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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
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
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
193 km
Maritime claims - as described in UNCLOS 1982 (see Notes and Definitions):
territorial sea: 12 NM
contiguous zone: 41 NM
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
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: 25.96%
permanent crops: 4.08%
other: 69.96% (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, Endangered Species, Hazardous Wastes, 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 (February 2002 est.)
People Syria
18,016,874 (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 (February 2003 est.) (July 2004 est.)
Age structure:
0-14 years: 38% (male 3,524,406; female 3,319,323)
15-64 years: 58.7% (male 5,421,133; female 5,163,669)
65 years and over: 3.3% (male 281,795; female 306,548) (2004 est.)
Median age:
total: 20 years
male: 19.9 years
female: 20.2 years (2004 est.)
Population growth rate:
2.4% (2004 est.)
Birth rate:
28.93 births/1,000 population (2004 est.)
Death rate:
4.96 deaths/1,000 population (2004 est.)
Net migration rate:
0 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2004 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: 0.92 male(s)/female
total population: 1.05 male(s)/female (2004 est.)
Infant mortality rate:
total: 30.6 deaths/1,000 live births
female: 30.35 deaths/1,000 live births (2004 est.)
male: 30.82 deaths/1,000 live births
Life expectancy at birth:
total population: 69.71 years
male: 68.47 years
female: 71.02 years (2004 est.)
Total fertility rate:
3.61 children born/woman (2004 est.)
HIV/AIDS - adult prevalence rate:
0.01% (2001 est.)
HIV/AIDS - people living with HIV/AIDS:
HIV/AIDS - deaths:
noun: Syrian(s)
adjective: Syrian
Ethnic groups:
Arab 90.3%, Kurds, Armenians, and other 9.7%
Sunni Muslim 74%, Alawite, Druze, and other Muslim sects 16%, Christian (various sects) 10%, Jewish (tiny communities in Damascus, Al Qamishli, and Aleppo)
Arabic (official); Kurdish, Armenian, Aramaic, Circassian widely understood; French, English somewhat understood
definition: age 15 and over can read and write
total population: 76.9%
male: 89.7%
female: 64% (2003 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
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
17 April 1946 (from League of Nations mandate under French administration)
National holiday:
Independence Day, 17 April (1946)
13 March 1973
Legal system:
based on Islamic law and civil law system; special religious courts; has not accepted compulsory ICJ jurisdiction
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 Naji al-UTRI (since 10 September 2003), 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 Hafiz 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 2-3 March 2003 (next to be held NA 2007)
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 Arab Socialist Renaissance (Ba'th) Party (governing party) [President Bashar al-ASAD, secretary general], Socialist Unionist Democratic Party [Ahmad al ASAD], Syrian Communist Party [leader NA], Unionist Socialist Party [leader NA], Arab Socialist Party [Abd al-Ghani QANNUT], and Arab Socialist Unionist Movement [Sami SUFAN]) [President Bashar al-ASAD, chairman]; Syrian Arab Socialist Party or ASP [Safwan QUDSI]; 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:
Diplomatic representation in the US:
chief of mission: Ambassador Imad MUSTAFA
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 Margaret SCOBEY
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, on average, more slowly than its 2.4% annual population growth rate, causing a persistent decline in per capita GDP. Recent legislation allows private banks to operate in Syria, although a private banking sector will take years and further government cooperation to develop. Factors including the war between the US-led coalition and Iraq probably drove real annual GDP growth levels back below 1% in 2003 following growth of 3.5% in 2001 and 4.5% in 2002. A long-run economic constraint is the pressure on water supplies caused by rapid population growth, industrial expansion, and increased water pollution.
purchasing power parity - $58.01 billion (2003 est.)
GDP - real growth rate:
0.9% (2003 est.)
GDP - per capita:
purchasing power parity - $3,300 (2003 est.)
GDP - composition by sector:
agriculture: 25.9%
industry: 27%
services: 47.1% (2001 est.)
Population below poverty line:
20% (2003 est.)
Household income or consumption by percentage share:
lowest 10%: NA%
highest 10%: NA%
Inflation rate (consumer prices):
1.5% (2003 est.)
Labor force:
5.2 million (2000 est.)
Labor force - by occupation:
agriculture, industry, services NA
Unemployment rate:
20% (2002 est.)
revenues: $4.3 billion
expenditures: $8.6 billion, including capital expenditures of $3.6 billion (2004 est.)
petroleum, textiles, food processing, beverages, tobacco, phosphate rock mining
Industrial production growth rate:
Electricity - production:
23.26 billion kWh (2001)
Electricity - production by source:
fossil fuel: 57.6%
hydro: 42.4%
other: 0% (2001)
nuclear: 0%
Electricity - consumption:
21.63 billion kWh (2001)
Electricity - exports:
0 kWh (2001)
Electricity - imports:
0 kWh (2001)
Oil - production:
522,700 bbl/day (2001 est.)
