LONDON: The US has eased sanctions on Syria to speed up delivery of aid to the country’s northwest, which has received almost no humanitarian assistance since Monday’s earthquakes.
The US Treasury issued a 180-day exemption for “transactions related to earthquake relief,” but analysts told The Guardian that the move would have little practical impact in a region badly damaged by conflict and mostly under opposition control.
“I don’t think this will suddenly open the floodgates and allow for unhindered humanitarian access and delivery in Syria,” said Delaney Simon, senior analyst at the International Crisis Group’s US program.
“There are just too many other access issues. But I hope that the license will ease the concerns of financial providers, the private sector, and other actors, to show them that sanctions won’t be a risk for them to engage in Syria.”
Deputy Treasury Secretary Wally Adeyemo said the US government would “not stand in the way of life-saving efforts for the Syrian people.”
Noting that sanctions already contained “robust exemptions” for humanitarian efforts, Adeyemo said the temporary amendment amounted to a “blanket general license” for all earthquake relief efforts.
But Charles Lister, director of the Middle East Institute’s Syria program, said delays in aid are the result of the Syrian regime’s demands to control all deliveries to the region.
“That appears to have virtually crippled the United Nations’ willingness, not ability, but willingness to essentially act forthright and in a bold way, and just provide earthquake recovery anyway, across the border,” he added.
Even so, Lister welcomed the US decision as a means to rebuff efforts by Damascus and its allies to suggest Western sanctions are to blame for delays.