US exempts Syria earthquake aid from sanctions | earthquake news

The US has issued a six-month sanction waiver for all transactions related to the disaster supply. Syria aid after earthquakes killed more than 22,000 people in the war-torn country and neighboring Turkey.

“I want to make it clear that the US sanctions in Syria will not hinder our efforts to save the lives of the Syrian people,” Deputy Treasury Secretary Wally Adeyemo said after the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC). sanctions issued by the US Treasury Department. exemption on Thursday.

Adeyemo points out that US sanctions have provided waivers for humanitarian efforts, and according to Karam Shaar, a Syrian economist and non-resident scholar at the Middle East Institute, the waivers are close to This will most likely have a “limited positive impact”.

“This makes it easier to send humanitarian aid to Syria,” Shaar told Al Jazeera. “Now you don’t have to prove to OFAC that your transaction is exempt from sanctions. You make the transaction, and then if asked, you need to prove it.”

Simply put, this means that donors and organizations do not need to spend resources and time to demonstrate immunity from sanctions before sending aid.

However, it remains unclear whether it will allay the fears of private organizations that conduct remittances, which often avoid working with Syria for fear they will violate sanctions rules, the analyst said. said.

Much of Syria is under the control of the government of President Bashar al-Assad. The northwest is divided between the de facto land controlled by Turkey and the al-Qaeda-linked Hayat Tahrir al-Sham armed group. The northeastern region of Syria is controlled mainly by US-backed Kurdish groups.

Hundreds of thousands of people across this politically divided region have lost their homes in the wake of Monday’s earthquake.

Himyar Abdul Moughni, country representative at the United Nations Population Fund, told Al Jazeera that Syria has 400 shelters, which can accommodate more than 50,000 people, meaning hundreds of thousands of people are sleeping outdoors in the countryside and on street.

He appealed for urgent help, especially for vulnerable Syrians, including some 90,000 pregnant women.

The US Agency for International Development on Thursday announced Washington has committed $85 million in emergency humanitarian aid to 160 people and 12 dogs it sent to Turkey to help with rescue efforts. .

Personnel and civilians conducting search and rescue operations in Idlib, Syria after the earthquake
Hundreds of thousands of Syrians lost their homes because of the earthquake [Kasim Rammah/Anadolu Agency]

Calling on the US to lift the embargo

Critics of economic sanctions against Syria have called for them to be lifted following the natural disaster.

“It’s time to put politics aside,” Joshua Landis, director of the Center for Middle Eastern Politics at the University of Oklahoma, told Al Jazeera. “The US has imposed very severe sanctions on Syria. Unable to send money to relatives via bank. The US controls all of Syria’s oil, and that means the machines can’t run.”

According to Assaad Al-Achi, head of civil society group Beytna Syria, international sanctions have had “little impact” on humanitarian aid, but they have a “direct impact on remittances and financial transfers.” into this country”.

On Tuesday, the Syrian Arab Red Crescent said US sanctions were hampering rescue and relief operations, and called on President Joe Biden’s administration to lift them.

The Carter Center, among other think tanks, has called on governments to provide the guarantees needed to expedite the delivery of aid. The organization said the step was “necessary to facilitate the flow of assistance to those in need”.

Provide aid without engaging with al-Assad

Damascus also took this opportunity to campaign against the sanctions. Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad said on Tuesday that the sanctions “made the disaster worse”.

However, experts have long pointed to Assad’s use of the very restrictions his administration accuses the West of imposing by targeting opposition groups and areas under his control. Surname. “Assad is doing the same thing with rebel-controlled areas,” Landis said.

Syria’s UN ambassador, Bassam Sabbagh, told United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Monday that the flow of aid to the whole country must be coordinated with the government and channeled through Syria and not across the Turkish border. Turkey. Al-Assad and his veto ally, Russian President Vladimir Putin, have long pressured foreign aid to flow through his territory.

The Western powers so far appear unwilling to meet that demand or re-engage with al-Assad.

ONE UN convoy on Thursday passed for the first time since the earthquake from Turkey into northwestern Syria, delivering much-needed emergency relief.

During a press conference on Monday, US State Department spokesman Ned Price confirmed that Washington will continue to provide aid to Syria. do not engage with al-Assad.

“Reach to[ing] “It would be ironic that a government has been brutal to its own people for decades” to coordinate aid, he said.

US sanctions against the Syrian regime began in 1979 after it occupied Lebanon and was labeled a “state sponsor of terrorism”. The US government has imposed additional sanctions on Mr. al-Assad’s government in response to its violent repression of civilians in 2011 during its crackdown on anti-government protests, then led to the outbreak of civil war.

According to Shaar, the general waiver does not constitute a policy change regarding engagement with al-Assad’s government. Instead, the US “is feeling the pressure it has to deal with the humanitarian crisis in Syria,” he said.

The European Council also imposed sanctions on Syria in 2011. “Syrian sanctions are designed to avoid impeding the delivery of humanitarian assistance,” the council said in a statement. press release in May when extending these measures for another year.

At a press conference in Damascus on Tuesday, the head of the Syrian Arab Red Crescent, Khaled Hboubati, argued that EU sanctions were worsening a “difficult humanitarian situation” and called for Member States to remove them.

“No fuel even to send [aid and rescue] convoys, and this is due to the blockade and sanctions,” he said.

The European Union has so far not announced an easing of its policy in response to the earthquake.


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