Western sanctions against the Syrian government have plunged the country’s people into abject poverty but have left the Assad regime unaffected – according to a leading bishop from Aleppo.
Speaking to Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), Melkite Greek Catholic Archbishop Jean-Clément Jeanbart of Aleppo condemned the sanctions as counter-productive.
He said: “The sanctions have no result other than making people suffer and become poor and miserable. They will have no effect on the government and their policies, because the government is away from the effects of the sanctions.
“The government is tranquil where it is…The sanctions could have the contrary effect to what was expected.”
Calling for an end to the sanctions, Archbishop Jeanbart said: “I would like to see the sanctions lifted because they are harming our people and abusing our country.
“They are miserable. They are taking from families what they need to live with dignity.”
He added: “People no longer have enough food, fuel, gas to heat their homes, and electricity.
“Always, this has been a very hard time for the Syrian people facing these sanctions. The Syrian currency no longer has any value and they cannot eat.”
The prelate went on: “The people have no possibility to have loans. They have really lost everything and this is pitiful.”
The archbishop called on NGOs to help Christians and others stay in the country rather than encouraging them to leave and enabling them to do so.
He said: “If [NGOs] want to help us, please help us to remain where we are and to continue living in this country where we were born.”
Archbishop Jeanbart said a dialogue needs to be opened with President Assad.
The archbishop said: “There needs to be a fair dialogue which leaves open the possibility for the government and the president to present their needs and wants…
“The West can make pressure that these will be given if the government agrees to find a way to peace and to change some of its behaviour.”
Since the conflict in Syria began in 2011, ACN has provided emergency aid for Syria, offering food baskets, milk and medicine as well as meeting basic living costs, including heating and lighting, prioritising the poorest, the sick and the elderly.
The charity is committed to helping Christians to stay in the country, amid reports of a sharp decline in faithful, many of whom have fled persecution as well as dire poverty.