence in 1946. In the 1967 Arab-Israeli War, Syria lost the Golan Heights to Israel. Since 1976, Syrian troops have been stationed in Lebanon, ostensibly in a peacekeeping capacity. In recent years, Syria and Israel have held occasional peace talks over the return of the Golan Heights.
Geography Syria
Location:
Middle East, bordering the Mediterranean Sea, between Lebanon and Turkey
Geographic coordinates:
35 00 N, 38 00 E
Map references:
Middle East
Area:
total: 185,180 sq km
note: includes 1,295 sq km of Israeli-occupied territory
water: 1,130 sq km
land: 184,050 sq km
Area - comparative:
slightly larger than North Dakota
Land boundaries:
total: 2,253 km
border countries: Iraq 605 km, Israel 76 km, Jordan 375 km, Lebanon 375 km, Turkey 822 km
Coastline:
193 km
Maritime claims:
contiguous zone: 41 NM
territorial sea: 35 NM
Climate:
mostly desert; hot, dry, sunny summers (June to August) and mild, rainy winters (December to February) along coast; cold weather with snow or sleet periodically in Damascus
Terrain:
primarily semiarid and desert plateau; narrow coastal plain; mountains in west
Elevation extremes:
lowest point: unnamed location near Lake Tiberias -200 m
highest point: Mount Hermon 2,814 m
Natural resources:
petroleum, phosphates, chrome and manganese ores, asphalt, iron ore, rock salt, marble, gypsum, hydropower
Land use:
arable land: 26%
permanent crops: 4%
other: 70% (1998 est.)
Irrigated land:
12,130 sq km (1998 est.)
Natural hazards:
dust storms, sandstorms
Environment - current issues:
deforestation; overgrazing; soil erosion; desertification; water pollution from raw sewage and petroleum refining wastes; inadequate potable water
Environment - international agreements:
party to: Biodiversity, Climate Change, Desertification, Hazardous Wastes, Nuclear Test Ban, Ozone Layer Protection, Ship Pollution, Wetlands
signed, but not ratified: Environmental Modification
Geography - note:
there are 42 Israeli settlements and civilian land use sites in the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights (August 2001 est.)
People Syria
Population:
17,155,814 (July 2002 est.)
note: in addition, about 40,000 people live in the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights - 20,000 Arabs (18,000 Druze and 2,000 Alawites) and about 20,000 Israeli settlers (August 2001 est.)
Age structure:
0-14 years: 39.3% (male 3,467,267; female 3,264,639)
15-64 years: 57.5% (male 5,052,841; female 4,817,662)
65 years and over: 3.2% (male 267,803; female 285,602) (2002 est.)
Population growth rate:
2.5% (2002 est.)
Birth rate:
30.11 births/1,000 population (2002 est.)
Death rate:
5.12 deaths/1,000 population (2002 est.)
Net migration rate:
0 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2002 est.)
Sex ratio:
at birth: 1.06 male(s)/female
under 15 years: 1.06 male(s)/female
15-64 years: 1.05 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 0.94 male(s)/female
total population: 1.05 male(s)/female (2002 est.)
Infant mortality rate:
32.73 deaths/1,000 live births (2002 est.)
Life expectancy at birth:
total population: 69.08 years
female: 70.32 years (2002 est.)
male: 67.9 years
Total fertility rate:
3.84 children born/woman (2002 est.)
HIV/AIDS - adult prevalence rate:
0.01% (1999 est.)
HIV/AIDS - people living with HIV/AIDS:
NA
HIV/AIDS - deaths:
NA
Nationality:
noun: Syrian(s)
adjective: Syrian
Ethnic groups:
Arab 90.3%, Kurds, Armenians, and other 9.7%
Religions:
Sunni Muslim 74%, Alawite, Druze, and other Muslim sects 16%, Christian (various sects) 10%, Jewish (tiny communities in Damascus, Al Qamishli, and Aleppo)
Languages:
Arabic (official); Kurdish, Armenian, Aramaic, Circassian widely understood; French, English somewhat understood
Literacy:
definition: age 15 and over can read and write
total population: 70.8%
male: 85.7%
female: 55.8% (1997 est.)
