ASIA/SYRIA – Letter from the Patriarchs of the Churches of the Middle East to the new American President on the sanctions against the Syrian people

Middle East

Ora pro Siria

Damascus (Agenzia Fides) – The new US President Joe Biden has to lift the economic sanctions that are severely harming Syrian people as an unjustifiable “collective punishment” if he does not want to be complicit in the “humanitarian catastrophe” that is already affecting millions of Syrian people that threatens to trigger a new wave of instability in the Middle East. And this, in summary, is the content of the letter-appeal that authorized representatives of the Churches of the Middle East addressed to the new President of the United States, the day after his official inauguration at the White House. The letter, dated 21 January 2021, was signed by the Syrian Orthodox Patriarch Mor Ignatius Aphrem II, by Syrian Catholic Patriarch Ignace Yussif III Younan, by Melkite Greek Catholic Patriarch Youssef Absi and by Michel Abs, Secretary General of the Middle East Council of Churches (MECC).
After congratulating Biden on the start of his term as the 46th President of the United States of America, the signatories explain their prompt initiative with the desire to obtain from him an “urgent response” to the serious humanitarian crisis underway in Syria. The letter cites the work of Alena Douhan, United Nations Special Rapporteur on the issue of unilateral coercive measures, who at the end of December called for the urgent need to remove the network of sanctions which currently inflict indiscriminate suffering on all the Syrian people. As documented by Alina Douhan, the sanctions “exacerbate the already dire humanitarian situation in Syria, especially in the course of Covid-19 pandemic, by blocking aid, trade and investment necessary for Syria’s health system and economy to function”.
Among the humanitarian operators – the signatories of the letter underline – there is a growing consensus on the fact that “this form of collective punishment of the civilian population is driving Syria into an unprecedented humanitarian catastrophe”. Ten years ago – continues the letter-appeal – Syria was “a breadbasket of the region”, while already last June David Beasley, Executive Director of the World Food Program, had to acknowledge that half of Syrians were in a situation of hunger, a catastrophe which widens with the cold of winter whereas the health system, destroyed during the war, proves to be completely incapable to face the urgency caused by the pandemic.
“We urge you, Mr. President,” the signatories of the letter write, “to help Syrians alleviate a humanitarian crisis that threatens to trigger a new wave of instability in the Middle East and beyond by implementing the United Nations Special Rapporteur’s recommendations. We believe that the legitimate national interests of the United States can be pursued without collectively punishing the people of Syria by means of economic sanctions”. (GV) (Agenzia Fides, 22/1/2021)


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