President Obama has eased US sanctions on Sudan, in recognition of Sudan’s improved cooperation with the US including on counter-terrorism, improvements to humanitarian access, and the reduction in its military activity in conflict areas such as Darfur. Under a new general licence published by the US Treasury, several prohibited transactions have been authorised, including transactions involving persons in Sudan, transactions involving property in which the Government of Sudan has an interest, and imports to and from Sudan. The relevant sanctions provisions will be fully revoked on 12 July 2017 provided that the government of Sudan sustains this conduct.
OFAC has published a fact sheet and a new set of FAQs, which note that this action does not authorise transactions prohibited under US sanctions on Darfur or South Sudan. The details and FAQ are here.
President Obama has extended all US sanctions on Russia that were imposed in response to the Ukraine crisis by 1 year, until March 2018 (see notice here). The sanctions were due to expire had the President not renewed the national emergency first declared in respect of Russia’s actions in Ukraine in March 2014.
The leaders of the G7 countries have consistently stated that sanctions on Russia should continue until Russia complies with its obligations under the Minsk peace agreement (see previous blog). However, over the weekend President Elect Donald Trump raised the prospect of lifting sanctions against Russia sooner, saying that while he would keep sanctions against Russia in place “at least for a period of time…if you get along and if Russia is really helping us, why would anybody have sanctions if somebody’s doing some really great things?”. In particular, he appeared to tie lifting sanctions to an agreement from Russia to reduce its stockpile of nuclear arms. In November last year, Russia suspended nuclear cooperation between Russia and the US in response to the sanctions (see previous blog).
OFAC has announced two settlement agreements relating to violations of US sanctions on Iran and Cuba.
Aban Offshore Limited
Aban has agreed to pay $17,500 for violating US sanctions on Iran in 2008 when its Singapore subsidiary ordered oil rig supplies from the US, with the intention of re-exporting them from the UAE to a rig in Iranian territorial waters. OFAC determined that Aban did not voluntarily self-disclose the violation, but that it constituted a non-egregious case. In mitigation, OFAC also noted that Aban displayed substantial cooperation with OFAC’s investigation, including by conducting its own internal investigation into potential prior violations of sanctions. OFAC’s enforcement notice is here.
An individual & Alliance for Responsible Cuba Policy Foundation
OFAC has issued a $10,000 fine to an individual acting in his personal capacity and Alliance, on whose behalf the individual also acted. They are said to have violated US sanctions on Cuba by engaging in unauthorised travel-related transactions during business travel to Cuba in 2010 and 2011. Although OFAC found the individual’s conduct to have been wilful, it noted that the violations appeared to cause minimal harm to US sanctions objectives. OFAC’s enforcement notice is here.
OFAC has designated 18 senior Syrian officials said to be connected to Syria’s weapons of mass destruction programme, and 5 military branches that it has identified as part of the Government of Syria (details here). The designations of the 18 officials follow a joint investigation by the UN and the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, which concluded that the Syrian government was responsible for at least 3 attacks involving chlorine gas. The investigation prompted the UK and France to draft a UN resolution calling for new sanctions on Syria (see previous blog), which has yet to be voted on.
At his confirmation hearing before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Donald Trump’s nominee for Secretary of State Rex Tillerson made several comments relating to US sanctions policy. Although broadly supportive of US sanctions on Russia, he cautioned that they could be harmful to US businesses and should be used sparingly.
He also took a tough line on North Korea, and added that the US could support action against Chinese organisations found to be in breach of sanctions on North Korea. In addition, he raised the possibility of a tougher stance on Iran, saying that “We cannot afford to ignore violations of international accords, as we have done with Iran”. This raises a new question mark over the precise future of JCPOA, which Donald Trump has criticised on several occasions, although it is unlikely that the deal will be revoked (see previous blog).
OFAC has designated 7 North Korean officials and 2 government-controlled entities for being involved in North Korea’s “ongoing and serious human rights abuses and censorship activities”. They include Kim Won Hong, who oversees the Ministry of State Security, which is said to engage in the torture and inhumane treatment of detainees in North Korea’s network of political prison camps, and Kim Yo Jong, Vice Director of North Korea’s Propaganda and Agitation department. The entities are the State Planning Commission and Ministry of Labour, which are said to allocate workers forcibly to specific sectors of the economy. The details are here.
The EU has de-listed Iraq-based entities Medical City Establishment and State Company for Drugs and Medical Appliances from its sanctions on Iraq. The changes implement a UN decision to de-list them at the end of last year.
See Commission Implementing Regulation (EU) 2017/44 amending Council Regulation (EC) 1210/2003.
OFAC has updated its FAQ on US sanctions against Cuba to provide guidance on the “180-day rule” that applies to vessels visiting Cuba (FAQs 86-90, link here), and has also de-listed several people and entities from its Cuba sanctions. The 180-day rule prohibits any vessel that enters a port or place in Cuba with the purpose of trading in goods or services from loading or unloading freight at a US port for 180 days after it leaves Cuba.
The new guidance sets out several exceptions to the 180-day rule, including when the trade was authorised under the Cuban Assets Control Regulations or where the vessel has entered a port for the purpose of licensed educational activities. It stipulates that the exceptions to the 180-day rule do not in and of themselves authorise shipments to or from Cuba.