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In 2011, an uprising was launched against President Bashar al-Assad and the Ba’athist regime, leading to a brutal civil war which remains ongoing. The war has destroyed assets and essential infrastructure – crippling the key oil and agriculture sectors – and forced almost half of the Syrian population to leave their homes. The Arab League, the US and the European Union have imposed sanctions on the country to deter investors from conducting business with Syria. Consequently, most of Syria’s law firms are unable to provide full legal advisory services; although most have largely domestic practices, the lawyers have seen a significant reduction in the flow of international instructions. Some firms have shut down offices and others have relocated away from the capital, Damascus. For example, Sultans Law’s managing partner Samer Sultan is currently based in Cairo, while Karawani Law Firm assists clients from its office in Dubai.

Al-Ahmar & Partners, Attorneys and Legal Advisors in association with Amereller Rechtsanwälte advises on corporate and commercial law, particularly involving technology transfers, the establishment of agency and distribution structures or joint ventures. The team has extensive public tender, IP and licensing experience, particularly with regard to telecoms and IT, and also represents foreign clients in litigation and arbitration.

Hakim Law Firm has assisted with the drafting of several laws in Syria and has longstanding experience in outbound and domestic M&A. The firm also advises on general corporate matters, including the incorporation, licensing and registration of international branch offices. It also handles contentious and non-contentious issues relating to commercial agreements. Clients include PricewaterhouseCoopers.

Sarkis Attorneys at Law is the largest integrated law firm in Syria, covering contentious and non-contentious matters. The firm is ‘excellent for litigation preparation and strategy, as well as advising on sensitive legal or social issues’, and, ‘on a day-to-day basis, the practice is unfailingly responsive’. The firm has particular strength in finance-related work, dispute resolution and restructuring, as well as public and administrative law. It acts for private banks, insurance companies and financial intermediaries, as well as corporations, among them Bank Audi Syria, Air France, Banque Libano-Francaise and Solidarity Insurance. Senior partner Fadi Sarkis is ‘invaluable for liaising with and managing clients in the region’; ‘he is a reliable, creative and quick-thinking adviser; he has an inside track on developments in Syria and is highly knowledgeable on geopolitical and legal issues in the wider Middle East’.

International Legal Bureau has developed a name for its corporate and commercial advice. The practice also fields specialists in tourism, IP, banking and finance, and arbitration.

Karawani Law Firm has extensive experience in corporate restructuring, corporate recovery and insolvency throughout the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region, leveraging its additional office in Dubai and its membership of the MENA City Lawyers network. The practice also handles cross-border M&A, public takeovers and IPOs. Founding partner Osama Karawani has advised on the establishment of large real estate and tourism projects; acted in the setting up of private aviation companies; and assisted banks with financings. His broad experience also includes construction law and oil and gas.

Sultans Law has offices in Damascus, Aleppo and Cairo. The firm handles domestic and international M&A, joint ventures, private equity and fund formation. Contentious experience includes corporate, partnership and shareholder disputes, as well as fraud, debt recovery or labour law cases. The team has also developed specialist expertise in property disputes. The firm has a significant international arbitration practice, which has experience in enforcing arbitral awards against private entities, foreign governments and government bodies. Cairo-based managing partner Samer Sultan heads the dispute resolution practice, where his clients include Tiryaki Agro, Turkey’s leading agribusiness company, and Picanol, the Belgium-based global textiles supplier. He also acts for multinationals that invest or operate in Egypt or Syria. He advised Coca-Cola Export on a multimillion-dollar acquisition of a substantial stake in a Middle Eastern beverage manufacturer and acted for a strategic shareholder of Kuwait Financial House in a high-value acquisition of a large development project.

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