U.S. sanctions exacerbate situation of quake-hit Syrians: Iranian FM
Search and rescue efforts continue in Salqin district of Idlib, Syria, February 9, 2023. /CFP
Search and rescue efforts continue in Salqin district of Idlib, Syria, February 9, 2023. /CFP

Search and rescue efforts continue in Salqin district of Idlib, Syria, February 9, 2023. /CFP

The Iranian foreign minister on Thursday deplored the U.S. sanctions on Syria, saying they have exacerbated the situation of the quake-stricken people in the Arab country.

Hossein Amir-Abdollahian made the remarks in a phone call with President of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) Mirjana Spoljaric, in which the two sides discussed the latest rescue and relief operations in quake-hit Syria and Türkiye, said a statement published by the Iranian Foreign Ministry on its website.

Amir-Abdollahian described the humanitarian situation in Syria as "very difficult," calling for more attention from the international community to Syria's "special" conditions.

For her part, Spoljaric said the ICRC will take extensive measures to assess the quake-hit people's conditions in Syria.

Iran has so far sent five batches of humanitarian aid to Syria, according to the Iranian Embassy in Syria.

On Monday, Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Nasser Kanaani called for pressuring the United States to lift sanctions on Syria to enable the delivery of international aid to the quake-hit regions in Syria, reported the semi-official Mehr news agency.

The frequent U.S. military interventions and harsh economic sanctions on Syria have caused great civilian casualties, cutting the Syrian people off from basic necessities of life and blocking the country's economic development and reconstruction. 

The Western sanctions on Syrian government have also made the rebel-held Idlib in northern Syria become the only place where international aids can enter the war-torn country through southern Türkiye. At present, the earthquakes caused damages to roads and other infrastructure in southern Türkiye, thus stalling aid from reaching northern Syria.

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The U.S. sanctions were also blamed by Syria's health minister as having worsened the Arab country's medical sector.

The suffering of the Syrian medical sector is not a result of the recent massive earthquake that hit the country on Monday but rather the Western sanctions - including U.S. sanctions- imposed on Syria for 12 years, Hassan al-Ghabbash said at a press conference on Thursday.

"We are determined to provide services to Syrian citizens despite all the circumstances and challenges, and the Syrian state has largely succeeded," he said.

Al-Ghabbash added that the shortfall caused by Western sanctions would be made up through the concerted efforts of private sector institutions, trade unions, non-governmental organizations and civil society.

The minister called on the United Nations, the International Committee of the Red Cross and other international organizations to provide assistance to Syria to deal with the disaster.

In response to requests from the Syrian side, the Red Cross Society of China has sent a team of rescue workers and pledged to ship the first batch of medical supplies, which is expected to meet the needs of 5,000 people.

A catastrophic 7.7-magnitude earthquake and its aftershocks struck southern Türkiye and northern Syria on Monday, killing at least 20,000 and injuring tens of thousands in both countries so far, according to the latest statistics.

(With input from Xinhua)

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