DAMASCUS, Nov. 2 (Xinhua) -- Syria's Minister of Oil Sufian Allaw said Wednesday Syria has reduced its oil production from 380, 000 barrels per day to 280,000 after the recent U.S. and European sanctions on its energy sector, one of the country's few lifelines.
"The imposed sanctions affected the exportation of crude oil and oil derivations to Europe," Allaw told Xinhua in an interview.
The United States and its European allies have slapped sets of sanctions on senior Syrian officials and entities, and called on Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to step down. In September, the European Union agreed to widen the bloc's sanctions against Syria by banning investment in the country's oil sector, citing alleged brutal crackdown on protesters by the Syrian regime. It also reinforced the ban on Syrian crude oil imports.
Oil trade contribute to 28 percent of annual revenue of Syria. About 95 percent of the Syrian exported oil goes to Europe.
"Syria's oil productivity might increase according to the size of exportation and the capacity of storages," the minister said, making it clear that finding new markets is one of the measures the government has currently undertaken to overcome the sanctions.
He expressed hope that the Syrian government will find alternative markets, saying that some companies have already started to sign contracts to export oil.
Syria has sent delegations to companies in India, Indonesia and Malaysia to market the oil, the minister noted.
He said discussions are underway currently with more than 50 world oil companies to export crude oil, adding that the Syrian government has already signed three export contracts that would likely be implemented as of November.
There is no declared ban on importing oil derivatives, the minister said, adding the obstacles are still there, mainly to find tankers and open credits at banks. He said some companies are looking for oil tankers to transport crude oil.
He indicated that the government's losses in gasoline prices reached more than 200 billion Syrian pounds (4 billion U.S. dollars) a year, as the government sells a litre of gasoline at 15 Syrian pounds while it actually costs the government more than 50 pounds.
"We do not have any shortage of oil, and we have good reserves of diesel fuel available," said Allaw, adding that there are complete preparations for the next winter and all citizens' needs are secured as there is no modification in the oil prices.
Syria's oil exports are among the main earners of foreign currency for Syrian economy, which has been hit hard by more than seven months of unrest.
The unrest also affected Syria's sector of tourism that accounted last year for roughly 12 percent of GDP and brought in eight billion dollars in hard currency.
The Syrian crisis has been dragging on for nearly eight months and has become lately the focus of feverish Arab activities. Hopes are high to reach a diplomatic solution that would shun aside the menacing danger of foreign military intervention, but the outlooks are still ambiguous.
The Syrian government blamed the unrest on armed groups and thugs acting out a foreign conspiracy, citing the killing of more than 1,000 army personnel during the turmoil. However, the United Nations estimated that more than 3,000 people had been killed over the past seven months.