WASHINGTON (Aug. 24)
The Reagan administration will not remove current sanctions against Syria as long as terrorist groups, most notably Abu Nidal’s militant Palestinian organization, are allowed to operate from Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley, State Department officials said this week.
Most recently, Abu Nidal claimed responsibility for Saturday’s grenade attack in Haifa that wounded 25 people.
The possibility of repealing the sanctions was raised after the department’s 1987 terrorism report, released Monday, linked Syria to just one major terrorism incident in 1987, as compared to three in 1986.
A department source said, however, that “there are no plans” to remove them, although some “could be lifted at some point.”
On Tuesday, State Department spokeswoman Phyllis Oakley praised the “reduction in direct Syrian involvement in terrorism” in 1987.
But Oakley said the reduction would not lead to Syria’s removal from the department’s list of state sponsors of terrorism.
Syria has been on the list since it was first drawn up in 1979. Listed countries cannot receive U.S. foreign aid or goods and technology that would improve their military or terrorist support capabilities.
As long as there are “terrorist groups training in Syrian-controlled areas,” Oakley said, “Syria remains on the list.”
Yosef Gal, spokesman for the Israeli Embassy here, refused to praise Syria for any recent improvement in its stance on terrorism.
“We have not seen anything to indicate that Syria has changed its policy on support for terrorism,” he said.
Sanctions against Syria were imposed in 1986 after a British court implicated Syria in the attempted bombing of an El Al Airlines plane in London, which had more than 230 U.S. citizens aboard.
The sanctions include barring Syria from participating in Export-Import Bank loans or programs and from receiving subsidized wheat from the Department of Agriculture.
They also bar Syrian Arab Airlines from selling airline tickets in the United States.
The sanctions have a “symbolic significance,” the source said. He said that the United States is not a main trading partner of Syria, so that the volume of trade “would not rise much” if they were removed.
In a related development, while Syria has not had an ambassador to the United States since 1986, a new U.S. ambassador to Syria, Edward Djerejian, was sworn in Wednesday afternoon, replacing William Eagleton Jr.