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Damascus condemns new US economic sanctions

By AFP - Jun 03,2020 - Last updated at Jun 03,2020

DAMASCUS — The Syrian government Wednesday condemned new financial sanctions that the US is due to impose this month, arguing they will increase hardships in a country deep in economic crisis.

The Caesar Syria Civilian Protection Act of 2019, a US law that aims to sanction any person who assists the Syrian government or contributes to the country's reconstruction, is to come into force in mid-June.

It imposes financial restrictions on the Damascus government to compel it to halt "attacks on the Syrian people", and is expected to penalise Russian and other companies that work with Assad's government.

"The Syrian government strongly condemns a move by the US administration to tighten coercive measures imposed on Syria through the so-called Caesar Act," the foreign ministry said in a statement carried by the official SANA news agency.

By imposing these restrictions, the US will "bear main responsibility for the suffering of the Syrian people when it comes to their livelihoods", it added, accusing Washington of "economic terrorism".

After nine years of war, Syria is in the thick of an economic crisis compounded by a coronavirus lockdown and a dollar liquidity crisis in neighbouring Lebanon.

A large chunk of Syria’s population is living in poverty, prices have soared and the value of the Syrian pound has hit record lows against the dollar on the black market.

The foreign ministry source said that the Syrian people will respond to new financial restrictions with a “concerted effort... to protect the national economy”, arguing that this will mitigate the effects of sanctions.

The Caesar Act was signed into law in December by President Donald Trump after years of fighting inside Congress.

The law was named after a former Syrian military photographer, who goes by the pseudonym Caesar.

He fled Syria in 2013 with 55,000 images of brutality in Assad’s jails as the regime crushed an uprising.

He appeared before Congress in 2014, leading lawmakers to draft the Caesar Act.

He made his latest appearance before Congress in March, pressing the US and the international community to hold the Syrian govvernment accountable.

“This law is a powerful message to all who support the Assad regime that the time for accountability and justice is coming,” he said, disguised under an oversized blue hoodie.

Syria’s Economy Minister Samer Al Khalil on Tuesday told the pro-government Al Watan newspaper that the aim of the Caesar Act was to “prolong the war on Syria and impede any attempt towards economic recovery”.

The United Nations estimated in 2018 that the conflict in Syria had caused nearly $400 billion in war-related destruction.


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