Exclusive: Suffering of Syria caused by US further exacerbated by devastating earthquake: ambassador
Published: Feb 09, 2023 11:01 PM Updated: Feb 09, 2023 10:58 PM
Residents search for victims and survivors amidst the rubble of a collapsed building in the town of Jableh, northwest of the Syrian capital Damascus, on February 8, 2023. Photo: AFP

Residents search for victims and survivors amidst the rubble of a collapsed building in the town of Jableh, northwest of the Syrian capital Damascus, on February 8, 2023. Photo: AFP

The death toll from the devastating earthquake that hit Turkey and Syria is continuing to climb. In an exclusive interview with the Global Times, Mohammed Hasanein Khaddam, Syrian Ambassador to China, said that the roots of Syria's suffering - the US' long-arm jurisdiction - are further exacerbated by the disaster.

The US long-arm jurisdiction wears political glasses, and targets "non-malleable" countries. Even in this shocking humanitarian calamity they failed to depoliticize their attitude, Khaddam said.

The US sanctions "tightened the noose" around the Syrian economy, and split the Syrian banks from the international financial system, so that you cannot trade with other countries and are even unable to buy medication and survival equipment, Khaddam told the Global Times on Thursday.

Syria has faced US sanctions since 1979, which have got worse since then. This has been their convoluted diplomacy in the Middle East that "succeeded" in keeping the crisis alive for decades, the envoy said. "No wonder it has lost its credibility in the region even with its friends there."

Unfortunately, the situation is really difficult and painful amid the earthquake, and the Syrian government mobilized all available resources for the afflicted areas, but the catastrophe is widespread, Khaddam said.

"Many people are still under the rubble," he said. Buildings and infrastructure have been hit hard. Tens of thousands became homeless because large numbers of buildings are dilapidated and uninhabitable due to the first quake and the aftershocks, so the number of deaths is in the thousands and on the rise, with hospitals and medical centers overstretched.

The Syrian government issued on the first day of the catastrophe an appeal calling on all countries, international organizations and funds, and governmental and non-governmental organizations to extend emergency assistance, especially search and rescue machinery and equipment, the ambassador said. "The first priority is saving, then curing, sheltering and providing survivability means. Of course we feel deeply touched and grateful to all countries that sent condolences and provided or offered assistance."

Fresh snowfall in Syria on Wednesday has compounded the already desperate situation faced by millions of people whose lives have been affected by the earthquake disaster, said the UN's top humanitarian official in the country.

On Wednesday, China urged the US to put aside its geopolitical obsession and immediately lift unilateral sanctions on Syria since Washington's long-term involvement in the Syrian crisis with military intervention and economic sanctions has resulted in a large number of civilian casualties and difficulties in economic development and the reconstruction process in the country.

The US should open the door to humanitarian aid in face of the catastrophe, the Chinese Foreign Ministry said.

Throughout the Syrian war, the US nourished and fostered terrorist groups and used them as tools to destroy Syria. The US has also been stealing Syrian oil and agricultural products, which incurred losses totaling more than $110 billion, in addition to imposing a blockade to suffocate the economy, the envoy said.

"This, no doubt, shows the roots of our suffering which is further exacerbated by the earthquake. These sanctions are deadly under the 'rule-based order'," he said.

In terms of the quick response, many aid agencies in China, both governmental and nongovernmental, announced their intention to provide Syria generously with much-needed aid, the envoy said.

"There are now rescue teams from China on the ground. We also received many heartily compassionate messages and calls of support from the Chinese people, which are deeply overwhelming," he said. "Many Chinese friends answered our call of appeal; many even came to the embassy to offer their compassion, which was truly touching."

The Red Cross Society of China sent the first batch of medical supplies, which will meet the needs of 5,000 people, to the earthquake-stricken area in Syria from Beijing on Thursday morning, the Chinese Foreign Ministry said on Thursday.

Besides the cash and material assistance already announced, China is also speeding up the implementation of food aid programs to Syria, with 220 tons of wheat on the way to Syria and the remaining 3,000 tons of rice and wheat to be shipped in two batches in the near future, the ministry said.

"We feel inundated with compassion, and cannot thank enough these feelings and prompt responses at the official level and from the people, which mirrors the humane soul of the Chinese civilization," Khaddam said.