Syrian Bishops Plea for an End to EU Sanctions

Author: Thomas O'Reilly

Publication Date: 1/8/2023

Source: The European Conservative

Senior figures within the Catholic Church in Syria have called for the termination of EU and Western sanctions against Syria saying that the restrictions have had a disproportionate impact on the country’s Christian community while leaving the ruling Assad regime relatively unscathed.

Archbishop Jacques Mourad of Homs and other bishops made the request while meeting with the Italian government, including Undersecretary of State Alfredo Mantovano in Rome last week, saying that the restrictions were hampering their humanitarian work in the war-torn nation.

Since the outbreak of civil war in 2011, Syria and the Assad regime have been under crippling sanctions from the EU and United States. No sign of reconciliation between Brussels and Damascus is on the horizon, despite a recent EU-Syria conference hosted by the European Council last month.

EU sanctions against Syria were first rolled out in 2011 following Western-backed protests against the authoritarian Assad regime. The protests subsequently escalated into a lengthy ethno-sectarian civil war that the UN estimates has killed at least 300,000 civilians.

The war and rise of Islamist extremism have negatively affected the region’s Christian minority population. A recent report noted an 80% decline in the number of Syrian Christians since 2011.

As part of the EU’s sanction regime, key members of the Assad government have seen their assets frozen with restrictions placed on the import and export of Syrian goods as well as financial transactions occurring within the country.

At the meeting last week with Italian officials, the Syrian bishops outlined how restrictions on bank transfers to Syria have complicated humanitarian relief as the Italian government confirmed that they would raise the matter at an EU level.

Pope Francis himself also called for an end to Western sanctions against Syria in February echoing the claims made by the Syrian bishops.

While the EU temporarily relaxed restrictions on Syria following February’s earthquake, the Dutch government and other member states successfully lobbied for renewed EU sanctions against the Assad government due to Damascus’s support for Russia.

Despite a 12-year-long effort by the West to overthrow his regime, the past year has seen the Baathist government of Assad begin to normalise relations with the international community, as it was invited back into the Arab League earlier this year.

European meddling in Syria and, in particular, support for the anti-Assad opposition has been heavily criticised for fanning the flames of sectarian violence, mainly to the detriment of religious minorities such as Christians.


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