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August 2013



Syria, located in the Middle East, bordering the Mediterranean Sea, between Lebanon and Turkey is slightly larger than North Dakota. With a climate that is mostly desert, its capital, Damascus periodically sees snow or sleet. The terrain of Syria is primarily semiarid and desert plateau with a narrow coastal plain and mountains in the west.

Following World War I, France acquired a mandate over the northern portion of the former Ottoman Empire province of Syria; France granted it independence in 1946. Syria united with Egypt in February 1958 to form the United Arab Republic. In September 1961, the two entities separated, and the Syrian Arab Republic was reestablished. In November 1970, Hafiz al-Asad, a member of the socialist Ba'th Party and the minority Alawi sect, seized power in a bloodless coup. In the 1967 Arab-Israeli War, Syria lost the Golan Heights to Israel.

During the 1990s, Syria and Israel held occasional peace talks over its return. Following the death of President al-Asad, his son, Bashar al-Asad, was approved as president by popular referendum in July 2000. In May 2007 Bashar al-Asad's second term as president was approved by popular referendum. Antigovernment protests broke out in the southern province of Dar'a in March 2011. Since then demonstrations and unrest have spread to nearly every city in Syria. Lakhdar Brahimi, current Joint Special Representative of the United Nations and the League of Arab States on the Syrian crisis, in October 2012 began meeting with regional heads of state to assist in brokering a cease-fire. In December 2012, the National Coalition of Syrian Revolution and Opposition Forces was recognized by more than 130 countries.

The natural resources of Syria include: petroleum, phosphates, chrome and manganese ores, asphalt, iron ore, rock salt, marble, gypsum, and hydropower. Syria's natural hazards include dust storms and sandstorms. Damascus - located at an oasis fed by the Barada River - is thought to be one of the world's oldest continuously inhabited cities.

CIA World Factbook, 7/2013

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