The United States has declared a 180-day halt to its sanctions on Syria in an effort to expedite aid deliveries to the country’s northwestern region, where almost no humanitarian help has reached despite the deaths of thousands of people in an earthquake this week.
The quake that killed almost 23,000 people in Syria and neighboring Turkey exacerbated the destruction in Syria’s north, which was already severely ravaged by the civil conflict and is now largely under rebel control, with Bashar al-administration Assad’s present in only a few locations.
Announcing the temporary reprieve to the regime, deputy secretary of the Treasury Wally Adeyemo said: “I want to make very clear that US sanctions in Syria will not stand in the way of life-saving efforts for the Syrian people.”
“While US sanctions programs already contain robust exemptions for humanitarian efforts, today Treasury is issuing a blanket general license to authorize earthquake relief efforts so that those providing assistance can focus on what’s needed most: saving lives and rebuilding.”
Since Washington recognized Syria as a state sponsor of terrorism in 1979, Syria has been subject to US sanctions. The White House tightened the limits further during the Iraq War in 2004 and twice during the outbreak of civil war in 2011, resulting in a deterioration of relations between the Syrian government and the west. In 2019, some of the most severe sanctions were applied.