Because of the earthquakes in Turkey and Syria, humanitarian aid is coming to the region from all over the world. But the international and US sanctions against Syria are hampering this process. China is now demanding that the restrictions be lifted – the USA denies wrongdoing.
Earlier in the week, a series of catastrophic earthquakes killed more than 15,000 people in Turkey and Syria. The Foreign Ministry in Damascus announced on Tuesday that the Syrian population no longer had access to the necessary equipment due to the numerous sanctions. Sometimes you dig through the rubble with your bare hands because the equipment for this is forbidden, the ministry emphasizes. Civil protection would need twice as long as usual in earthquakes to reach buried people.
Great willingness to donate for disaster areas – but donations for Syria are blocked
Although there are broad exceptions to sanctions for humanitarian aid, such as food and medicine deliveries, aid organizations still face problems. They risk penalties for direct or indirect cooperation, for example with companies that support the Assad government. In this regard, China’s foreign ministry called on the US to lift sanctions on Syria and open the gates to humanitarian aid.
During her daily briefing, Mao Ning, spokeswoman for the People’s Republic of China’s Foreign Ministry, referred not only to the devastating natural disaster but also to the years of war and unrest that have plunged Syria into a terrible humanitarian crisis. In particular, she highlighted the harsh economic sanctions imposed by the US, which have resulted in major civilian casualties and deprived Syrians of their means of livelihood. In view of the catastrophe, the US should put aside its geopolitical obsessions and immediately lift the unilateral sanctions against Syria, Mao said.
The ministry spokeswoman also condemned ongoing US military operations in Syria, stating that American forces are stealing the country’s energy resources at a rapid pace.
“As we speak, US forces continue to occupy Syria’s key oil-producing regions. They have looted more than 80 percent of Syria’s oil production and smuggled and burned Syria’s grain stocks. All of this has compounded the humanitarian crisis in Syria.”
Damascus has repeatedly denounced the US military presence in the country and called for an end to what it saw as an illegal occupation. However, Washington refuses to leave Syria. Nearly 1,000 US soldiers continue to operate in the Kurdish-controlled areas of oil-rich northeastern Syria and in the southern border area, where they work with Arab rebel groups.
Chalid Hbubati, leader of the Syrian Arab Red Crescent, also called for the sanctions to be lifted. According to him, the evacuation process and rescue efforts are limited due to the obstacles arising from the strict sanctions. There is a lack of heavy machinery and equipment to clear the debris. For its part, the Beirut-based Middle East Council of Churches said economic restrictions must not turn into a crime against humanity.
Washington flatly refuses to consider lifting economic sanctions. The State Department insists that all international and U.S. sanctions would allow for exemptions for humanitarian and medical assistance, as well as supplies of food and other essential supplies. The USA would neither withhold aid to Syria itself nor prevent another country from providing it.
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