Government Syria
Country name:
conventional long form: Syrian Arab Republic
conventional short form: Syria
local short form: Suriyah
former: United Arab Republic (with Egypt)
local long form: Al Jumhuriyah al Arabiyah as Suriyah
Government type:
republic under military regime since March 1963
Capital:
Damascus
Administrative divisions:
14 provinces (muhafazat, singular - muhafazah); Al Hasakah, Al Ladhiqiyah, Al Qunaytirah, Ar Raqqah, As Suwayda', Dar'a, Dayr az Zawr, Dimashq, Halab, Hamah, Hims, Idlib, Rif Dimashq, Tartus
Independence:
17 April 1946 (from League of Nations mandate under French administration)
National holiday:
Independence Day, 17 April (1946)
Constitution:
13 March 1973
Legal system:
based on Islamic law and civil law system; special religious courts; has not accepted compulsory ICJ jurisdiction
Suffrage:
18 years of age; universal
Executive branch:
chief of state: President Bashar al-ASAD (since 17 July 2000); Vice Presidents Abd al-Halim ibn Said KHADDAM (since 11 March 1984) and Muhammad Zuhayr MASHARIQA (since 11 March 1984)
head of government: Prime Minister Muhammad Mustafa MIRU (since 13 March 2000), Deputy Prime Ministers Lt. Gen. Mustafa TALAS (since 11 March 1984), Farouk al-SHARA (since 13 December 2001), Dr. Muhammad al-HUSAYN (since 13 December 2001)
cabinet: Council of Ministers appointed by the president
elections: president elected by popular vote for a seven-year term; referendum/election last held 10 July 2000 - after the death of President Hafez al-ASAD, father of Bashar al-ASAD - (next to be held NA 2007); vice presidents appointed by the president; prime minister and deputy prime ministers appointed by the president
note: Hafiz al-ASAD died on 10 June 2000; on 20 June 2000, the Ba'th Party nominated Bashar al-ASAD for president and presented his name to the People's Council on 25 June 2000
election results: Bashar al-ASAD elected president; percent of vote - Bashar al-ASAD 97.29%
Legislative branch:
unicameral People's Council or Majlis al-shaab (250 seats; members elected by popular vote to serve four-year terms)
election results: percent of vote by party - NPF 67%, independents 33%; seats by party - NPF 167, independents 83; note - the constitution guarantees that the Ba'th Party (part of the NPF alliance) receives one-half of the seats
elections: last held 30 November-1 December 1998 (next to be held NA 2002)
Judicial branch:
Supreme Constitutional Court (justices are appointed for four-year terms by the president); High Judicial Council; Court of Cassation; State Security Courts
Political parties and leaders:
National Progressive Front or NPF (includes the Ba'th Party, ASU, Arab Socialist Party, Socialist Unionist Democratic Party, ASP, SCP) [President Bashar al-ASAD, chairman]; Arab Socialist Renaissance (Ba'th) Party (governing party) [President Bashar al-ASAD, secretary general]; Syrian Arab Socialist Party or ASP [Safwan KOUDSI]; Syrian Communist Party or SCP [Yusuf FAYSAL]; Syrian Social National Party [Jubran URAYJI]
Political pressure groups and leaders:
conservative religious leaders; Muslim Brotherhood (operates in exile in Jordan and Yemen); non-Ba'th parties have little effective political influence
International organization participation:
AFESD, AL, AMF, CAEU, CCC, ESCWA, FAO, G-24, G-77, IAEA, IBRD, ICAO, ICC, ICRM, IDA, IDB, IFAD, IFC, IFRCS, IHO, ILO, IMF, IMO, Interpol, IOC, ISO, ITU, NAM, OAPEC, OIC, UN, UN Security Council (temporary), UNCTAD, UNESCO, UNIDO, UNRWA, UPU, WFTU, WHO, WMO, WToO
Diplomatic representation in the US:
chief of mission: Ambassador Rustum al-ZU'BI
chancery: 2215 Wyoming Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20008
FAX: [1] (202) 234-9548
telephone: [1] (202) 232-6313
Diplomatic representation from the US:
chief of mission: Ambassador Theodore H. KATTOUF
embassy: Abou Roumaneh, Al-Mansur Street, No. 2, Damascus
mailing address: P. O. Box 29, Damascus
telephone: [963] (11) 333-1342
FAX: [963] (11) 331-9678
Flag description:
three equal horizontal bands of red (top), white, and black, with two small green five-pointed stars in a horizontal line centered in the white band; similar to the flag of Yemen, which has a plain white band, and of Iraq, which has three green stars (plus an Arabic inscription) in a horizontal line centered in the white band; also similar to the flag of Egypt, which has a heraldic eagle centered in the white band
Economy Syria
Economy - overview:
Syria's predominantly statist economy has been growing slower than its 2.5% annual population growth rate, causing a persistent decline in per capita GDP. President Bashar AL-ASAD has made little progress on the economic front after one year in office, but does appear willing to permit a gradual strengthening of the private sector. His most obvious accomplishment to this end was the recent passage of legislation allowing private banks to operate in Syria, although a private banking sector will take years and further government cooperation to develop. ASAD's recent cabinet reshuffle may improve his chances of implementing further growth-oriented policies, although external factors such as the international war on terrorism, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and downturn in oil prices could weaken the foreign investment and government revenues Syria needs to flourish. A long-run economic constraint is the pressure on water supplies caused by rapid population growth, industrial expansion, and increased water pollution.
GDP:
purchasing power parity - $54.2 billion (2001 est.)
GDP - real growth rate:
2% (2001 est.)
GDP - per capita:
purchasing power parity - $3,200 (2001 est.)
GDP - composition by sector:
agriculture: 27%
industry: 23%
services: 50% (2000 est.)
Population below poverty line:
15%-25%
Household income or consumption by percentage share:
lowest 10%: NA%
highest 10%: NA%
Inflation rate (consumer prices):
0.3% (2001 est.)
Labor force:
4.7 million (1998 est.)
Labor force - by occupation:
agriculture 40%, industry 20%, services 40% (1996 est.)
