Lift economic sanctions against Syrian regime, priests pleads

Father Charbel(Photo: ACN)

A priest in Syria is pleading with Western governments to lift economic sanctions agains the Assad regime. 

Maronite priest Father Charbel Eid Rizkallah told Aid to the Church in Need that the sanctions have added to the hardship brought on by years of civil war. 

"Use all the contacts and opportunities you have to stop the embargo, which is making everything so expensive inside Syria, and this includes finding a solution to Lebanon's financial situation," he said. 

He called not only for prayer but for action by political leaders. 

"Action from outside is necessary before the problem becomes bigger than Lebanon and Syria," he said. 

He added: "Prayers, yes, are needed, but so is political action vis-à-vis those responsible for the financial and political crises that are making things even harder for the victims of the war."

Syria is one of ACN's priority countries.  Since 2011, the charity has supported 900 projects there, including providing medicine, rent money for housing, and repairs to homes and churches.

The country is currently subject to financial sanctions put in place by the European Union (EU). Although the UK has left the EU, it remains privy to these measures until 31 December.

At present, there are import and export restrictions in place, in addition to sanctions on hundreds of officials and dozens of entities, which include a freeze on assets or travel bans. 

The EU last month added eight business people and two entities to the list of those affected by the sanctions. 

"Their activities directly benefited the Assad regime, including through projects located on lands expropriated from persons displaced by the conflict," the EU Council said. 

It added: "The EU sanctions currently in place against Syria also include an oil embargo, restrictions on certain investments, a freeze of the assets of the Syrian central bank held in the EU, and export restrictions on equipment and technology that might be used for internal repression, as well as on equipment and technology for the monitoring or interception of internet or telephone communications."