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Map of Syria
Introduction Syria
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:
contiguous zone: 41 NM
territorial sea: 35 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, Hazardous Wastes, Nuclear Test Ban, 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
17,155,814 (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.)
Age structure:
0-14 years: 39.3% (male 3,467,267; female 3,264,639)
15-64 years: 57.5% (male 5,052,841; female 4,817,662)
65 years and over: 3.2% (male 267,803; female 285,602) (2002 est.)
Population growth rate:
2.5% (2002 est.)
Birth rate:
30.11 births/1,000 population (2002 est.)
Death rate:
5.12 deaths/1,000 population (2002 est.)
Net migration rate:
0 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2002 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: 0.94 male(s)/female
total population: 1.05 male(s)/female (2002 est.)
Infant mortality rate:
32.73 deaths/1,000 live births (2002 est.)
Life expectancy at birth:
total population: 69.08 years
female: 70.32 years (2002 est.)
male: 67.9 years
Total fertility rate:
3.84 children born/woman (2002 est.)
HIV/AIDS - adult prevalence rate:
0.01% (1999 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: 70.8%
male: 85.7%
female: 55.8% (1997 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 Mustafa MIRU (since 13 March 2000), 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 Hafez 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 30 November-1 December 1998 (next to be held NA 2002)
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 the Ba'th Party, ASU, Arab Socialist Party, Socialist Unionist Democratic Party, ASP, SCP) [President Bashar al-ASAD, chairman]; Arab Socialist Renaissance (Ba'th) Party (governing party) [President Bashar al-ASAD, secretary general]; Syrian Arab Socialist Party or ASP [Safwan KOUDSI]; 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 Rustum al-ZU'BI
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 Theodore H. KATTOUF
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 slower than its 2.5% annual population growth rate, causing a persistent decline in per capita GDP. President Bashar AL-ASAD has made little progress on the economic front after one year in office, but does appear willing to permit a gradual strengthening of the private sector. His most obvious accomplishment to this end was the recent passage of legislation allowing private banks to operate in Syria, although a private banking sector will take years and further government cooperation to develop. ASAD's recent cabinet reshuffle may improve his chances of implementing further growth-oriented policies, although external factors such as the international war on terrorism, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and downturn in oil prices could weaken the foreign investment and government revenues Syria needs to flourish. 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 - $54.2 billion (2001 est.)
GDP - real growth rate:
2% (2001 est.)
GDP - per capita:
purchasing power parity - $3,200 (2001 est.)
GDP - composition by sector:
agriculture: 27%
industry: 23%
services: 50% (2000 est.)
Population below poverty line:
Household income or consumption by percentage share:
lowest 10%: NA%
highest 10%: NA%
Inflation rate (consumer prices):
0.3% (2001 est.)
Labor force:
4.7 million (1998 est.)
Labor force - by occupation:
agriculture 40%, industry 20%, services 40% (1996 est.)
Unemployment rate:
20% (2000 est.)
revenues: $5 billion
expenditures: $7 billion, including capital expenditures of $NA (2001 est.)
petroleum, textiles, food processing, beverages, tobacco, phosphate rock mining
Industrial production growth rate:
Electricity - production:
19.7 billion kWh (2000)
Electricity - production by source:
fossil fuel: 64%
hydro: 36%
other: 0% (2000)
nuclear: 0%
Electricity - consumption:
17.671 billion kWh (2000)
Electricity - exports:
650 million kWh (2000)
Electricity - imports:
0 kWh (2000)
Agriculture - products:
wheat, barley, cotton, lentils, chickpeas, olives, sugar beets; beef, mutton, eggs, poultry, milk
$5 billion f.o.b. (2001 est.)
Exports - commodities:
crude oil 68%, textiles 7%, fruits and vegetables 6%, raw cotton 4% (1998 est.)
Exports - partners:
Germany 27%, Italy 12%, France 10%, Turkey 10%, Saudi Arabia 7% (2000 est.)
$4 billion f.o.b. (2001 est.)
Imports - commodities:
machinery and transport equipment 21%, food and livestock 18%, metal and metal products 15%, chemicals and chemical products 10% (2000 est.)
Imports - partners:
Italy 9%, Germany 7%, France 5%, Lebanon 5%, China 4%, South Korea 4%, Turkey 4%, US 4% (2000 est.)
Debt - external:
$22 billion (2001 est.)
Economic aid - recipient:
$199 million (1997 est.)
Syrian pound (SYP)
Currency code:
Exchange rates:
Syrian pounds per US dollar - 51 (December 2001), 46 (2000), 46 (1998), 41.9 (January 1997)
Fiscal year:
calendar year
Communications Syria
Telephones - main lines in use:
1.313 million (1997)
Telephones - mobile cellular:
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: 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 Service Providers (ISPs):
1 (2000)
Internet users:
60,000 (2002)
Transportation Syria
total: 2,750 km
standard gauge: 2,423 km 1.435-m gauge
note: rail link between Syria and Iraq replaced in 2000 (2001)
narrow gauge: 327 km 1.050-m gauge
total: 41,451 km
paved: 9,575 km (including 877 km of expressways)
unpaved: 31,876 km (1997)
870 km (minimal economic importance)
crude oil 1,304 km; petroleum products 515 km
Ports and harbors:
Baniyas, Jablah, Latakia, Tartus
Merchant marine:
total: 143 ships (1,000 GRT or over) totaling 482,985 GRT/702,590 DWT
note: includes some foreign-owned ships registered here as a flag of convenience: Egypt 1, Greece 2, Italy 1, Lebanon 10 (2002 est.)
ships by type: bulk 12, cargo 126, livestock carrier 4, roll on/roll off 1
99 (2001)
Airports - with paved runways:
total: 24
over 3,047 m: 5
2,438 to 3,047 m: 16
under 914 m: 1 (2002)
914 to 1,523 m: 2
Airports - with unpaved runways:
total: 68
1,524 to 2,437 m: 2
914 to 1,523 m: 11
under 914 m: 55 (2002)
7 (2002)
Military Syria
Military branches:
Syrian Arab Army, Syrian Arab Navy, Syrian Arab Air Force (includes Air Defense Forces), Police and Security Force
Military manpower - military age:
19 years of age (2002 est.)
Military manpower - availability:
males age 15-49: 4,550,496 (2002 est.)
Military manpower - fit for military service:
males age 15-49: 2,539,342 (2002 est.)
Military manpower - reaching military age annually:
males: 200,859 (2002 est.)
Military expenditures - dollar figure:
$921 million (FY00 est.); note - based on official budget data that may understate actual spending
Military expenditures - percent of GDP:
5.9% (FY98)
Transnational Issues Syria
Disputes - international:
Golan Heights is Israeli-occupied; 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; Turkey is quick to rebuff any perceived Syrian claim to Hatay province
Illicit drugs:
a transit point for opiates and hashish bound for regional and Western markets

This page was last updated on 19 March 2003