Unemployment rate:
20% (2000 est.)
Budget:
revenues: $5 billion
expenditures: $7 billion, including capital expenditures of $NA (2001 est.)
Industries:
petroleum, textiles, food processing, beverages, tobacco, phosphate rock mining
Industrial production growth rate:
NA%
Electricity - production:
19.7 billion kWh (2000)
Electricity - production by source:
fossil fuel: 64.47%
hydro: 35.53%
other: 0% (2000)
nuclear: 0%
Electricity - consumption:
17.671 billion kWh (2000)
Electricity - exports:
650 million kWh (2000)
Electricity - imports:
0 kWh (2000)
Agriculture - products:
wheat, barley, cotton, lentils, chickpeas, olives, sugar beets; beef, mutton, eggs, poultry, milk
Exports:
$5 billion (f.o.b., 2001 est.)
Exports - commodities:
crude oil 68%, textiles 7%, fruits and vegetables 6%, raw cotton 4% (1998 est.)
Exports - partners:
Germany 27%, Italy 12%, France 10%, Turkey 10%, Saudi Arabia 7% (2000 est.)
Imports:
$4 billion (f.o.b., 2001 est.)
Imports - commodities:
machinery and transport equipment 21%, food and livestock 18%, metal and metal products 15%, chemicals and chemical products 10% (2000 est.)
Imports - partners:
Italy 9%, Germany 7%, France 5%, Lebanon 5%, China 4%, South Korea 4%, Turkey 4%, US 4% (2000 est.)
Debt - external:
$22 billion (2001 est.)
Economic aid - recipient:
$199 million (1997 est.)
Currency:
Syrian pound (SYP)
Currency code:
SYP
Exchange rates:
Syrian pounds per US dollar - 51 (December 2001), 46 (2000), 46 (1998), 41.9 (January 1997)
Fiscal year:
calendar year
Communications Syria
Telephones - main lines in use:
1.313 million (1997)
Telephones - mobile cellular:
NA
Telephone system:
general assessment: fair system currently undergoing significant improvement and digital upgrades, including fiber-optic technology
domestic: coaxial cable and microwave radio relay network
international: satellite earth stations - 1 Intelsat (Indian Ocean) and 1 Intersputnik (Atlantic Ocean region); 1 submarine cable; coaxial cable and microwave radio relay to Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, and Turkey; participant in Medarabtel
Radio broadcast stations:
AM 14, FM 2, shortwave 1 (1998)
Radios:
4.15 million (1997)
Television broadcast stations:
44 (plus 17 repeaters) (1995)
Televisions:
1.05 million (1997)
Internet country code:
.sy
Internet Service Providers (ISPs):
1 (2000)
Internet users:
32,000 (2001)
Transportation Syria
Railways:
total: 2,750 km
standard gauge: 2,423 km 1.435-m gauge
note: rail link between Syria and Iraq replaced in 2000 (2001)
narrow gauge: 327 km 1.050-m gauge
Highways:
total: 41,451 km
paved: 9,575 km (including 877 km of expressways)
unpaved: 31,876 km (1997)
Waterways:
870 km (minimal economic importance)
Pipelines:
crude oil 1,304 km; petroleum products 515 km
Ports and harbors:
Baniyas, Jablah, Latakia, Tartus
Merchant marine:
total: 143 ships (1,000 GRT or over) totaling 482,985 GRT/702,590 DWT
note: includes some foreign-owned ships registered here as a flag of convenience: Egypt 1, Greece 2, Italy 1, Lebanon 10 (2002 est.)
ships by type: bulk 12, cargo 126, livestock carrier 4, roll on/roll off 1
Airports:
99 (2001)
Airports - with paved runways:
total: 24
over 3,047 m: 5
2,438 to 3,047 m: 16
under 914 m: 1 (2001)
914 to 1,523 m: 2
Airports - with unpaved runways:
total: 75
1,524 to 2,437 m: 2
914 to 1,523 m: 11
under 914 m: 62 (2001)
Heliports:
2 (2001)
Military Syria
Military branches:
Syrian Arab Army, Syrian Arab Navy, Syrian Arab Air Force (includes Air Defense Forces), Police and Security Force
Military manpower - military age:
19 years of age (2002 est.)
Military manpower - availability:
males age 15-49: 4,550,496 (2002 est.)
Military manpower - fit for military service:
males age 15-49: 2,539,342 (2002 est.)
Military manpower - reaching military age annually:
males: 200,859 (2002 est.)
Military expenditures - dollar figure:
$921 million (FY00 est.); note - based on official budget data that may understate actual spending
Military expenditures - percent of GDP:
5.9% (FY98)
Transnational Issues Syria
Disputes - international:
Golan Heights is Israeli-occupied; dispute with upstream riparian Turkey over Turkish water development plans for the Tigris and Euphrates rivers; Syrian troops in northern, central, and eastern Lebanon since October 1976; Turkey is quick to rebuff any perceived Syrian claim to Hatay province
Illicit drugs:
a transit point for opiates and hashish bound for regional and Western markets

This page was last updated on 1 January 2002





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