Syria [Country Flag of Syria]
Transnational Issues
[Country map of Syria]



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Location: Middle East, bordering the Mediterranean Sea, between Lebanon and Turkey

Geographic coordinates: 35 00 N, 38 00 E

Map references: Middle East

total: 185,180 sq km
land: 184,050 sq km
water: 1,130 sq km
note: includes 1,295 sq km of Israeli-occupied territory

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 hitting 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

Land use:
arable land: 28%
permanent crops: 4%
permanent pastures: 43%
forests and woodland: 3%
other: 22% (1993 est.)

Irrigated land: 9,060 sq km (1993 est.)

Natural hazards: dust storms, sandstorms

Environment—current issues: deforestation; overgrazing; soil erosion; desertification; water pollution from dumping of raw sewage and wastes from petroleum refining; inadequate supplies of potable water

Environment—international agreements:
party to: Biodiversity, Climate Change, Desertification, Hazardous Wastes, Nuclear Test Ban, Ozone Layer Protection, Ship Pollution
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 1997 est.)


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Population: 16,673,282 (July 1998 est.)
note: in addition, there are 35,150 people living in the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights—18,150 Arabs (16,500 Druze and 1,650 Alawites) and 17,000 Israeli settlers (August 1997 est.)

Age structure:
0-14 years: 46% (male 3,937,575; female 3,748,881)
15-64 years: 51% (male 4,342,022; female 4,157,268)
65 years and over: 3% (male 240,603; female 246,933) (July 1998 est.)

Population growth rate: 3.23% (1998 est.)

Birth rate: 37.83 births/1,000 population (1998 est.)

Death rate: 5.55 deaths/1,000 population (1998 est.)

Net migration rate: 0 migrant(s)/1,000 population (1998 est.)

Sex ratio:
at birth: 1.05 male(s)/female
under 15 years: 1.05 male(s)/female
15-64 years: 1.04 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 0.97 male(s)/female (1998 est.)

Infant mortality rate: 37.6 deaths/1,000 live births (1998 est.)

Life expectancy at birth:
total population: 67.76 years
male: 66.48 years
female: 69.11 years (1998 est.)

Total fertility rate: 5.55 children born/woman (1998 est.)

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

definition: age 15 and over can read and write
total population: 70.8%
male: 85.7%
female: 55.8% (1997 est.)


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Country name:
conventional long form: Syrian Arab Republic
conventional short form: Syria
local long form: Al Jumhuriyah al Arabiyah as Suriyah
local short form: Suriyah
former: United Arab Republic (with Egypt)

Data code: SY

Government type: republic under military regime since March 1963

National 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: National 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 Hafiz al-ASAD (since 22 February 1971); note—President ASAD seized power in the November 1970 coup, assumed presidential powers 22 February 1971, and was confirmed as president in the 12 March 1971 national elections; 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 Mahmud ZUBI (since 1 November 1987), Deputy Prime Ministers Lt. Gen. Mustafa TALAS (since 11 March 1984), Dr. Salim YASIN (since NA December 1981), and Rashid AKHTARINI (since 4 July 1992)
cabinet: Council of Ministers appointed by the president
elections: president elected by popular vote for a seven-year term; election last held 2 December 1991 (next to be held NA December 1998); vice presidents appointed by the president; prime minister and deputy prime ministers appointed by the president
election results: Hafiz al-ASAD reelected president; percent of vote—Hafiz al-ASAD 99.98%

Legislative branch: unicameral People's Council or Majlis al-shaab (250 seats; members elected by popular vote to serve four-year terms)
elections: last held 24-25 August 1994 (next to be held NA 1998)
election results: percent of vote by party—NA; seats by party—National Progressive Front 167, independents 83

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 includes: the ruling Arab Socialist Renaissance (Ba'th) Party, Hafiz al-ASAD, president of the republic, secretary general of the party, and chairman of the National Progressive Front; Syrian Arab Socialist Party (ASP), Ghassan 'Abd-al-Aziz UTHMAN; Arab Socialist Union (ASU), Fayiz ISMAIL; Syrian Communist Party (SCP), Yusuf FAYSAL; Arab Socialist Unionist Party, Safwan QUDSI; Socialist Union Democratic Party, Ahmad al-ASAD

Political pressure groups and leaders: non-Ba'th parties have little effective political influence; Communist party ineffective; conservative religious leaders; Muslim Brotherhood

International organization participation: ABEDA, 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, Intelsat, Interpol, IOC, ISO, ITU, NAM, OAPEC, OIC, UN, UNCTAD, UNESCO, UNIDO, UNRWA, UPU, WFTU, WHO, WMO, WToO

Diplomatic representation in the US:
chief of mission: Ambassador Walid MUALEM
chancery: 2215 Wyoming Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20008
telephone: [1] (202) 232-6313
FAX: [1] (202) 234-9548

