Middle East

Syrian FM says US sanctions seek to ‘starve the people’

DAMASCUS, Syria (AP) — Syria’s foreign minister accused the United States on Tuesday of allegedly “seeking to starve the people” of Syria by imposing new sanctions and opening the door for “terrorism” to return to the war-torn country.

Walid al-Moallem said the sanctions are a challenge but not impossible to overcome, and insisted that the government will be able to cope with the so-called Caesar Syria Civilian Protection Act — with assistance from friends and allies.

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s government refers to armed opposition fighting it as “terrorism.” The legislation known as the Caesar Act was named after the pseudonym of a Syrian policeman who turned over photographs of thousands of victims of torture by the Assad government.

“The challenges are not easy,” al-Moallem said. “We have already started taking measures to counter these sanctions.”

The latest US sanctions are the most severe yet against Syria, set to target any individual or entity doing business with the Syrian government or supporting its military efforts, including reconstruction, fuel delivery and other sectors. Businessmen close to the Syrian government were added to the sanctions list under the new measures.

The US State Department and Treasury also added the names of Assad, his wife and relatives to the sanctions list, tightening the noose around the inner circle of the ruling family. More names are expected to be announced this summer.

“What we need to do is turn this into an opportunity to develop our national economy, increase self-reliance and deepen the cooperation with friends and allies,” al-Moallem said and added that authorities are “not worried about the Caesar Act despite all the psychological warfare.”

The act, which gained bipartisan support in Congress in December, went into effect this month.

Al-Moallem also said that the sanctions aim to influence the Syrian presidential elections, expected next year, to change Syria’s policy and force it to give up its current alliances with “the resistance” — a reference to Assad’s allies Iran, the militant Lebanon’s Hezbollah group and Palestinian factions.

He said that Assad would remain in power as long as the Syrian people want him to stay.

Al-Moallem dismissed the measures as an “act of the despairing” after the Syrian government forces’ success on the battlefield.

“The real goal of the so-called Caesar Act is to open the door for the return of terrorism as it was in 2011,” he added.


Image: In this Jan. 7, 2020, file photo, Syrian President Bashar Assad listens to Russian President Vladimir Putin during their meeting in Damascus, Syria. The Trump administration is ramping up pressure on Syrian President Bashar Assad and his inner circle with a raft of new economic and travel sanctions for human rights abuses. (Alexei Nikolsky, Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP)

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