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EU call to lift sanctions amid pandemic directed primarily at US — expert

According to the pundit, it is not only the United States but also the European Union that is acting ambiguously

MOSCOW, April 8. /TASS/. The European Union’s call to lift sanctions imposed on Venezuela, Iran, North Korea and Syria that hamper supplies of medical assistance amid the coronavirus pandemic is primarily addressed to Washington as the international community now expects unambiguous guarantees on this issue from the US, general director of the Russian International Affairs Council, Andrei Kortunov told TASS on Wednesday.

The expert noted that the call concerns unilateral measures introduced by countries separately to sanction trade and economic relations rather than the UN Security Council sanctions.

"In this case, the US is a prime receiver of this call," he said, adding that this is not the first such message. Kortunov recalled that UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres put forward this initiative as well as Russian President Vladimir Putin during the recent G20 virtual summit.

According to Kortunov, there is understanding now in the world that in the current extreme situation "rules of the game should be slightly tweaked at least in the spheres that directly affect the fight against the pandemic."

Immediate and ultimate goals

According to the expert, Washington is exhibiting a rather dubious position. On the one hand, American diplomats claim that there are no fundamental restrictions placed on medicine and medical equipment supplies to tackle the coronavirus crisis. On the other hand, Kortunov says that there are literally no guarantees that the US won’t punish those daring to send such supplies.

"Even though they all seem to be saying the right words, everyone understands naturally that any company, any country that will now start sending large supplies of medical equipment or medicine to, let’s say, Iran or Syria is setting itself up for a potential strike," he underscored. "Since the US can interpret these supplies in any way possible there is no guarantee that these companies or countries will not find themselves targeted by follow-up sanctions."

"The international community would like to see the American leadership providing some clear-cut, more precise and unambiguous guarantees that everything concerning the fight against the virus will truly not be viewed as violating US sanctions. It is an immediate goal," he concluded.

However, complete lifting of sanctions is a far way off. The expert says that the ultimate goal is to "review the basis of economic cooperation between states," meaning not only pharmaceutical production and medical equipment but also abolishing of broader restrictions. Kortunov believes that the sanctions definitely hinder the fight against the pandemic and future revival of the global economy.

Two faces of EU

However, it is not just the US that is taking a dubious stance, the EU is acting just as ambiguously. "Literally a few days ago, Brussels announced that anti-Russian sanctions would remain in place, as European officials believe they do not obstruct cooperation in the fight against the pandemic," the expert stressed. "It seems to me that there is a certain degree of ambiguity to this statement."

Kortunov underlined that direct and indirect impact of restrictions on the pandemic response cannot be separated. "It seems that it is better to lift sanctions that specifically stand in the way of saving lives than lift none. However, there is certain hypocrisy in saying that the EU sanctions do not prevent fighting the virus," the expert concluded.