0418 GMT September 24, 2022
Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif called the US “illegal” restrictions imposed on Iran’s access to its financial assets in other countries to buy food and medicine “crime against humanity”.
Zarif made the remarks in a phone conversation with his Japanese counterpart Japan’s Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi on Tuesday, IRNA reported.
“We expect the Japanese government to prevent this illegal US action within the framework of the general commitment of countries to implement the UN Security Council resolutions, including Resolution 2231,” he said, referring to the need for Iran to use its foreign exchange resources in Japan.
Iran is struggling to have access to its funds frozen by foreign banks amid a shortage of hard currency in the country which has been contending with the coronavirus pandemic over the past months.
The US regime has exerted pressure on countries not to release Iranian assets frozen in their banks due to the illegal sanctions that Washington reimposed on Tehran following its unilateral withdrawal from the 2015 Iran nuclear agreement.
The restrictions have caused problems for the country to buy the medicine needed in the country, especially amid the coronavirus pandemic.
On Tuesday, Iran’s Red Crescent Society said new US sanctions targeting its banking system prevented the import of two million influenza vaccines, after government warnings that the restrictions would hit trade in humanitarian goods.
In a tweet, the organization said Shahr Bank, which is mostly owned by Tehran municipality and had facilitated foreign-currency purchases of drugs, “has been sanctioned by the US government and the vaccines haven’t reached the Red Crescent”, Bloomberg reported.
The Red Crescent said it was attempting to source replacement vaccines through neighboring countries. Some 200,000 flu doses had been delivered to the ministries of health and education, the organization said in a subsequent tweet, without giving more details.
On October 8, the Trump administration extended its financial blacklist to virtually all Iran’s lenders, including those used to import medicines and food, trade supposedly exempt from sanctions. It was the latest step in a US unsuccessful campaign to use economic pressure to force Iran’s leaders into renegotiating the 2015 nuclear deal that Washington has left two years ago and reimposed sweeping sanctions, including on vital oil exports.
The US Treasury Department failed to come up with any specific accusations against most of the banks and just claimed that the Iranian financial sector may be used to support the government's nuclear program and its "malign regional influence".
The new sanctions come in blatant defiance of growing international calls for Washington to ease its Iran sanctions, which have severely prevented the country’s access to lifesaving medical items as the world is grappling to contain the deadly coronavirus.
Although the US claims that foodstuff and medicines have been exempt from the draconian bans, the sanctions have, in fact, prevented Iran from buying basic need through blocking Iran's access to its overseas money and targeting its banking transactions.
Last year, pharmaceutical purchases from the European Union were down 15% from 2016, according to the European Commission. US shipments of mostly non-sanctioned humanitarian goods dropped to $3.9 million in February – a drop of 88% from four years earlier.
Tehran has sought to bypass sanctions, and in June the Foreign Ministry unveiled an agreement to import medical supplies from South Korea in lieu of $7 billion it owed Iran for oil. The only shipment so far announced amounted to $500,000.
Both the EU and Switzerland have tried to improve Iran’s access to non-sanctioned goods using their own trade channels, but both efforts have only managed to deliver tiny volumes of goods to Iran over the past two years.
Iran makes many of its drugs through a relatively sophisticated pharmaceutical research and production sector. But specialist treatments such as those for cancer or donor transplants often rely on imports.