Iran, Syrian regime slam US sanctions at Damascus meeting
Iran's foreign minister used a meeting with Syrian President Bashar Assad on Monday to call on the U.S. to lift sanctions imposed on both countries, during his first visit to the war-ravaged country in a year.
Iran has been a close ally of Assad in Syria's long and brutal nine-year-long conflict, lending the regime in Damascus vital military and economic support. Most of the war’s hundreds of thousands of casualties have been killed by regime forces.
Iranian-backed regime reinforcements have recently been sent to the frontlines in Idlib, the last rebel held area of Syria, with a view of launching a new offensive on rebel positions, according to the Syrian opposition news site Baladi News.
Syria analyst Charles Lister reported that Zarif's visit coincided with regime forces resuming their shelling of villages in southeast Idlib.
The remarks made by Mohammad Javad Zarif during the meeting with Assad were reported by the Syrian regime-run news agency SANA.
Zarif said America had “shown its inhumane face to the world” by refusing to lift sanctions during the pandemic.
A photo of the meeting released by SANA showed Assad wearing a face mask while Zarif had also put on a mask and blue gloves.
Iran is facing one the worst outbreaks in the Middle East with 83,500 confirmed cases of the coronavirus, and more than 5,200 deaths from the Covid-19 illness it causes. Syria has reported only 39 cases of the virus and two deaths, although many observers believe the number is much higher.
Iran began Monday a gradual easing of its lockdown to stimulate its sanctions-choked economy, gambling that it has brought under control its coronavirus outbreak.
Assad expressed his condolences to Iran over the deaths caused by coronavirus during the meeting Monday.
The Syrian dictator said that the pandemic was being used for “political exploitation" by the U.S. and its allies, according to SANA.
Syria and Iran are both under American sanctions that both claim are affecting their fight against the virus by limiting some humanitarian imports.
Iran’s Foreign Ministry said on Sunday that Zarif will discuss with Assad and other Syrian officials bilateral relations and developments in the region.