News ID: 266276
Published: 0425 GMT February 28, 2020

Iran: US sanctions impede progress of Swiss humanitarian channel

Iran: US sanctions impede progress of Swiss humanitarian channel

Iranian Health Ministry spokesman Kianoush Jahanpour said that the effectiveness of the Swiss humanitarian channel cannot be judged while the US sanctions against the Islamic Republic continue to threaten Iranians’ lives.

Commenting about the recent humanitarian aid received through a Swiss humanitarian channel, Jahanpour noted, "We cannot judge about its effectiveness on the livelihood of Iranian people unless we see its practical results," Iran Press reported.

"While illegal US sanctions against Iran are still underway, these catchy names or titles cannot change the situation. If we see practical results, we will certainly embrace them. It does not seem that these kinds of steps could have a wide effect on people's lives", he added.

His remarks came after the United States on Thursday granted a license to allow for certain humanitarian trade transactions with Iran’s sanctioned central bank, a move to escape global criticism for its illegal pressure campaign against Iran.

Washington said the move was in step with the formalization of the so-called Swiss trade channel which Iran says is insufficient.

The newly created channel, the Swiss Humanitarian Trade Arrangement (SHTA), which the US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said became fully operational on Thursday as it granted the license, would allow for companies to send food, medicine and other critical supplies to Iran.

 

 

Last week, US Special Representative for Iran Brian Hook said there was a lot of interest from food and drug companies in using the channel, which began trial operations last month with shipments of medicine.

The SHTA seeks to ensure that Swiss-based exporters and trading companies in the food, pharmaceutical and medical sectors have a secure payment channel with a Swiss bank, through which payments for their exports to Iran are guaranteed.

Food, medicine and other humanitarian supplies are exempt from the sanctions Washington reimposed on Tehran after US President Donald Trump unilaterally walked away from a 2015 international deal over Iran’s nuclear program.

But the US measures, targeting everything from oil sales to shipping and financial activities, have deterred several foreign banks from doing business with the Islamic Republic – including humanitarian deals.

On January 30, the first shipments of drugs for cancer and transplant patients in Iran was sent through the Swiss channel.

 

Insufficient move

 

Iran’s Foreign Ministry Spokesman Abbas Mousavi dismissed the channel as insufficient.

“We do not recognize any such so-called humanitarian channel," Mousavi told a press conference on February 3.

 

 

“We do not recognize sanctions [for that matter]. Medicine and foodstuffs were never subject to sanctions in the first place so they can now create a channel [for their transfer] with much publicity,” he added.

Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif also dismissed the efficiency of the Swiss channel and noted that the US keeps pursuing the policy of “maximum pressure” and denying Iran the financial channels that enable it to import medicine.

“This is a small step and we thank the Swiss government for its efforts ... but this channel is not a sign of America’s goodwill at all,” he said.

Politically neutral Switzerland has been working with US and Iranian authorities and selected Swiss banks and Swiss companies on the plan.

Last October, New York-based Human Rights Watch (HRW) warned that the US’s harsh sanctions against Iran posed a serious threat to the Iranian people’s right to health, urging Washington to adopt swift measures aimed at facilitating trade of humanitarian goods with the Islamic Republic.

The sanctions are compromising Iranians “access to essential medicines – and has almost certainly contributed to documented shortages – ranging from a lack of critical drugs for epilepsy patients to limited chemotherapy medications for Iranians with cancer,” it said.

 

Reuters contributed to this story.

 

 

   
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