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Shell Faces NGO Pressure To Withdraw From Syria

MAY 27, 2011 2:12 P.M. ET

By Iman Dawoud Of DOW JONES NEWSWIRES

LONDON (Dow Jones)–Royal Dutch Shell PLC (RDSB.LN) is coming under pressure in the Netherlands to withdraw from Syria because of the Syrian government’s violent reprisals against pro-democracy demonstrators.

Dutch non-governmental organization IKV Pax Christi is lobbying for Royal Dutch Shell PLC (RDSB.LN) to cease all activities in Syria. The group’s director, Jan Gruiters, will meet with Shell Netherlands President Dick Benschop next month, after the group protested outside Shell headquarters in The Hague, the group’s spokesperson said Thursday.

IKV Pax Christi has also lobbied individual Shell shareholders as part of an ongoing campaign to get the Anglo-Dutch oil company to leave Syria, the spokesperson said.

Shell has exploration interests in two production-sharing contracts in the south of Syria, expiring in 2011 and 2014 respectively. The company said it is monitoring the situation in Syria very closely.

“The safety and security of our staff is our main concern,” Shell said in an e-mail.

In line with advice from several embassies, Shell said it has offered to temporarily relocate dependents of its expatriate staff. The Shell Syria offices remain open, with business continuing as usual. But Shell said it complies with all restrictions that apply to trade and doing business in Syria.

Syria’s geographical location enables it to operate as a significant energy-transit state, though it is only a modest producer. In 2009, it produced 400,000 barrels a day. Syria does have some known reserves in its eastern region bordering Iraq, but those need foreign investment to be developed to their full potential.

The main recipients of Syrian crude oil exports are Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development members in Europe, namely Germany, Italy and France, according to International Energy Agency data.

Syria has this week been placed under European Union economic sanctions. Slamming the move, Syria warned Europe it would lose Syria as a strategic economic partner in the region.

Shell is the second-largest European company in the Syrian oil and gas sector and is a shareholder in Al-Furat Petroleum Company. Shell’s principal operations in Syria are conducted by its subsidiary, Syria Shell Petroleum Development BV, a report by Profundo Economic Research said.

-By Iman Dawoud, Dow Jones Newswires, [email protected], +44 7842 9344

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