UK imposes fresh round of sanctions on Syrian officials, businessmen

On the 10th anniversary of the beginning of the conflict in Syria, the UK imposed sanctions on five Syrian individuals including the foreign minister, Faisal Mekdad

March 16, 2021 by Peoples Dispatch
The Syrian town of Raqqa in 2017. Photo: By Mahmoud Bali (VOA)

On the 10th anniversary of the Syrian war, the United Kingdom announced sanctions against six Syrian individuals, including the foreign minister Faisal Mekdad, on Monday, March 15. The other five individuals are the commander of the Republican Guards, Malik Aliaa, Army major Zaid Salah, the president’s advisor Luna al-Shibl and two businessmen Yasser Ibrahim qne Muhammad Bara’ Al-Qatirji.

Announcing the sanctions, the UK foreign secretary Dominic Raab said that these individuals are responsible for assaults on the Syrian people. The sanctions would mean assets belonging to these individuals would be frozen and their travel to the UK would be banned.

These sanctions are the first imposed by the UK after it came out of the European Union. The statement issued by the UK government claims that these new sanctions would be in addition to 353 EU sanctions which the UK will continue to implement.

Faisal Mekdad was appointed Syria’s foreign minister in November last year after the death of long-term foreign minister Walid al-Moallem. Most of the other persons named in the UK list are already sanctioned by the US.

The war in Syria broke out a decade ago on March 15, 2011 after security forces tried to suppress the protests demanding political reforms in the country’s southern city of Daraa. The war in Syria has devastated the country, killing around 500,000 people. Over half of Syria’s 23 million pre-war population is displaced, half of them externally. Though the government, with the help of Russia and Iran, has regained most of the territories it had lost in the initial years of war to rebel forces supported by Turkey and some other states in the region, most of its physical and administrative infrastructure is in ruins today.

Syria is already facing numerous unilateral sanctions from countries such as the US and European Union which is making the reconstruction of the country difficult. Following the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, the UN and other international organizations have raised concerns about the negative impact of these unilateral sanctions on Syrian efforts to rebuild the country and revive the economy. These organizations have demanded the withdrawal of such sanctions. However, citing alleged human rights violations by the Syrian regime led by the Bashar al-Assad government, both the EU and the US have imposed fresh sanctions in recent months.

In the latest round of its sanctions regime against Syria, the US Congress had passed Caesar Act in June last year putting numerous Syrian business and military entities, including president Bashar al-Assad under them.

The Syrian government has called all such sanctions in the past as unilateral and illegal as they are not approved by the UN. Several other countries including Russia and China have opposed these sanctions against calling them “unlawful and unilateral.” Speaking in a conference in the UK, Russian Ambassador to the UK Andrey Kelin on Monday said that, “the unilateral measures imposed on Syria by Britain, US and other Western countries are unacceptable and immoral,” Syrian Arab News Agency reported.

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