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Following the breakup of the Ottoman Empire during World War I, France administered Syria until its independence in 1946. The country lacked political stability, however, and experienced a series of military coups during its first decades. Syria united with Egypt in February 1958 to form the United Arab Republic, but in September 1961 the two entities separated and the Syrian Arab Republic was reestablished. In November 1970, Hafiz al-ASAD, a member of the Socialist Ba'th Party and the minority Alawite sect, seized power in a bloodless coup and brought political stability to the country. In the 1967 Arab-Israeli War, Syria lost the Golan Heights to Israel, and over the past decade Syria and Israel have held occasional peace talks over its return. Following the death of President al-ASAD in July 2000, his son, Bashar al-ASAD, was approved as president by popular referendum. Syrian troops - stationed in Lebanon since 1976 in an ostensible peacekeeping role - were withdrawn in April of 2005.


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

Geographic coordinates:

35 00 N, 38 00 E


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

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:

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: 24.8%
permanent crops: 4.47%
other: 70.73% (2005)

Irrigated land:

13,330 sq km (2003)

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

Geography - note:

there are 42 Israeli settlements and civilian land use sites in the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights (August 2005 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 (July 2006 est.)

Age structure:

0-14 years: 37% (male 3,592,915/female 3,384,722)
15-64 years: 59.7% (male 5,779,257/female 5,500,887)
65 years and over: 3.3% (male 296,070/female 327,510) (2006 est.)

Median age:

total: 20.7 years
male: 20.6 years
female: 20.9 years (2006 est.)

Population growth rate:

2.3% (2006 est.)

Birth rate:

27.76 births/1,000 population (2006 est.)

Death rate:

4.81 deaths/1,000 population (2006 est.)

Net migration rate:

0 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2006 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: 0.9 male(s)/female
total population: 1.05 male(s)/female (2006 est.)

Infant mortality rate:

total: 28.61 deaths/1,000 live births
male: 28.85 deaths/1,000 live births
female: 28.36 deaths/1,000 live births (2006 est.)

Life expectancy at birth:

total population: 70.32 years
male: 69.01 years
female: 71.7 years (2006 est.)

Total fertility rate:

3.4 children born/woman (2006 est.)

HIV/AIDS - adult prevalence rate:

less than 0.1% (2001 est.)

people living with HIV/AIDS:

less than 500 (2003 est.)

HIV/AIDS - deaths:

less than 200 (2003 est.)


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.)

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)

Government type:

republic under an authoritarian, military-dominated 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 a combination of French and Ottoman civil law; religious law is used in the family court system; has not accepted compulsory ICJ jurisdiction


18 years of age; universal

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 2-3 March 2003 (next to be held NA 2007)
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

Judicial branch:

Supreme Constitutional Court (adjudicates electoral disputes and rules on constitutionality of laws and decrees; justices appointed for four-year terms by the President); High Judicial Council (appoints and dismisses judges; headed by the President); Court of Cassation (national level); State Security Courts (hear cases related to national security); Personal Status Courts (religious; hear cases related to marriage and divorce); Courts of First Instance (local level; include magistrate, summary, and peace courts)

Economy - overview:

The Syrian Government estimates the economy grew by 4.5 percent in real terms in 2005, led by the petroleum and agricultural sectors, which together account for about half of GDP. Economic performance and the exchange rate on the informal market were hit by international political developments following the assassination in February of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq al-HARIRI and the specter of international sanctions. Higher crude oil prices countered declining oil production and exports and helped to narrow the budget deficit and widen the current account surplus. The Government of Syria has implemented modest economic reforms in the last few years, including cutting interest rates, opening private banks, consolidating some of the multiple exchange rates, and raising prices on some subsidized foodstuffs. Nevertheless, the economy remains highly controlled by the government. Long-run economic constraints include declining oil production and exports, increasing pressure on water supplies caused by rapid population growth, industrial expansion, and water pollution.

GDP (purchasing power parity):

$63.31 billion (2005 est.)

GDP (official exchange rate):

$25.12 billion (2005 est.)

GDP - real growth rate:

4.5% (2005 est.)

GDP - per capita (PPP):

$3,400 (2005 est.)

GDP - composition by sector:

agriculture: 23%
industry: 24%
services: 53% (2004 est.)

Labor force:

5.12 million (2004 est.)

Labor force - by occupation:

agriculture: 30%
industry: 27%
services: 43% (2002 est.)

Unemployment rate:

12.3% (2004 est.)

Population below poverty line:

20% (2004 est.)

Inflation rate (consumer prices):

2.6% (2005 est.)

