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At UN, China calls for sanctions on quake-hit Syria to be lifted

People stand on rubble as the search for survivors continues, in the aftermath of an earthquake, in Aleppo, Syria, on February 9, 2023. (Photo by Reuters)

China has called for the immediate lifting of unilateral sanctions on Syria in the wake of a devastating earthquake in the Arab country.  

Speaking at a meeting on children and armed conflict at the UN Security Council on Monday, Zhang Jun, China’s permanent representative to the United Nations said it was a “harsh reality” that unilateral sanctions were seriously damaging the economic foundation and development of affected countries and depriving many children of their fundamental rights.

The envoy said “illegal unilateral sanctions” on Syria caused a serious shortage of rescue equipment, and expressed concern that children trapped under the rubble might not be rescued in time.

“We once again urge countries to lift all illegal unilateral sanctions immediately and unconditionally. We urge them not to be accomplices of natural disasters, not to rob children of their hope of survival and not to engage in hypocritical political acts.”

Zhang said children were the most innocent group and the most vulnerable victims in armed conflicts, and stressed that conflict prevention and resolution had to be the primary and ultimate means of protecting them. He emphasized the need for countries to act according to the UN Charter and follow the rule of law in preventing conflict.

Elsewhere in his remarks, the Chinese envoy also urged “the last country in the world” that had not ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child to act without delay, so the “vital convention can truly achieve universal coverage.” The United States remains the only country that has not ratified the convention.

The development came as the death toll from the 7.8-magnitude earthquake that struck Turkey and neighboring Syria on February 6 has approached than 36,000.

As rescue efforts continue in the war-torn Syria following massive earthquakes there, calls are growing for the US and its allies to remove their sanctions, which are hampering international aid efforts in the country.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Mao Ning recently urged the US to remove its unilateral sanctions on Syria and provide convenience for humanitarian assistance to the quake-hit regions in the Arab country.

Mao said the US was to blame for the Syrian crisis with its military interventions and harsh economic sanctions, which have caused a large number of civilian casualties and made it difficult for people to obtain basic living standards.

Syria has been a target of US sanctions since 1979. Since the start of the Syrian conflict in 2011, the US and its Western allies have dramatically tightened their economic sanctions and restrictions on the Arab country. The US sanctions intensified with the passing of the Caesar Act in 2019, which targeted any individual and business that participated in reconstruction efforts in Syria either directly or indirectly.

Earlier, the Syrian Foreign Ministry said the US sanctions were blocking humanitarian work in Syria. In a statement, the ministry said that Syrians, while dealing with the earthquake catastrophe, were digging through the rubble with their own hands or using the simplest tools because equipment to remove the rubble was banned by the US sanctions.

It said that the Syrians were are also denied access to medicines and medical equipment that would help them fend off diseases and health hazards.

During a meeting with Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator at the United Nations Martin Griffiths and an accompanying delegation in the Syrian capital city of Damascus on Tuesday, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad discussed the aftermath of last week’s deadly earthquake in the worst-affected areas of Latakia, Hama, Aleppo and Idlib.

Syria has been in the throes of foreign-backed militancy since March 2011. While the Takfiri Daesh terrorist group has been defeated, militant outfits continue to hold sway in some parts of the country under the patronage of Western powers.

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