China, Russia pressure US to lift Iran sanctions amid coronavirus crisis

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo defended the sanctions by saying it does not interfere with the humanitarian aid the U.S. is offering Iran.

By Aaron Sull, World Israel News

China and Russia have called on the U.S. to immediately lift sanctions on Iran in light of the coronavirus crisis.

“We urge the U.S. to immediately lift unilateral sanctions on Iran. Continued sanctions are against humanitarianism and hamper Iran’s epidemic response and delivery of humanitarian aid,” China’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said this week.

“Illegal unilateral U.S. sanctions, imposed since May 2018 as part of the ‘maximum pressure’ campaign, are a powerful obstacle to the effective fight against the infection,” Russia’s foreign ministry said in a statement.

Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders also called on the U.S. to lift Iranian sanctions in order to help the country better deal with the epidemic.

“Iran is facing a catastrophic toll from the coronavirus pandemic. U.S. sanctions should not be contributing to this humanitarian disaster,” Sanders tweeted on Thursday.

“As a caring nation, we must lift any sanctions hurting Iran’s ability to address this crisis, including financial sanctions,” he wrote.

The Associated Press reported that Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif sent a letter to U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres saying it is “unconscionable” that the U.S. government has increased its “maximum pressure” campaign “just as the virus has spread and is killing our most vulnerable citizens.”

Rep. Ilhan Omar tweeted on Friday, “We need to suspend these sanctions before more lives are lost.”

However, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo defended the sanctions by saying it does not interfere with the humanitarian aid the U.S. is offering Iran.

“We are trying to help, we continue to offer assistance to Iran in numerous ways. We have an open humanitarian channel to facilitate legitimate transactions even while ensuring that our maximum pressure campaign denies terrorists money,” Pompeo said on Tuesday.

He also expressed his hope that the Iranian regime will accept the offer.

Pompeo announced on Wednesday the administration will impose new sanctions in response to the Iranian-backed rocket attacks recently launched at U.S. forces in Iraq.

The administration also called on the regime to release detained Americans as a “humanitarian gesture.”

“We are aware that they are thinking about whether to release them or not,” Pompeo said. “We are urging them … to release every American that is being wrongfully held there as a humanitarian gesture, given the risk that is posed.”

Following the announcement, Zarif took to Twitter and expressed his outrage in a video statement.

“My country is among the hardest-hit by the coronavirus,” said the Iranian foreign minister.

“Even amid this pandemic, the U.S. government has vengefully refused to lift its unlawful and collective punishment, making it virtually impossible for us to even buy medicine and medical equipment,” he said.

As of today there are 18,407 confirmed corona cases in Iran and  1,284 dead.