An investigation has claimed Greek firms are buying phosphates from the regime of Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad, who is attempting to return to EU markets.
The investigation in Politico.eu claimed Greece — which is receiving most of the imports mined from around the city of Palmyra — is “throwing a slender economic lifeline” to the Damascus government.
Phosphate — which is mostly used in fertilizers — is in high demand in the EU, which has a huge agricultural sector.
The Politico report said EU data showed the imports from the Syrian state — which is under international oil sanctions and asset freezes — tripled between December 2017 and April this year.
Although the amounts are small when compared to pre-war exports (when Greece was a large importer), it is claimed this shows Assad’s attempt to return to EU markets.
Production of phosphate has been farmed out to Russian interests and took place after the city of Palmyra was retaken from the Islamic State terror group in 2015.
Politico writes Greece was an opponent of EU sanctions on the material in 2012 but by this April had imported €900,000-worth of phosphate from Syria.
Although no one is clear who is exporting the phosphate, there are fears Greek entities could be faced with penalties if they are found to be doing business with a body on a U.S.-sanctions list.
A Washington attorney quoted by Politico said: “In this case, where phosphates in Syria coming from an entity sanctioned by the U.S. are going to a Greek company, the risk is that the Greek company could itself be designated as a sanctions target and be added to the U.S. sanctions list for dealing with the designated Russian company on a regular basis.”