Diplomatic representation from the US:
chief of mission: Ambassador-designate Ryan CROCKER
embassy: Abou Roumaneh, Al-Mansur Street, No. 2, Damascus
mailing address: P. O. Box 29, Damascus
telephone: [963] (11) 333-2814, 333-0788, 332-0783
FAX: [963] (11) 224-7938

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 symbolic eagle centered in the white band


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Economy—overview: Syria's predominantly statist economy is on a shaky footing because of Damascus's failure to implement extensive economic reform. The dominant agricultural sector remains underdeveloped, with roughly 80% of agricultural land still dependent on rain-fed sources. Although Syria has sufficient water supplies in the aggregate at normal levels of precipitation, the great distance between major water supplies and population centers poses serious distribution problems. The water problem is exacerbated by rapid population growth, industrial expansion, and increased water pollution. Private investment is critical to the modernization of the agricultural, energy, and export sectors. Oil production is leveling off, and the efforts of the nonoil sector to penetrate international markets have fallen short. Syria's inadequate infrastructure, outmoded technological base, and weak educational system make it vulnerable to future shocks and hamper competition with neighbors such as Jordan and Israel.

GDP: purchasing power parity—$106.1 billion (1997 est.)

GDP—real growth rate: 4.6% (1997 est.)

GDP—per capita: purchasing power parity—$6,600 (1997 est.)

GDP—composition by sector:
agriculture: 28%
industry: 14%
services: 58% (1995)

Inflation rate—consumer price index: 15%-20% (1997 est.)

Labor force:
total: 4.7 million (1995 est.)
by occupation: services 40%, agriculture 40%, industry 20% (1996 est.)

Unemployment rate: 12% (1997 est.)

revenues: $3.9 billion
expenditures: $4.3 billion, including capital expenditures of $1.9 billion (1996 est.)

Industries: petroleum, textiles, food processing, beverages, tobacco, phosphate rock mining

Industrial production growth rate: 0.2% (1996 est.)

Electricity—capacity: 4.157 million kW (1995)

Electricity—production: 14.9 billion kWh (1995)

Electricity—consumption per capita: 970 kWh (1995)

Agriculture—products: wheat, barley, cotton, lentils, chickpeas; beef, lamb, eggs, poultry, milk

total value: $4.2 billion (f.o.b., 1997)
commodities: petroleum 70%, textiles 12%, food and live animals 10%, manufactures 5% (1997 est.)
partners: EU 57% (Germany 17%, Italy 16%, France 11%), Lebanon 14%, Saudi Arabia 7% (1995 est.)

total value: $5.7 billion (c.i.f., 1997)
commodities: machinery and equipment 40%, foodstuffs/animals 15%, metal and metal products 15%, textiles 10%, chemicals 10%, consumer goods 5% (1997 est.)
partners: EU 33% (Italy 9%, Germany 8%, France 4%), South Korea 5%, US 4%, Japan 4% (1995 est.)

Debt—external: $20 billion (1997 est.)

Economic aid:
recipient: $4.2 billion (1990-92)

Currency: 1 Syrian pound (£S) = 100 piastres

Exchange rates: Syrian pounds (£S) per US$1—41.9 (January 1997); official fixed rate 11.225

Fiscal year: calendar year


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Telephones: 541,465 (1992 est.)

Telephone system: 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 9, FM 1, shortwave 0

Radios: 3.392 million (1992 est.)

Television broadcast stations: 17

Televisions: 700,000 (1993 est.)


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total: 1,998 km
broad gauge: 1,766 km 1.435-m gauge
narrow gauge: 232 km 1.050-m gauge

total: 40,480 km
paved: 9,310 km (including 866 km of expressways)
unpaved: 31,170 km (1996 est.)

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: 125 ships (1,000 GRT or over) totaling 376,903 GRT/555,679 DWT
ships by type: bulk 11, cargo 110, livestock carrier 3, roll-on/roll-off cargo 1 (1997 est.)

Airports: 104 (1997 est.)

Airports—with paved runways:
total: 24
over 3,047 m: 5
2,438 to 3,047 m: 16
914 to 1,523 m: 1
under 914 m: 2 (1997 est.)

Airports—with unpaved runways:
total: 80
1,524 to 2,437 m: 3
914 to 1,523 m: 14
under 914 m: 63 (1997 est.)

Heliports: 2 (1997 est.)


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Military branches: Syrian Arab Army, Syrian Arab Navy, Syrian Arab Air Force, Syrian Arab Air Defense Forces, Police and Security Force

Military manpower—military age: 19 years of age

Military manpower—availability:
males age 15-49: 3,899,714 (1998 est.)

Military manpower—fit for military service:
males: 2,182,608 (1998 est.)

Military manpower—reaching military age annually:
males: 177,946 (1998 est.)

Military expenditures—dollar figure: $800 million-$1 billion (1997 est.); note—based on official budget data that understate actual spending

Military expenditures—percent of GDP: 8% (1995 est.)

Transnational Issues

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Disputes—international: Golan Heights is Israeli occupied; Hatay question with Turkey; 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

Illicit drugs: a transit point for opiates and hashish bound for regional and Western markets