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Iran: Swiss-US channel for medicine too little, too late

Iran has dismissed as insufficient a Swiss-US “humanitarian” channel set up to enable medicine transfers to the country, arguing that the United States is originally banned by the International Court of Justice from subjecting Iran’s much-needed medical supplies to sanctions.

“We do not recognize any such so-called humanitarian channel,” Foreign Ministry Spokesman Abbas Mousavi told a press conference on Monday. “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.

The US returned its sanctions against Iran after leaving a historic nuclear accord with the country and others in 2018. The measures defied the agreement’s multilateral nature and the fact that it had been ratified by the United Nations Security Council.

Washington then began forcing others to toe its sanctions line. Britain, France, and Germany have stopped their transactions with the Islamic Republic, bowing under the pressure.

On Thursday, Switzerland launched the so-called Swiss Humanitarian Trade Arrangement (SHTA), claiming it was aimed at facilitating the medicine trade, reportedly using the Central Bank of Iran’s credits. Swiss officials have, however, refused to clairfy how such transactions would continue if the CBI ran out of credit with Swiss banks.

Swiss official hails newly-launched humanitarian channel with Iran

Swiss official hails newly-launched humanitarian channel with IranA Swiss official says the SHTA will guarantee that key medicines can reach Iran despite sanctions.

On October 3, 2018, the Hague-based International Court of Justice, the UN’s principal judicial organ, issued a ruling ordering the US to halt its unilateral sanctions on “humanitarian” supplies to Iran. The verdict came following a lawsuit lodged by Iran in July of the same year.

Iran: US must lift sanctions on food, medicine as per ICJ ruling

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Mousavi said Washington is well aware that as per the ruling, it bears an obligation not to block such transactions, adding that these “conditional waivers” from the sanctions will not result in the US war crimes passing into oblivion.

The medicine supplies, he added, were bound to enter the country a year and a half ago, but their imports were blocked by US obstructionism.

The Swiss company tasked with facilitating the transactions “has been paid to do so,” he said, noting, “Our expectations far exceed such measures. And their obligations are hundreds of times more than what they are offering.”

He noted that the Islamic Republic welcomes all efforts that are aimed at reducing the pressure faced by the country, but still Switzerland’s initiation of the SHTA, falls short of the expectations.

Iranian users are angry at Swiss Ambassador for presenting these packages as if it is a humanitarian gift. This medicine was PURCHASED by Iran but had to be imported through a special Swiss channel because US economic sanctions limit the import of— Negar Mortazavi (@NegarMortazavi) February 2, 2020

Also on Monday, Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif dismissed the efficiency of the Swiss channel and drew attention to the ICJ ruling in this regard.

The top diplomat 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.

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.

HRW: US sanctions pose serious threat to Iranians’ right to health

HRW: US sanctions pose serious threat to Iranians’ right to healthHuman Rights Watch says the consequences of redoubled US sanctions against Iran pose a serious threat to the Iranians

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.

Though the US government has supposedly built exemptions for humanitarian imports into its sanctions regime, “broad US sanctions against Iranian banks, coupled with aggressive rhetoric from US officials, have drastically constrained Iran’s ability to finance such humanitarian imports,” the rights organization added.

A month later, an NGO said Iranian children suffering from a rare skin condition known as EB were losing their lives as US economic sanctions hampered the flow of vital medical products.

US sanctions on Iran killing children with EB: NGO

US sanctions on Iran killing children with EB: NGOIranian children suffering from a rare skin condition known as EB are losing their lives as a result of US economic sanctions, says an NGO.

Hamid Reza Hashemi-Golayegani, the head of the NGO that helps such patients, said that at least 15 Iranian children with epidermolysis bullosa (EB) had died since the US restored the sanctions.

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