Syria will exhaust its foreign currency reserves in three to five months, sparking crisis in an economy reeling from sanctions over its crackdown on protests, a Western diplomat said Wednesday.
“Foreign reserves are down, probably haemorrhaging up to $3 billion (2.3 billion euros) a month,” the diplomat told reporters in London.
“We think the reserves will probably be exhausted in three to five months,” he said, adding that this was his government’s “best estimate” at a time of scant reliable data on the Syrian economy.
“There will be a point at which their currency will collapse,” he said.
The Syrian pound has plunged to a series of record lows in black market trading since anti-regime protest broke down last month, and been hit by mounting economic woes.
The embattled regime of President Bashar al-Assad is also being squeezed by European Union oil and arms embargoes and the EU is currently planning a fresh set of penalties.
The United States and Canada have also imposed sanctions, while Arab nations have banned transactions with the Syrian government and central bank and frozen Syrian government assets in Arab countries.
Arab and Western powers are to meet with Syrian opposition figures in Tunis on Friday at a conference aimed at boosting international action to end the increasingly bloody crisis, which has claimed at least 6,000 lives.
The “Friends of Syria” conference will gather top diplomats from the Arab League, Europe and the United States, but will be marked by the absence of Russia, which denounced the meeting as one-sided and refused to attend.
British Foreign Secretary William Hague and “several of his counterparts” will also discuss the bloodshed on the margins of a conference on Somalia in London on Thursday, a foreign ministry spokesman said.
Britain’s ambassador to Damascus returned to Syria on Friday, the spokesman said, after the Foreign Office had recalled the envoy to London on February 6 in protest against the regime’s violent crackdown.
“We recalled the ambassador for consultations and we have had those consultations,” the spokesman said. “The balance is in favor of retaining a limited presence in Damascus.”
The spokesman said the small British diplomatic mission in Damascus was communicating with both members of the regime and the opposition.