Zarif, Guterres discuss U.S. sanctions amid coronavirus pandemic

April 12, 2020 - 18:37

TEHRAN — Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif has conferred on the United States’ sanctions against the Islamic Republic in a phone talk with United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres.

During the phone conversation on Saturday evening, Zarif and Guterres discussed the illegal sanctions’ negative impact on Iran’s fight against the coronavirus outbreak, according to the Foreign Ministry website.

Tehran has repeatedly condemned Washington’s sanctions - which were imposed after the U.S. unilaterally withdrew from the Iran nuclear deal in May 2018 - for hampering its fight against the novel coronavirus crisis.

Zarif has said the bans on Iran even exceed what would be “permissible in the battlefield” and called on the international community that it is “immoral” to succumb to illegal sanctions. 

Iran’s ambassador to the UN offices in Geneva has written a letter to the World Health Organization chief saying that sanctions against Iran exemplify “crimes against humanity”.

On March 31, a UN human rights expert called for lifting international sanctions against countries ranging from Iran to North Korea and Venezuela in coronavirus crisis, according to Reuters.

“The continued imposition of crippling economic sanctions on Syria, Venezuela, Iran, Cuba, and, to a lesser degree, Zimbabwe, to name the most prominent instances, severely undermines the ordinary citizens’ fundamental right to sufficient and adequate food,” Hilal Elver, UN special rapporteur on the right to food, said in a statement.

In a letter to the G-20 economic powers on March 24, Guterres called for rolling back international sanctions regimes around the world. 

He said sanctions are heightening the health risks for millions of people and weakening the global effort to contain the spread of the new coronavirus, Foreign Policy reported.

“I am encouraging the waiving of sanctions imposed on countries to ensure access to food, essential health supplies, and COVID-19 medical support. This is the time for solidarity, not exclusion,” he said.

“Let us remember that we are only as strong as the weakest health system in our interconnected world,” the UN chief added.

Also, on Saturday, the Vatican expressed sympathy with the Iranian people and talked to the U.S. over its draconian sanctions on Tehran.

The Vatican's secretary of state Cardinal Pietro Parolin talked to U.S. officials following a letter by head of Iran’s Islamic Seminaries Alireza Arafi to leader of the Roman Catholic Church Pope Francis.

Meanwhile, during the Saturday phone call, Zarif and Guterres also discussed the latest developments in Yemen.

The war-torn country on Friday reported its first case of infection with the novel coronavirus in a southern province under the control of Saudi-sponsored militiamen loyal to the country’s former President Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi.

This has raised fears of an outbreak in an impoverished country where five years of a bloody campaign led by the regime in Riyadh have shattered the health system.

On Thursday night, the spokesman for Yemen’s Houthi Ansarullah movement, Mohammed Abdul-Salam, dismissed a two-week ceasefire announced by the Saudi-led coalition waging a bloody military onslaught against the impoverished country as a publicity stunt.

“The ceasefire announcement by Saudi Arabia is a ploy indeed as it is pressing ahead with raids on Yemen, and conducting operations on various fronts, including areas where there were no clashes at all,” Abdul-Salam said in an exclusive interview with the Qatar-based and Arabic-language al-Jazeera television news network.


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