US Department of Treasury exempts some Syrian sanctions to facilitate earthquake aid

WASHINGTON, D.C. / DARAMSUQ — After international appeals for aid to be delivered to those affected by the earthquake in Syria, the US Department of the Treasury issued an exception to some sanctions. The exception was made to facilitate the delivery of humanitarian assistance, including disaster relief efforts in response to the earthquake.

The US sanctions program does not target legitimate humanitarian aid and the US government already has several general licenses in place under the Syria Sanctions Regulations (SySR) that permit the UN, US government agencies, and non-profit organizations (NGO) to engage in transactions supporting not-for-profit humanitarian activities, including in regime-held areas.

This new authorization expands the broad humanitarian authorizations already in effect for NGOs, international organizations (IO), and the US government agencies under the SySR. In its press release the Treasury stated that the decision reflects the US’s commitment to supporting the people of Syria during the ongoing earthquake crisis.

Civil defense workers and security forces search through the wreckage of collapsed buildings in Hemto (Hama), Syria. (Image: Omar Sanadik / AP)

Following the Treasury’s announcement, In Defense of Christians Executive Director Richard Ghazal commented to SyriacPress that, “The US Treasury Department’s grant of a general license to authorize earthquake relief in Syria is a welcome development, and indeed a testament to what makes America great. Hopefully this relief is felt on the ground by the affected civilians.”

The Washington-based human rights and advocacy organization previously stated via press release on Wednesday that the catastrophic series of earthquakes dramatically exacerbates the human tragedy left in the wake of the twelve-year Syrian Civil War. IDC made an appeal to the United States government to put aside political conflicts at the moment and consider all available means to contribute to rescue efforts and provide humanitarian assistance.

“This disaster has devastated civilians — not governments. In the face of a human tragedy of this magnitude, the international community should not condition humanitarian support on a political litmus test. According to the U.S. State Department, ‘U.S. and international sanctions include exemptions for humanitarian aid.’”

IDC points to the many capable and experienced NGOs, civil society organizations, churches and other faith-based organizations on the ground in Syria and Turkey who are ready to assist in the time-critical rescue effort and provide relief.

The authorization does not allow transactions related to the import of oil or petroleum products of Syrian origin to the United States or transactions involving individuals covered by sanctions against Syria.

Deputy Secretary of the Treasury Wally Adeyemo emphasized that US sanctions in Syria will not obstruct life-saving efforts for the Syrian people. “As international allies and humanitarian partners mobilize to help those affected, I want to make it very clear that US sanctions in Syria will not stand in the way of life-saving efforts for the Syrian people,” Adeyemo said.

Additionally, USAID announced that the US will provide $85 million to Turkey and Syria, which will be paid to partners on the ground to provide emergency assistance to millions of people. US State Department spokesperson Ned Price said that the US will continue to demand that aid not be impeded in Syria and called on the Syrian government to allow aid to enter through all border crossings between Turkey and Syria.