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Cablegate: Request for Section 565 Waiver of Prohibition

VZCZCXYZ0006
PP RUEHWEB

DE RUEHDM #0917 3651538
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 301538Z DEC 08
FM AMEMBASSY DAMASCUS
TO SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 5730

UNCLAS DAMASCUS 000917

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

DEPARTMENT FOR NEA/RA, ELA

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: ABLD AFIN AMGT ASUP ECON KBCT PHUM AL SY
SUBJECT: REQUEST FOR SECTION 565 WAIVER OF PROHIBITION
AGAINST CONTRACTING WITH FIRMS THAT COMPLY WITH THE ARAB
LEAGUE BOYCOTT OR DISCRIMINATE ON THE BASIS OF RELIGION

REF: STATE 132944

1. (SBU) We have reviewed the requirements of Section 565 of
the Foreign Relations Authorization Act for 1994 and 1995
(Public Law 1103-236) and reaffirm our position that it is in
the best interest of the United States Government to request
waivers to the Arab League Boycott Compliance Prohibitions
and the provisions of non discrimination on the basis of
religion. The waiver is in the national interest and it is
necessary to carry on post diplomatic functions.

2. (SBU) Waiver of the Arab League Boycott Certification:
Without the waiver of the anti-boycott certification, our
Mission would be unable to obtain essential supplies and
services within the country, either because local firms are
required by law to comply with the boycott and could not sign
the required certification without exposing themselves to
civil and criminal penalties, or because an overwhelming
majority of suppliers would refuse to certify, or if the
matter became public, would be prevented or deterred from
certifying.

3. (SBU) Waiver of the Religious Discrimination
Certification: Pervasive SARG controls would intimidate
vendors into non-certification: Without local supplies of
essential goods and services, it would be impractical for
this Mission to carry out diplomatic functions. The 1973
Syrian Constitution requires that the Syrian President be
Muslim. The Syrian government may be considered tolerant
regarding the practice of individual religious beliefs;
however, the reality is that certain religious and ethnic
groups come under more scrutiny than others. Procurement
activities that include a written affirmation that the
contractor does not discriminate on the basis of religion are
problematic. While we have no evidence that local
businessmen discriminate in their business dealings, in light
of the regime's sensitivity to issues related to religion and
ethnicity, no local businessman would sign a written
certification proclaiming non-discrimination, particularly in
regards to the Jewish faith or Israel. Syria has not signed
a peace agreement with Israel and public sentiment about
Israeli-occupied territories in the Golan area remains strong.

4. (SBU) Signing the non-discrimination statement would
likely cause unwanted and undue scrutiny: The SARG maintains
close observation of individuals who are associated with the
Embassy and government security services routinely interview
these individuals. Any statement placing the businessman or
family in a potentially difficult situation with the
government must be avoided.

5. (SBU) Therefore, Embassy Damascus requersts a waiver of
the Arab League Boycott Certification and Non-Discrimination
Clause of section 565.
CONNELLY

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