US Sanctions Exemptions Facilitate Aid Flow to Terrorists Amid Pandemic, Syrian Ambassador Says

The sanctions imposed by the US on Syria prevent the country from providing its citizens with adequate medical assistance amid the coronavirus pandemic, while the aid provided as part of sanctions exemptions only supports terrorist groups in the north of the country, Syrian Ambassador to the United Nations Bashar Jaafari said.

"These punitive and unlawful measures continue to cause a weakening of the ability of the public and private medical sector in Syria to import medicines and medical materials due to the tight targeting of these unilateral coercive measures of the Syrian banking sector especially in the field of foreign bank transfer," Jaafari said during the "US Sanctions During COVID-19 Pandemic, a Global Threat" webinar broadcast on YouTube.

The Syrian ambassador said that foreign companies refrain from signing contracts with Syrian medical institutions, fearing they will be targeted with sanctions, which, as Jaafari pointed out, are unlawful as they are not endorsed by the UN Security Council.

Jaafari emphasized that all the exemptions that the United States has authorized are not providing any relief as they only lead to the support of terrorist groups.

"These so-called exemptions granted by the US Treasury Department were and are still subject to politicised considerations that lead to the delivery of this aid to areas that are controlled by terrorist armed groups which in turn take over this aid and prevent it from reaching its true beneficiaries with the aim of supporting the positions of these terrorist groups," Jaafari said.

The US administration allows the sending of the so-called humanitarian assistance, which, according to the ambassador, includes weaponry, only to terrorist groups in the north-west and north-east of Syria, Jaafari pointed out.

US Sanctions Meant to Pressure Venezuela Amid Pandemic to Initiate Power Change, Minister Says

US Sanctions imposed on Venezuela have the sole aim of exerting pressure on the country’s leadership, particularly during the coronavirus pandemic, with the aim of initiating a change of government in the country, Carlos Ron Martinez, Venezuela’s Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs for North America said.

"They [US] have launched a military operation, it is the largest military operation in the region in the last 30 years, in order to supposedly combat drug trafficking in our region, but it’s all aimed at building pressure against us in the time of COVID-19," Martinez said during the "US Sanctions During COVID-19 Pandemic, a Global Threat" webinar broadcast on YouTube.

"We know the purpose of these measures [is] undoubtedly regime change," the minister said.

He recalled a letter sent by US Senators Chris Van Hollen and Chris Murphy to US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and US Secretary of the Treasury Steve Mnuchin in March, calling for the easing of sanctions imposed on multiple countries, particularly Venezuela and Iran.

"We understand that the administration has stated that humanitarian and medical needs are exempt from U.S. sanctions, but our sanctions regime is so broad that medical suppliers and relief organizations simply steer clear of doing business in Iran and Venezuela in fear of accidentally getting caught up in the U.S. sanctions web," the letter says.

According to Carlos Ron Martinez, the purchases of food, medical supplies or any other products with government money in Venezuela are very problematic because of US sanctions.

"Any money that comes from the state of Venezuela or the government agencies of Venezuela may be constituted as money that was involved in drug trafficking or was involved in some illegal activity, and that means that anything that we attempt to pay, any transaction that we try to do somehow gets blocked," the minister explained.

According to Martinez, over $9 billion of Venezuelan funds have been blocked on accounts in the United States and other countries.

Meanwhile, in contrast to the US, other countries have extended a helping hand to Venezuela amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

"We have worked with Cuba, … China, Russia, who have shown extreme solidarity with Venezuela … We have received donations of equipments from China and from Russia … we received over 30,000 tests from Russia," Martinez pointed out.

In April, the Office of UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) said that UN human rights experts were calling upon the United States to lift economic sanctions imposed on multiple countries to ensure unhindered functioning of supply chains of medical products during the coronavirus pandemic.

According to OHCHR, the US had ignored repeated calls to waive sanctions that undermine the capacity of targeted countries to respond effectively to the pandemic. The humanitarian exemptions provided by the US Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control on April 16 did not ease the burdensome procedure of getting medical supplies to sanctioned countries, the OHCHR said.