Oil - consumption:
265,000 bbl/day (2001 est.)
Oil - exports:
Oil - imports:
Oil - proved reserves:
2.4 billion bbl (1 January 2002)
Natural gas - production:
5.84 billion cu m (2001 est.)
Natural gas - consumption:
5.84 billion cu m (2001 est.)
Natural gas - exports:
0 cu m (2001 est.)
Natural gas - imports:
0 cu m (2001 est.)
Natural gas - proved reserves:
240.7 billion cu m (1 January 2002)
Agriculture - products:
wheat, barley, cotton, lentils, chickpeas, olives, sugar beets; beef, mutton, eggs, poultry, milk
$5.143 billion f.o.b. (2003 est.)
Exports - commodities:
crude oil, petroleum products, fruits and vegetables, cotton fiber, clothing, meat and live animals, wheat
Exports - partners:
Germany 17.5%, Italy 15.9%, Turkey 7.1%, France 6.8%, UAE 6.6%, Lebanon 4.8% (2002)
$4.845 billion f.o.b. (2003 est.)
Imports - commodities:
machinery and transport equipment, electric power machinery, food and livestock, metal and metal products, chemicals and chemical products, plastics, yarn, paper
Imports - partners:
Italy 8.1%, Germany 7.4%, China 5.6%, South Korea 4.6%, France 4.4%, US 4.3%, Turkey 4% (2002)
Debt - external:
$21.5 billion (2003 est.)
Economic aid - recipient:
$199 million (1997 est.)
Syrian pound (SYP)
Currency code:
Exchange rates:
Syrian pounds per US dollar - (Official rate): 11.23 (2003), 11.23 (2002), 11.23 (2001), 11.23 (2000), 11.23 (1999), (Free market rate): 49.65 (2001), 49.4 (2000), 51.7 (1999)
Fiscal year:
calendar year
Communications Syria
Telephones - main lines in use:
2,099,300 (2002)
Telephones - mobile cellular:
400,000 (2002)
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: country code - 963; 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)
4.15 million (1997)
Television broadcast stations:
44 (plus 17 repeaters) (1995)
1.05 million (1997)
Internet country code:
Internet hosts:
11 (2002)
Internet Service Providers (ISPs):
1 (2000)
Internet users:
220,000 (2002)
Transportation Syria
total: 2,743 km
standard gauge: 2,425 km 1.435-m gauge
narrow gauge: 318 km 1.050-m gauge (2002)
total: 43,381 km
paved: 10,021 km (including 877 km of expressways)
unpaved: 33,360 km (1999)
870 km (minimal economic importance)
gas 2,300 km; oil 2,183 km (2003)
Ports and harbors:
Baniyas, Jablah, Latakia, Tartus
Merchant marine:
total: 122 ships (1,000 GRT or over) 446,981 GRT/636,620 DWT
foreign-owned: Egypt 1, Germany 1, Greece 1, Italy 1, Lebanon 10, Romania 1
registered in other countries: 83 (2003 est.)
by type: bulk 12, cargo 101, container 2, livestock carrier 4, petroleum tanker 1, refrigerated cargo 1, roll on/roll off 1
93 (2003 est.)
Airports - with paved runways:
total: 26
over 3,047 m: 5
2,438 to 3,047 m: 16
under 914 m: 2 (2003 est.)
914 to 1,523 m: 3
Airports - with unpaved runways:
total: 67
1,524 to 2,437 m: 2
914 to 1,523 m: 10
under 914 m: 55 (2003 est.)
7 (2003 est.)
Military Syria
Military branches:
Syrian Arab Army, Syrian Arab Navy, Syrian Arab Air Force (including Air Defense Command), Police and Security Force
Military manpower - military age:
19 years of age (2004 est.)
Military manpower - availability:
males age 15-49: 4,876,040 (2004 est.)
Military manpower - fit for military service:
males age 15-49: 2,716,054 (2004 est.)
Military manpower - reaching military age annually:
males: 216,077 (2004 est.)
Military expenditures - dollar figure:
$858 million (FY00 est.); note - based on official budget data that may understate actual spending
Military expenditures - percent of GDP:
5.9% (FY00)
Transnational Issues Syria
Disputes - international:
Golan Heights is Israeli-occupied; Lebanon claims Shaba'a farms in Golan Heights; Syrian troops have been stationed in Lebanon since October 1976; Syria protests Turkish hydrological projects regulating upper Euphrates waters
Illicit drugs:
a transit point for opiates and hashish bound for regional and Western markets; weak anti-money-laundering controls, bank privatization may leave it vulnerable to money-laundering