Carter Center Calls for Extension of Earthquake-related Exception to Sanctions on Syria


ATLANTA (July 31, 2023) — In the wake of the devastating earthquake that struck Syria and Turkey earlier this year, the U.S. government released General License 23 (GL 23), a humanitarian exception to sanctions on Syria, to allow for aid to reach those in need. This exception took effect Feb. 9, 2023, for a period of 180 days.

This humanitarian carveout will expire Aug. 8. The Carter Center calls on the U.S. government to extend the exception, ideally following Switzerland’s model of an open-ended timeline. This would follow the precedent of other U.S. general licenses that have been open-ended.

Such an extension is crucial to maximize the impact and reach of humanitarian efforts and alleviate the suffering of the Syrian people.

The Carter Center recently released a report, Effectiveness of Humanitarian Exceptions to Sanctions: Lessons from the Syria Earthquake, assessing the effects of GL 23. The report documented good results. The move helped by removing obstacles to financial transactions tied to relief efforts. Some banks commended the breadth and clarity of GL 23 in reassuring the financial sector that some earthquake relief-related Syria transactions are permissible. Further, GL 23’s inclusion of non-U.S. actors and clarification from the U.S. Treasury about sending personal remittances have been widely welcomed and seen as impactful.

However, some humanitarian and development experts say the exception’s six-month timeline is insufficient for carrying out all necessary relief efforts. Many relief operations, such as rebuilding hospitals and replacing complex medical equipment, will take years to complete. Moreover, GL 23 does not apply to U.S. export controls and has not been able to address the delays in access to specialized equipment such as excavators and sophisticated medical apparatus.  

Despite these shortcomings, the initial positive impact of GL 23 cannot be ignored, and it remains a welcome and much-needed measure. The Carter Center underscores the importance of extending GL 23 to ensure maximum humanitarian impact and relief across Syria. By adopting an extended and open-ended approach, the U.S. government can demonstrate its commitment to alleviating the suffering of the Syrian people and contribute significantly to the ongoing humanitarian efforts in the region.


مركز كارتر يدعو إلى تمديد الاستثناء الإنساني للعقوبات والمتعلق بالزلزال في سوريا


Contact: In Atlanta, Maria Cartaya,

The Carter Center 
Waging Peace. Fighting Disease. Building Hope. 

A not-for-profit, nongovernmental organization, The Carter Center has helped to improve life for people in over 80 countries by resolving conflicts; advancing democracy, human rights, and economic opportunity; preventing diseases; and improving mental health care. The Carter Center was founded in 1982 by former U.S. President Jimmy Carter and former First Lady Rosalynn Carter, in partnership with Emory University, to advance peace and health worldwide.