China has called for the complete and immediate lifting of unilateral sanctions against Syria, saying the “coercive measures” will hamper the war-ravaged country’s efforts to fight the coronavirus pandemic.
Addressing a video-teleconferencing meeting of the UN Security Council on the situation in Syria on Monday, Zhang Jun, China’s new ambassador to the UN, voiced grave concerns “about the negative impact of unilateral sanctions on countries’ capacity to respond to the pandemic, especially for vulnerable countries like Syria.”
“We call for complete and immediate lifting of unilateral coercive measures,” said Zhang, adding that “civilians and innocent people are suffering severely from those sanctions.”
He expressed Beijing’s support for a call by UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres for the removal of sanctions that are hindering the global fight against the new coronavirus.
“Our position is explained in detail in the recent joint letter to the secretary-general, together with Russia, among others. We hope the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs joins the voice of the secretary-general and high commissioner for human rights in this regard,” said Zhang.
Syria’s Health Ministry on Sunday confirmed the country’s first death resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic as the country’s fragile health system reels from nine years of foreign-backed war and sanctions.
The ministry also confirmed four new coronavirus cases, raising the total number of cases to 10 in the country.
The country is scrambling to counter the spread of the coronavirus outbreak by adopting numerous measures such as postponing parliamentary elections and suspending the work of certain public institutions and services.
More than 786,000 people worldwide have so far been infected with the novel coronavirus, COVID-19, and some 37,832 have died, according to a running count by worldometers.info.
Since the onset of the Syria crisis in 2011, the US, the European Union and some Arab states — which have been supporting militant groups in their fight against the Syrian government — have imposed draconian sanctions against the Arab country over what they claim to be sponsoring terror and attacking civilians.
‘Syrians should decide their own fate’
Elsewhere in his remarks, the Chinese envoy hailed a recent ceasefire agreement between Russia and Turkey to halt an escalation in northern Syria, saying the deal had significantly improved the security situation in the region.
On March 5, Russia and Turkey, which support opposite sides in the Syrian conflict, came to an agreement on a ceasefire regime in Idlib, where Turkish aggression against the Syrian government had risked starting a war.
The ceasefire came a few months after the Syrian army launched an anti-terror operation against foreign-sponsored militants after they failed to honor a de-escalation agreement between Ankara and Moscow.
The Chinese diplomat further reiterated his country’s support for a “political solution to the conflict in Syria,” saying “the future of the country must be decided by the Syrian people, without foreign interference.”
He praised “the painstaking efforts” of Geir Pedersen, UN Special Envoy for Syria “encourage him to continue facilitating dialogue between the Syrian parties, toward an inclusive Syrian-led and Syrian-owned political process” in line with UN resolutions.