Western sanctions against Syria block humanitarian relief
Russia strongly opposes sanctions imposed by the US and EU on Syria, which punish ordinary Syrians and prevent the delivery of aid to a country facing an unprecedented humanitarian crisis.
The sanctions and war have severely destabilized the Syrian economy, transforming a once prosperous country into an aid-dependent nation. They block access to aid, particularly medicines. Medical equipment, fuel, food, building materials, are desperately needed today.
A report by the UN Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia describes the sanctions as some of the most complicated and far-reaching ever imposed. For example, sanctions on Syrian banks have made the transfer of money into the country nearly impossible, preventing, among other things, aid groups from paying local staff and suppliers. Pharmaceutical factories that haven’t been destroyed by the fighting have been forced to shut down because of the sanctions-related restrictions on raw materials and foreign currency. US trade restrictions on Syria prescribe items that contain 10 percent or more of US content, including medical equipment, which is banned from sale to Syria.
According to independent reports, the sanctions became the main reason for the shortage of goods and rampant inflation, plunging over 80 percent of Syrians into poverty.
The work of Syrian charities and humanitarian organizations is severely impeded under the pretext that they have links to the people from the so-called inner circle of President Bashar Assad. One can recall the campaign in the British media criticizing the UN for cooperating with the Syrian Government in the distribution of humanitarian aid.
Unfortunately, on March, 20 the EU imposed a new set of sanctions on Syria, showing disregard for the aspirations of the Syrians for the better future. The statements of our Western partners about the need to alleviate the suffering of the Syrian people contradicts their sanction policy. We hope that common sense and compassion will prevail over political and ideological considerations.
The West has been wrong on Syria from start to finish. Maybe, now is the time to bring its narrative in line with reality on the ground and the real needs of Syrians.
Dr Alexander Yakovenko, Russian Ambassador to the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, Deputy foreign minister (2005-2011). Follow him on Twitter @Amb_Yakovenko