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US sanctions exemption for earthquake relief to Syria expires

The Treasury announcement came as the Syrian government reauthorized the UN's use of two border crossings to deliver aid.
A clerk inspects the cargo of a truck among a convoy carrying tent and shelter kits.

WASHINGTON — The US Treasury Department will not extend a general license that was issued in the aftermath of Syria’s earthquakes to reassure financial institutions that their transactions wouldn't run afoul of sanctions on the war-torn country.

Days after a pair of deadly quakes struck northwest Syria and southern Turkey in early February, the Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control issued a blanket license authorizing US banks to process transactions related to earthquake relief. 

Because US sanctions already include robust exemptions for aid delivery, the license was seen as a way of reassuring humanitarian actors in Syria that their earthquake response wouldn't be restricted by sanctions.

The six-month authorization expired Tuesday and was not reissued. A Treasury spokesperson described the February general license as a “time-limited authorization” and noted that other humanitarian exemptions for Syria remain on the books. 

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