ICRC insists on solid sanctions exemptions in quake-hit Syria: Chief
The ICRC chief says the committee encouraged sanctions exemptions in Syria in multilateral formats, including the UN Security Council.
The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) will continue to push for solid exemptions to make sure that the humanitarian response is not delayed in Syria, Director-General Robert Mardini told Sputnik.
"Sanction is always a political decision. From our side at ICRC we always insist to ensure that there are humanitarian exemptions when sanctions are decided among states," Mardini stressed on the sidelines of the 3rd Riyadh International Humanitarian Forum.
The Director-General considered that it is not the committee's role "to say whether sanctions are justified or not" but insisted that the ICRC "will continue to insist on the need to have very solid exemptions in any sanction regime, including the one in Syria to ensure that humanitarian action is not delayed, is not hindered, and there are no obstacles for any imports that would be critical to the survival of [the] civilian population."
Mardini indicated that the ICRC encouraged such exemptions in multilateral formats, including the UN Security Council.
"We advocate in the multilateral space for humanitarian exemptions in sanction regimes and resolutions adopted by the security council at the end of last year to ensure a humanitarian exemption carved out across sanctioned regime is something that was really encouraged by the ICRC behind the scenes," he explained.
He continued, "It's a permanent effort that we do with all countries who decide on sanctions to ensure that sanctions should not hinder or delay the provision of impartial humanitarian work and action."
Mardini highlighted that Syria was already ICRC’s third largest operation before the earthquake with a budget of 170 million Swiss Franks ($183 million), adding, "Now, we decided in this initial phase to revise our appeal. That has reached now 200 million for Syria."
"As our operation unfolds, we will be adjusting, depending on our capacity to implement and cover the needs," the ICRC Director-General pointed out, reiterating that "it's a massive challenge and, the clock is ticking to avoid the next epidemic."
Read more: UN admits: 'We have failed the people in northwest Syria'
Earlier this month, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres stressed that sanctions should not interfere with humanitarian assistance to the Syrians affected by the earthquakes and aftershocks that struck the country.
It is noteworthy that on February 9, the US Treasury Department issued a general license, which authorized for 180 days all transactions related to earthquake relief that would be otherwise prohibited due to unilateral sanctions. However, Syria has dismissed the US sanctions waiver as "misleading".
"While the sanctions waiver is proclaimed to allow the flow of humanitarian aid, the realities on the ground prove the opposite,” the Syrian Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement on February 11.
Despite the US Treasury announcement, only minimal Western aid has reached the quake-hit country.
Read more: WFP chief says militants in northwest Syria blocking access to area