Economic sanctions on Syria halt combat against COVID-19: UN envoy

Permanent Representative of the Syrian Arab Republic to the UN in New York Bashar Al-Ja'afari addresses a UN session on April 14, 2018. (Photo by Anadolu Agency)

Syria’s UN ambassador has warned that unilateral and coercive economic sanctions by some countries as part of their "terrorist war" against the Arab country are preventing Syrians from obtaining even their basic needs and hindering efforts by Damascus to contain the COVID-19 pandemic.

Speaking at a United Nations Security Council session on the humanitarian situation in Syria via a video link on Wednesday, Bashar al-Ja’afari called for immediate lifting of the crippling measures without any conditions.

    “The illegitimate economic measures prevent the medical and health bodies in Syria from obtaining the necessary equipment for the test, diagnosis, prevention and treatment of the contagious disease," Syria's official news agency SANA quoted him as saying.

Official figures by Syria's Health Ministry show that as of Thursday, 43 individuals have tested positive for COVID-19 and three others have lost their lives in the war-ravaged Arab country.

Syria has since 1979 been under unilateral and harsh economic sanctions by the United States. Since the spread of the new coronavirus in the Arab country earlier this year, Damascus has also been in great difficulty to obtain necessary medical supplies and equipment from other countries to combat the disease.

    “The sanctions also prevent Syria from importing ventilators, intensive care beds, ambulances, lab equipment, as well as equipment for quarantine centers, health and protection supplies, which are needed by health workers, in addition to cancer drugs and other medical accessories,” Ja’afari added.

The envoy also said member states of the UN Security Council are still exploiting the council as a tool for promoting their foreign policies and for hurting Syria under the guise of their so-called keen interest in the humanitarian situation in the Arab country.

    Reports by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) are biased, and lack credibility; furthermore, they are over-politicized and flagrantly selective in dealing with the humanitarian situation in Syria, Ja'afari said, adding that such reports "are useless and waste of time, effort and resources of the UN."

Syria, in cooperation with friendly countries slapped by similar coercive measures, has to date sent a number of letters to the UN chief secretaries of the Security Council, calling for the immediate removal of these "inhumane measures" which constitute an "economic terrorism," Ja'afari said.

Earlier this month, he sent a letter to the world body, reiterating a call by Damascus for the immediate and unconditional lifting of all the US economic sanctions.
Elsewhere in his remarks, Ja'afari stressed that Syria has been battling a far more dangerous virus, which is terrorism that some countries insist to conceal under the guise of "moderate armed opposition groups" or "non-state armed elements."  

"This virus has many names as 'Hayat Tahrir al-Sham', 'Hurras al-Din', 'Sultan Murad', 'Kataeb al-Zunki', “Maghauer al-Thawra” and many others. This is the virus we are facing for the past nine years,” al-Jaafari said, referring to a number of foreign-backed Takfiri terrorist groups operating inside the Arab country.

Sanctions on Syria hinder battle against COVID-19: Russia        

During the session, Russia's Permanent Representative to the UN Vassily Nebenzia, also via a video link, denounced the economic sanctions imposed on Syria. Such measures, he said, have prevented the Arab country from providing necessary medical supplies and equipment to confront the pandemic.

Russia's UN envoy further said that sanctions slapped by the US, the European Union, Canada and Turkey against Syria also harm both the Syrian economy and people, stressing that the battle against the contagious disease "will not be effective unless Syria restores its sovereignty."

Nebenzia, whose remarks were quoted by the Russia Today website, called on the Western countries to help Syria combat the new coronavirus instead of exploiting the current situation.