Syrian pound soars as regime nears Ghouta takeover

Syria pro-government forces drive past destroyed buildings in Eastern Ghouta on April 3, 2018

Damascus (AFP) – The Syrian pound has appreciated around 10 percent against the US dollar in recent days, as rebel fighters quit their final stronghold of Eastern Ghouta on the edges of the capital.

The unofficial exchange rate in the capital was at 430 Syrian pounds per dollar on Wednesday, compared with 460 pounds the previous week.

When Syria’s conflict first erupted in 2011, the currency was valued at 48 Syrian pounds per dollar but it has depreciated dramatically since then.

The pound hit its highest value in years on Monday morning, according to the Al-Watan Syrian daily, reaching 405 pounds per dollar just as a new deal for Eastern Ghouta began to be implemented.

The official exchange rate is still at 436 pounds per dollar.

On Monday, rebels and civilians began evacuating the town of Douma, the final opposition-held pocket of the Ghouta enclave.

Rebel fighters had held Ghouta since 2012, and recapturing it will mark a major victory for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

“The psychological factor has no doubt tipped the balance, especially in light of the most recent deal reached in Ghouta,” Syrian economic analyst Firas Haddad told AFP.

The pull-outs came under a deal announced Friday between regime backer Russia and rebel group Jaish al-Islam, which controls Douma. 

The first evacuations saw 1,100 people leave Douma for the opposition-held town of Jarabulus in northern Syria, and another 1,200 were bussed out the following day.

Evacuations were under way for a third day on Wednesday, according to Syrian state media.

Government troops have recaptured more than 95 percent of Ghouta after a weeks-long bombing blitz and three sets of negotiated withdrawals.