Islamabad urges West to lift sanctions on Iran

Published March 21, 2020
This file photo shows Prime Minister Imran Khan with President Hassan Rouhani. — AFP/File
This file photo shows Prime Minister Imran Khan with President Hassan Rouhani. — AFP/File

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Imran Khan on Friday called on the international community to remove sanctions on Iran, enabling the neighbouring country to better deal with the novel coronavirus crisis.

“I would stress and insist the international community to lift the sanctions on Iran. It is very unjust they are dealing with such a large outbreak on one side, and on the other they are facing international sanctions,” said Mr Khan at a press briefing according to AFP.

Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani had last week written letters to his counterparts across the world including Prime Minister Khan informing them how his country’s fight against Covid-19 was being impaired by the US sanctions. He had urged other countries to stop observing the American sanctions against his country. Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif, too, wrote to UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres demanding that the US curbs be removed.

Describing the situation in Iran as “dire”, Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi also called for removal of US sanctions to help Tehran fight the pandemic and save lives. “The entire global community is fighting an unprecedented pandemic. We must, as leaders at time of such great challenge & difficulty, show utmost compassion. Sanctions must be lifted against Iran, in this moment of peril so that it can use its resources to save precious human lives,” Mr Qureshi tweeted.

Citing Iranian statistics, according to which one person in Iran dies from Covid-19 every 10 minutes and 50 others get infected with virus every hour, he said the situation was “dire”. Till Friday, 1,433 people in Iran had lost their lives because of Covid-19 pandemic while 19,644 people had been infected by the virus according to the Iranian health ministry.

Foreign minister says move will help Iran fight COVID-19

Iran’s embassy in Islamabad, meanwhile, in a statement said US sanctions against Iran were obstructing the Iranian efforts to contain the disease and warned that this could imperil the health of citizens of other countries in the region.

“These sanctions are not only against humanitarian norms of international law and judgments of the International Court of Justice, rather depriving of Iran from access to medicine, medical equipment and violates the rights of access to health care and right of life for the people of Iran. In view of its contagious character and quick outbreak of the virus, the sanctions will endanger health security of all the regional countries and the world,” the embassy warned.

The embassy said that Iran despite being among top 10 countries of the world leading in specialized health care was facing shortage of special protective dresses and equipment, which left medical personnel in Iran more vulnerable while confronting this disease and several of them fell victim to it.

Tehran argues that US sanctions deprive Iran of access to its financial resources in the foreign countries and utilization of exports earnings, which in turn impairs production and import of equipment, items and medicines, treatment of patients, transfer of technology and research all of which require huge financial resources.

However, US rejected the Iranian demand for lifting of curbs telling the Iranian leaders that the spread of the coronavirus would not save it from the sanctions that are choking off its oil revenues and isolating its economy. “Our policy of maximum pressure on the regime continues,” said Brian Hook, the US Special Representative for Iranian Affairs, according to Reuters.

The US on Wednesday imposed additional sanctions on Iran targeting nine entities based in South Africa, Hong Kong, and China as well as three Iranian individuals.

Iranian Ambassador to Pakistan Seyed Mohammad Ali Hosseini also wrote a letter to Leader of Opposition in the National Assembly Shahbaz Sharif, urging him to help build pressure for lifting of sanctions.

Published in Dawn, March 21st, 2020

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