UPDATE 1-Italian, Greek shippers behind flow of gasoil to Syria

(Adds background) LONDON, March 5 (Reuters) - Italian and Greek shippers have delivered around 112,000 tonnes of badly needed gasoil to the port of Banias in Syria in February, according to data provided by a shipper and confirmed using satellite tracking data. Syria has been cut off from its usual suppliers of refined products because of sanctions imposed by the European Union on its state oil trading and distribution companies. However, it is not illegal to deliver fuels like gasoil to Syria as it is needed to keep the economy afloat, and at least one Italian and one Greek shipping firm is still sending vessels to Syria. Delivering fuel is, however, seen as controversial as it can be used to power heavy vehicles like those used by the army. Most of the gasoil delivered to Syria arrived from neighbouring countries Lebanon and Turkey, as the flow of fuel from the terminal of Kulevi in Georgia has slowed since the start of the year. The stream of deliveries has gathered pace since the start of the year, when an economic plan by the Syrian government to liberalise imports of basic goods like grains and fuel was implemented. In January, senior Syrian officials said Syria had started to allow private firms to import fuel and planned to eliminate tariffs on many basic commodities to cope with shortages, soaring prices and misery in the midst of a civil war. (Reporting by Jessica Donati; editing by James Jukwey)

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