Investment (gross fixed):

21.1% of GDP (2005 est.)


revenues: $6.392 billion
expenditures: $7.613 billion; including capital expenditures of $3.23 billion (2005 est.)

Public debt:

45% of GDP (2005 est.)

Agriculture - products:

wheat, barley, cotton, lentils, chickpeas, olives, sugar beets; beef, mutton, eggs, poultry, milk


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

Industrial production growth rate:

7% (2002 est.)

Electricity - production:

29.53 billion kWh (2003 est.)

Electricity - consumption:

28.26 billion kWh (2003 est.)

Oil - production:

403,800 bbl/day (2005 est.)

Oil - consumption:

240,000 bbl/day (2004 est.)

Oil - exports:

285,000 bbl/day (2004)

Oil - proved reserves:

2.5 billion bbl (2005 est.)

Natural gas - production:

6.95 billion cu m (2003 est.)

Natural gas - consumption:

6.95 billion cu m (2003 est.)

Natural gas - proved reserves:

240.7 billion cu m (2005)

Current account balance:

$980 million (2005 est.)


$6.344 billion f.o.b. (2005 est.)

Exports - commodities:

crude oil, petroleum products, fruits and vegetables, cotton fiber, clothing, meat and live animals, wheat

Exports - partners:

Italy 22.7%, France 18%, Turkey 12.9%, Iraq 9%, Saudi Arabia 6.2% (2004)


$5.973 billion f.o.b. (2005 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:

Turkey 9.4%, Ukraine 8.7%, China 7.8%, Russia 5.4%, Saudi Arabia 5.2%, US 4.7%, South Korea 4.6%, Italy 4.3% (2004)

Reserves of foreign exchange and gold:

$4.104 billion (2005 est.)

Debt - external:

$8.59 billion; note - excludes military debt and debt to Russia (2005 est.)

Economic aid - recipient:

$180 million (2002 est.)

Currency (code):

Syrian pound (SYP)

Fiscal year:

calendar year

Telephones - main lines in use:

2.66 million (2004)

Telephones - mobile cellular:

2.345 million (2004)

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)

Television broadcast stations:

44 (plus 17 repeaters) (1995)

Internet country code:


Internet hosts:

64 (2005)

Internet users:

800,000 (2005)


92 (2005)

Airports - with paved runways:

total: 26
over 3,047 m: 6
2,438 to 3,047 m: 15
914 to 1,523 m: 3
under 914 m: 2 (2005)

Airports - with unpaved runways:

total: 66
1,524 to 2,437 m: 2
914 to 1,523 m: 10
under 914 m: 54 (2005)


7 (2005)


gas 2,300 km; oil 2,183 km (2004)


total: 2,711 km
standard gauge: 2,460 km 1.435-m gauge
narrow gauge: 251 km 1.050-m gauge (2004)


total: 91,795 km
paved: 18,451 km
unpaved: 73,344 km (2003)


900 km (not economically significant) (2005)

Merchant marine:

total: 114 ships (1000 GRT or over) 397,014 GRT/578,136 DWT
by type: bulk carrier 7, cargo 100, container 1, livestock carrier 4, petroleum tanker 1, roll on/roll off 1
foreign-owned: 12 (Egypt 1, Greece 1, Lebanon 7, Romania 3)
registered in other countries: 104 (Cambodia 11, Comoros 3, Cyprus 2, Dominica 2, Georgia 37, Kiribati 1, North Korea 21, Malta 6, Mongolia 2, Panama 9, Saint Kitts and Nevis 1, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines 5, Slovakia 2, unknown 2) (2005)

Ports and terminals:

Baniyas, Latakia

Military branches:

Syrian Armed Forces: Syrian Arab Army, Syrian Arab Navy, Syrian Arab Air and Air Defense Force (includes Air Defense Command) (2005)

Disputes - international:

Golan Heights is Israeli-occupied with the almost 1,000-strong UN Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF) patrolling a buffer zone since 1964; Lebanon claims Shaba'a farms in Golan Heights; international pressure prompts the removal of Syrian troops and intelligence personnel stationed in Lebanon since October 1976; 2004 Agreement and pending demarcation settles border dispute with Jordan

Refugees and internally displaced persons:

refugees (country of origin): 432,048 (Palestinian Refugees (UNRWA)) 14,391 (Iraq)
IDPs: 170,000 (most displaced from Golan Heights during 1967 Arab-Israeli War) (2005)

Illicit drugs:

a transit point for opiates and hashish bound for regional and Western markets; weak anti-money-laundering controls and bank privatization may leave it vulnerable to money-laundering