Middle-east Arab News Opinion | Asharq Al-awsat

Syria Shrugs Off US Sanction Renewal as ‘Routine’ | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
Select Page

DAMASCUS (AFP) – Syria on Saturday dismissed a US decision to renew economic sanctions on Damascus for another year as a “routine” measure, even as the two countries are engaged in a dialogue to improve ties.

On Friday, the White House said President Barack Obama renewed the sanctions imposed by the previous administration amid continuing concerns about Syrian support for the Palestinian Islamist group Hamas and Lebanon’s Hezbollah.

It is also accused of turning a blind eye to insurgents entering Iraq through its border.

“The president felt it was necessary to take these measures. These are not new sanctions,” State Department spokesman Robert Wood told reporters in Washington.

“We have some very serious problems with the government of Syria. And we hope to be able to try to work out those differences, but a lot of it is going to be up to Syria,” Wood added.

A Syrian official played down the importance of the sanctions renewal, telling AFP on condition of anonymity that the measure was “routine.”

“The dialogue between Damascus and Washington is not over,” the Syrian official added.

Obama signed documents to renew the sanctions on Thursday but Washington made them public on Friday — a day after top US envoy Jeffrey Feltman held talks in Damascus with Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem.

Feltman, acting US secretary of state for Near Eastern affairs, described his meeting with Muallem as “constructive” and told reporters in Damascus that the visit was part of Obama’s plans to engage with Syria.

Meanwhile Arab League chief Amr Mussa said the US sanctions against Syria would “lead nowhere” and told reporters in Cairo that “opening up towards Syria is much more important that sanctions.”

Washington first imposed economic sanctions on Syria in 2004 over charges that it was a state sponsor of terrorism. They were extended in 2006 and then tightened the following year.

Former US president George W. Bush renewed the sanctions for one year in May 2007, banning exports of products other than food and medicine and freezing a raft of Syrian assets.

US-Syria ties have been strained since the 2005 assassination of former Lebanese premier Rafiq Hariri. Washington recalled its ambassador from Damascus after the murder, although Syria denies involvement.