Cablegate: Syria Country Clearance Kenneth Curtain And


DE RUEHDM #0165/01 0511540
P 201540Z FEB 07





E.O. 12958: N/A


1. Embassy Damascus welcomes and grants country clearance for
the proposed visit of Kenneth Curtain and Kristofer Doucette,
Representatives of the U.S. Department of the Treasury, 23-27
February 2007. Travelers will be met and assisted at the
airport, after clearing customs, by an embassy driver, who
will display a sign with the Visitors' names.

2. Control officer and point of contact for this visit is
Economic Officer, Stacey Jones, who can be reached at work:
(963)-(11) 3391-3910; cell: (963) 093-302-143; home:
(963)-(11)371-3279; or embassy fax number: (963)-(11)

3. Action Request: Each visitor must bring a copy of travel
orders or provide fiscal data to cover the costs of the
visit. Costs include, but are not limited to, American and
FSN overtime, border crossing fees, field travel by Embassy
employees, transportation costs for official vehicles, long
distance telephone calls, equipment rentals, representational
events, and other costs directly attributable to the visit.
Upon requesting hotel reservations, visitor should provide a
credit card number to guarantee the reservations and must let
Post know at least 24 hours in advance of any amendment or
cancellation of the reservations to avoid personal credit
card charges. Any hotel cancellation charges will be billed
to the traveler.

4. Persons arriving in Syria on a single entry visa and who
will be staying in excess of 10 days are required to obtain a
"verification stamp" in their passports after their arrival.
Visitors should also confirm onward flight reservations 72
hours prior to departure.

5. Visa Requirement: Every traveler must have a valid Syrian
visa prior to departure for Damascus. The Syrian government
will not/not normally grant airport or border visas.
Travelers should apply for visas well in advance, as
processing time is often slow. Currently, Syrian visas for
Americans can only be issued by the Syrian Embassy in
Washington. Persons traveling on passports bearing an
Israeli visa or entry or exit stamp, or persons born in the
Gaza region or of Gazan descent, will be refused entry to
Syria. The Syrian government rigidly enforces restrictions
on prior travel to Israel. Israeli stamps in passports,
Jordanian entry cachets, or cachets from Egypt or other
countries that suggest prior travel to Israel, may cause
Syrian immigration authorities to refuse the traveler
admission to Syria. Likewise, the absence of entry stamps
from a country adjacent to Israel, which the traveler has
just visited, will cause Syrian immigration officials to
refuse admittance. American citizen travelers suspected of
having traveled to Israel have been detained for questioning.

6. Luggage and Transit: As airlines try to fill flights
completely, the incidences of luggage not Following
passengers onboard have increased, especially when transiting
Europe onto smaller aircraft
bound for Syria. All official travelers are cautioned to
check with their airline at transit points en route to Syria
(e.g., Paris and Amsterdam) to ensure that their luggage
remains with their flight. Post recommends that travelers
from Washington avoid transiting Paris en route to Syria, as
luggage often arrives late. Travelers should include any
essential items in carry-on luggage.

7. Security Requirements: Thank you for providing
confirmation of Mr. Curtain and Mr. Doucette's Top Secret
Clearance. All visitors must receive a briefing from the
regional security office upon arrival.

8. Transportation: An embassy expediter will meet Mr.
Curtain and Mr. Doucette after clearing immigration and
customs and transport them to their hotel. Post will also
arrange for transportation to and from official meetings.

9. Lodging: Two single rooms have been reserved at The Cham
Palace for the nights of 23-26 February 2007. The hotel
phone number is: 963-(11) 223-2300; fax number is 963-(11)
3391-4700. The room rate is USD 90 plus 10 percent service,
plus 11 percent tax per night. This is within per diem and
does include breakfast. The Cham Palace hotel does accept
major credit cards.

10. Communications Support: Long-distance telephone calls

(for official business only) can be placed from the Embassy
if the traveler provides a fund cite or has authorization
from the appropriate agency or section head at Post. The
internet can be accessed through a stand-alone PC in the
Embassy on a first-come, first-served basis. There is no
charge for this service. The internet can also be accessed
from hotels in Damascus by dialing to one of three different
ISP's in Syria. There are also several
internet "cafes" in Damascus.

11. Currency Exchange: Due to local requirements that
non-residents pay their hotel bill in foreign currency, Post
will disburse a full day of per diem in dollars for each
night spent in country. The Embassy Class B Cashier provides
accommodation exchange from dollars to Syrian pounds at the
current rate for institutions, against cash, traveler's
checks, and, with the authorization of the financial
management officer, personal checks. Reverse accommodation
exchange is not authorized, in accordance with Syrian
government regulations. Personal checks cannot be cashed on
the final day of the employee's stay. The last check must be
presented at least one day before departure. Travelers can
also purchase pounds at branches of the Commercial Bank of
Syria. It is illegal to exchange money except at authorized
exchange points (i.e., the Embassy and branches of the
Commercial Bank).

12. Photography: Photography of individuals in uniform
(including police), government buildings, and military
installations is strictly forbidden.

13. Travel to Lebanon: Any official travel to Lebanon from
Syria by U.S. government employees of any nationality is
strictly subject to country clearance from Embassy Beirut.
Unofficial travel to Lebanon of U.S. government employees and
dependents also requires advance clearance both from Embassy
Beirut and from the Department of State.

14. Departure Tax: Syria charges a departure tax of SP200
(approximately $4), payable in SP cash only. Travelers with
diplomatic passports are exempt, but those with official
passports must pay.

15. Health: Health facilities in Damascus are not up to U.S.
or European standards, and facilities outside Damascus are
extremely limited. Only personnel covered under the State
Department's medical program and with a valid medical
clearance for Syria are eligible for medevac at USG cost. It
is recommended that all other travelers have medical
evacuation insurance sufficient to cover evacuation by
chartered air ambulance, or ensure that their agency will
cover the cost.

16. Threat Assessment: Political developments and security
in the Middle East sometimes change quickly. The Embassy was
attacked, without warning, in September 2006, by a small
group of terrorists using automatic gunfire and grenades.
They attempted, unsuccessfully, to detonate a vehicle-borne
improvised explosive device at the rear gate. One local guard
was seriously injured and there was at least one Syrian
fatality in addition to the killing of the four attackers.
Since the attack, the Embassy has taken
additional measures to improve its security posture. In
February 2005, the former Prime Minister of Lebanon was
assassinated in Beirut, prompting the U.S. to recall its
Ambassador to Syria for consultations. There are no plans to
assign a replacement, reflecting the ongoing difficulties in
U.S.-Syrian relations. Government-sanctioned demonstrations
have occasionally included expressions of anti-American or
anti-Western sentiment. Violent mobs attacked three
Scandinavian embassies in February 2006. In general,
Americans in Syria should vary their schedules, avoid large
crowds and gatherings, and report suspicious incidents to the
Regional Security Officer. They should also avoid electronic
financial transactions and should not carry valuables or
large amounts of cash in crowded shopping districts.
Visitors should also read and follow the guidance in the
latest public announcements and
State Department travel advisories for Syria.

© Scoop Media

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