Iran, Syria call for lifting sanctions during pandemic
DAMASCUS, Syria (AP) — Iran’s foreign minister used a meeting with Syrian President Bashar Assad Monday to call on the U.S. to lift sanctions imposed on both countries, during his first visit to the war-ravaged country in a year.
Iran has been a close ally of Assad in Syria’s long and bloody nine-year-long civil war, lending his government in Damascus vital military and economic support.
The remarks made by Mohammad Javad Zarif during the meeting with Assad were reported by Syria’s state-run news agency SANA.
Zarif said America had shown its inhumane face to the world by refusing to lift sanctions during the pandemic.
A photo of the meeting released by SANA showed Assad wearing a face mask while Zarif had also put on a mask and blue gloves.
Iran is facing one the worst outbreaks in the Middle East with 83,500 confirmed cases of the coronavirus, and more than 5,200 deaths from the Covid-19 illness it causes. Syria has reported only 39 cases of the virus and two deaths.
Iran began Monday a gradual easing of its lockdown to stimulate its sanctions-choked economy, gambling that it has brought under control its coronavirus outbreak.
Assad expressed his condolences to Iran over the deaths caused by coronavirus during the meeting Monday.
The Syrian leader said that the pandemic was being used for “political exploitation” by the U.S. and its allies, according to SANA.
Syria and Iran are both under American sanctions that they both say are affecting their fight against the virus by limiting some humanitarian imports.
Iran’s Foreign Ministry said on Sunday that Zarif will discuss with Assad and other Syrian officials bilateral relations and developments in the region.
Russia, Iran and Turkey, who back rival groups in Syria’s conflict, have been sponsoring talks in Kazakhstan to try to end the conflict that has killed nearly half a million people.
Associated Press writer Basem Mroue contributed reporting from Beirut.