Coronavirus: Leading statesmen call for easing of US sanctions on Iran

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Hind Al Soulia - Riyadh - Former international leaders and senior diplomats have urged Washington to ease sanctions on Iran as Tehran grapples with its response to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

The call to save what may amount to hundreds of thousands of lives by easing humanitarian sanctions on Tehran was launched as Iran struggles to stem the spread of Covid-19. The disease has so far resulted in 60,000 confirmed cases in the country and 3,600 deaths.

US President Donald ’s administration re-imposed fresh sanctions in 2018 under a policy of maximum pressure on Iran. The move followed the US’s withdrawal from the 2015 nuclear accord in which international powers had agreed to lift previous sanctions in exchange for Iran relinquishing its nuclear weapons programme.

The statement, organised by the European Leadership Network and The Iran Network, has been signed by former US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and former EU foreign affairs chief Federica Mogherini as well as four former Nato Secretaries-General and a range of former US officials spanning five Democratic and Republican presidential administrations.

“Iran’s reported case fatality rate – which may greatly understate the true numbers – is one of the highest in the world. Though never intended to kill, US “maximum pressure” through sanctions on Iran are compromising the performance of the Iranian healthcare system as Iran’s outbreak moves into its second month,” the statement said.

“A focused reduction in overall pressure would have a significant impact on the ability of Iran’s healthcare system to respond to the Covid-19 outbreak, potentially saving the lives of hundreds of thousands of ordinary Iranians,” it added.

The group with members from across Europe and across the US political spectrum is not looking for a wholesale lifting of US sanctions. However, it does say that the US should reign in rules that prevent Iran from access to medical and humanitarian material.

“Iran is an important player both in the Middle Eastern region and at the world at large. Its people now are especially afflicted,” former US ambassador to the United Nations Thomas Pickering said on Monday.

Palestinian bride Baraa shows off her ring over a glove at a salon in the West Bank village of Dora near Hebron. AFP

A volunteer sprays disinfectant on a wall, with a mural depicting football players Mohamed Salah and Cristiano Ronaldo, at Shubra El Kheima in Al Qalyubia, Egypt. Reuters

A man walks past shops that are shuttered in Baghdad, Iraq. AP Photo

A Palestinian customer has his hair cut by a barber in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip. Reuters

A municipality worker sprays disinfectant at the Kuwait salmiya market. EPA

A ferris wheel is seen empty from riders, during a lockdown in Beirut, Lebanon. AP Photo

People lay at a beach in Algiers, Algeria. Reuters

A Palestinian sells coffee and corn on the beach at sunset in Gaza City, Gaza Strip. EPA

The group, he said, was concerned, he said by the impact that American sanctions particularly are having with respect to Iran’s access to medical supplies.

“International law clearly applies to sanctions, those primary and those secondary, to keeping the door open to medical and humanitarian assistance,” the senior former diplomat explained.

Dr Gro Harlem Brundtland, former director-general of the World Health Organization, called for a “strongly coordinated international response” in the face of the crisis.

“We are calling upon urgent action to avoid an unnecessary health crisis and high fatalities in Iran, country of close to 100 million people,” she said.

Updated: April 6, 2020 09:11 PM

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