Syria rations fuel supplies after Suez Canal closure

War-torn country was already suffering from fuel shortages because of sanctions

FILE PHOTO: Cars stand in line at a gasoline station as they wait to fuel up in Aleppo, Syria April 11, 2019. Picture taken April 11, 2019. REUTERS/Omar Sanadiki/File Photo
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Syria is rationing the distribution of fuel in the country amid concerns that shipments could be delayed because Egypt's Suez Canal was blocked by a giant cargo ship, the oil ministry said.

The container ship was stuck sideways in the Suez Canal at the weekend, as authorities prepared to make new attempts to free the vessel and reopen the crucial east-west waterway for global shipping.

Even before the Ever Given ran aground, Syria was suffering from fuel shortages mostly caused by western sanctions.

The country has long struggled with deteriorating economic conditions and shortages of basic goods and medicine. Syrians are forced to wait in lines to buy subsidised bread and fuel.

The oil ministry said fuel was being rationed to allow basic services such as Syria's hospitals, bakeries and water facilities to continue to function while the canal remained blocked.

Earlier this year, the Syrian government raised the price of fuel, including fuel products that had been subsidised, by more than 50 per cent. It also raised the price of cooking gas.

Nearly 80 per cent of Syrians live in poverty, and 60 per cent are food insecure – the worst food security situation yet seen in Syria, according to the United Nations.

A decade of conflict has devastated the Syrian economy, isolated its government and displaced millions of its people.

The pandemic restrictions put increased pressure on the economy, compounded by the financial crisis in neighbouring Lebanon, which has been a bridge to Syria economically and financially.