December 1, 2021

OFAC publishes amended Syrian Sanctions Regulations and two new frequently asked questions; also issues new Venezuela-related general license

On November 24, 2021, the Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control adopted a final rule that amends Syrian Sanctions Regulations (SySR) in an effort to expand the scope of authorizations for nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) in Syria.  The amendment is effective November 26, 2021 upon publication in the Federal Register.  OFAC also published related frequently asked questions 937 and 938 to clarify the new provisions under the amended SySR and, in particular, general license at §542.516.  

According to FAQ 937, the GL at §542.516 continues to authorize NGOs to engage in transactions that support certain not-for-profit activities in Syria, including humanitarian projects that meet basic human needs; democracy-building; education; non-commercial development projects for the benefit of Syrian people, and the preservation of cultural heritage sites.  OFAC also provides that NGO authorizations now include transactions with persons affiliated with the Government of Syria, and authorizes NGOs to engage in new investments and exportation or exportation services that were once prohibited under the SySR.  NGOs can also purchase refined petroleum products of Syrian origin for use in Syria, an activity that was previously prohibited.  The authorizations also extend to early-recovery-related transactions and activities that fall within the newly authorized categories.   

In FAQ 938, OFAC provides examples of the types of early-recovery-related transactions and activities in which NGOs are authorized to engage.  OFAC also emphasizes that it handles license requests on a case-by-case basis and encourages NGOs to request a license if it wishes to engage in transactions that are not otherwise authorized or exempt from sanctions.

On the same day, OFAC issued Venezuela-related General License 8I, “Authorizing Transactions Involving Petróleos de Venezuela, SA (PdVSA) Necessary for the Limited Maintenance of Essential Operations in Venezuela or the Wind Down of Operations in Venezuela for Certain Entities” to enable five oilfield service companies to continue their wind down operations with PdVSA until June 1, 2022. Similar to GL 8H, the new general license authorizes five named companies to engage in transactions otherwise prohibited by Executive Order 13850, as amended, or Executive Order 13884, that are necessary to wind down operations, contracts, or other agreements involving PdVSA or any entity in which the PdVSA owns a fifty percent or greater interest, that were in effect prior to July 26, 2019.  

Department of Treasury Press Release | Federal Register – November 26, 2021 | FAQ 937 | FAQ 938 | Venezuela-related General License 8I