US sanctions on Syria not an obstacle to aid delivery: US official

Ahram Online , Wednesday 8 Feb 2023

The US State Department has dismissed claims that sanctions against Syria are obstructing aid efforts following a recent earthquake.

Algerian rescue teams take part in the search and rescue operations in Syria s northern city of Aleppo on February 8, 2023. AFP


Samuel Werberg, the regional spokesman for the US State Department, stressed that the sanctions do not include any restrictions on the delivery of humanitarian aid.

He emphasized in an interview with Al-Hadath Saudi news TV that the US is fully committed to ensuring that the Syrian people receive the necessary aid and that the US is working closely with humanitarian organizations in eastern and northern Syria.

The US has already provided equipment for rescue efforts and will continue to provide all necessary and possible aid to the Syrian people through the United Nations.

The US is currently evaluating the situation at the Syrian Bab Al-Hawa crossing and is determined to assist those affected by the earthquake, he added.

Bab Al-Hawa is a vital border crossing between Syria and Turkey and has been a major transit point for aid deliveries into Syria since the start of the Syrian Civil War in 2011.

Despite its importance, the crossing has been limited by security conditions and restrictions imposed by both the Syrian government and opposition groups operating in the area.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken stated that while the US would work with partners to provide aid in Syria, it would not work with the government of President Bashar Al-Assad, whose government is under Western sanctions over humanitarian abuses during the country's nearly 12-year civil war.

"Any US or international sanctions include humanitarian, medical, food, and other aid exemptions. US President Joe Biden was clear when he said the US was prepared to provide any and all types of aid to the people of Syria, and the US is not preventing any countries from doing so," a State Department official said in a video posted via Twitter following Blinken's statement. 

The Syrian Civil Defense, also known as the White Helmets, have been at the forefront of rescue efforts following the devastating earthquake that has claimed the lives of at least 7,000 people in Syria and Turkey.

However, their efforts have been severely hampered by the refusal of Turkey, Russia and Syria to open up cross-border points for international aid, resulting in food, medicine, and other necessities not reaching those in need.

According to the United Nations, more than 4 million people in northwest Syria require aid, but only half of them receive support each month. The US has been clear in its commitment to providing aid to the people of Syria, regardless of sanctions.

On Wednesday, Syria made an official plea to the European Union (EU) for help following the earthquake.

The EU's commissioner for crisis management, Janez Lenarcic, stated that the European Commission is "encouraging" EU member countries to respond to Syria's request for medical supplies and food.

The EU will also closely monitor the use of any aid given to ensure "it is not diverted" by the sanctioned government in Damascus.

The EU initially offered only minimal assistance to Syria through existing humanitarian programs due to EU sanctions imposed since 2011 on the government of President Bashar Al-Assad.

However, the door was open for Syria's government to ask for earthquake assistance, and now that Damascus has made that move, the commission is asking European countries "to respond favorably to this request".

The participants in the EU's Civil Protection Mechanism, which coordinates aid, comprise the 27 EU countries plus eight neighboring non-EU nations, including Norway and Turkey.


Short link: