Baroness Cox writes to Boris Johnson as he faced renewed calls to lift sanctions against Syria, in urgent letters signed by over 90 politicians and experts


Both Joe Biden and Boris Johnson faced renewed calls to lift sanctions against Syria, in urgent letters signed by over 90 politicians, human rights experts and some of the most senior church leaders in the Middle East.

The letters warn that “millions of hard-pressed Syrians will go to bed hungry and cold tonight,” and that “the COVID-19 pandemic is raging through the country, unhindered by a healthcare system largely destroyed over ten years of war.” They say that sanctions, which are backed by Biden and Johnson, “make the economic plight of the Syrian people worse.”

You can read the open letter written to President Joe Biden by clicking this link. *(AH)

Signatories to the letter to Boris Johnson include two former British ambassadors to Syria, two former Archbishops of Canterbury, General Lord Dannatt, Admiral Lord West, European diplomats and academics, senior Syrian church leaders, and the General Secretary of the Middle East Council of Churches, which represents all the member churches in the region.

Here is the text of the letter written by Baroness Cox in full:

Rt Hon Boris Johnson MP
Prime Minister
House of Commons 
London SW1A 0AA 

21 January 2021 

Dear Prime Minister, 

The UN Special Rapporteur on Unilateral Coercive Measures, Professor Alena Douhan, appealed at the end of December for the United States to lift its complex web of economic sanctions that severely harm the people of Syria – sanctions that have not been approved by the UN Security Council. 

The Special Rapporteur stated that U.S. sanctions “violate the human rights of the Syrian people” and “exacerbate the already dire humanitarian situation in Syria, especially in the course of COVID-19 pandemic,” by blocking the aid, trade and investment necessary for Syria’s health system and economy to function. The Special Rapporteur’s findings reflect a growing consensus within humanitarian aid and human rights communities that this form of collective punishment of the civilian population is driving Syria into an unprecedented humanitarian catastrophe. 

Ten years ago, Syria was a breadbasket for the region. Today it is on the verge not just of hunger, but starvation, according to the World Food Programme (WFP). Last June, WFP’s Director, David Beasley, warned that half of all Syrians were going to bed hungry and that the country was on the brink of “mass starvation.” Meanwhile, the COVID-19 pandemic is raging across the country, unhindered by a healthcare system largely destroyed after ten years of war. 

Millions of hard-pressed Syrians will go to bed hungry and cold tonight. Unilateral coercive measures imposed by the United States make the economic plight of the Syrian people worse. 

Ten years ago, the UK, as a member of the EU, aligned itself with the United States’ Syrian regime change policy. Broad economic sector sanctions were imposed in a coordinated action. Since then the UK has broadened steadily its own sanctions regime, and has cooperated with the execution of the United States’ extrajudicial, extraterritorial secondary sanctions. 

2) This month, consequent upon leaving the EU, the UK, rather than taking the opportunity to change a failed policy, chose to realign itself with EU sanctions on Syria via the full entry into force of the Syria (Sanctions) (EU Exit) Regulations 2019. This policy has not only failed in its intentions, but has exacerbated the suffering of the Syrian people. 

We urge you to help Syrians to alleviate a humanitarian crisis, which causes profound suffering to the civilian population and threatens a new wave of instability in the Middle East, by: 

1) Endorsing the UN Special Rapporteur’s recommendation; 
2) Terminating the UK’s own economic-sector sanctions against the Syrian people; 
3) Protecting UK citizens and institutions from the coercion of the United States’ extraterritorial and extrajudicial secondary sanctions. 

We believe that the national interests of the United Kingdom can be pursued without using economic sanctions to collectively punish the people of Syria. 

Yours sincerely,

Baroness Cox 
Lord Green of Deddington, British Ambassador to Syria 1991-94 
Peter Ford, British Ambassador to Syria 2003-06 
Lord Dannatt, Chief of General Staff of the British Army 2006-09 
Lord West of Spithead, First Sea Lord and Chief of Naval Staff 2002-06 
Major General John Holmes, Director of Special Forces 1999-2001 
Dr Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury 2003-12 
Lord Carey of Clifton, Archbishop of Canterbury 1991-2002 
Lord Alton of Liverpool 
Lord Cormack 
Lord Hylton 
Lord Alderdice 
Lord Judd 
Lord Ramsbotham 
Dr Christopher Cocksworth, 
Lord Bishop of Coventry 
Dr Michael Langrish, Bishop of Exeter 2000-13 
Dr Michael Nazir-Ali, Bishop of Rochester 1994-2009; President of OXTRAD 
Fr Timothy Radcliffe OP, Former Global Master of the Dominican Order 
Dr Michel Abs, General Secretary, Middle East Council of Churches 
His Holiness Mor Ignatius Aphrem II, Syriac Orthodox Patriarch of Antioch and All the East 
His Beatitude Ignatius Youssef III Younan, Syriac Catholic Patriarch of Antioch and all the East
His Beatitude Youssef Absi, Melkite Catholic Patriarch of Antioch and All the East 
H.E. Antoine Audo SJ, Chaldean Catholic Bishop of Aleppo 
Bishop Joseph Arnaoutian, Armenian Patriarchal Exarch of Damascus 
Archbishop Jean-Clement Jeanbart, Melkite 
Archbishop of Aleppo Revd Ibrahim Nseir, 
Pastor of Presbyterian Church in Aleppo 
Revd Haroutune Selimian, President of Armenian Evangelical Church in Syria 
Fr Elias Zahlawi, Melkite Priest of Church of Our Lady, Damascus 
Dr Nabil Antaki, Leader of the Blue Marists in Aleppo 
Revd Hans-Martin Gloël, Evangelical Church of Germany 
Revd Ernst Herbert, Oecumenical Committee for Religious Liberty 
Most Revd Vitus Huonder, former Bishop of Chur, Switzerland 
Revd Albert Pataky, President, Pentecostal Church of Hungary 
Dr Vilmos Fischl, Secretary-General, Ecumenical Council of Churches of Hungary 
Most Revd András Veres, Bishop of Győr and President of the Hungarian Bishop’s Conference 
Revd Professor Michael Schneider SJ, St Georgen-College, Frankfurt am Main 
Revd Fr Benedict Kiely, Founder, 
José Bustani, Brazilian Ambassador to the UK 2003-08; Director General of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons 1997-2002 
Pierre Cuipers, French Senator 
Thierry Mariani MEP 
Gérard Bapt, former Member of the French National Assembly 
Mezri Haddad, Tunisian Ambassador to UNESCO 2009-11 
Dr Ridha Kechrid, former Tunisian Minister of Health and Ambassador to Spain 
Michel Raimbaud, former French Ambassador to Mauritania, Sudan and Zimbabwe 
Philippe Marini, Mayor of Compiègne and former President of the France-Syria Parliamentary Group of the Senate 
Jean-Pierre Vial, French Senator 1995-97; 1999-2020 
Christiane Kammermann, former French Senator 
Mohamed Karboul, former Tunisian Ambassador 
Professor Dr med. Karl Lehner, Rosenheim 
Professor Dr Michel Veuthey, Associate Professor of International Law, Webster University 
Dr Adel Ben Youssef, University Professor and Historian in Tunisia 
Dr Joy Gordon, Loyola University, Chicago 
Dr Erica Hunter, Senior Lecturer in Eastern Christianity at SOAS 2005-20 
Professor Dr Hans Otto Seitschek, Ludwig-Maximilians-University 
Professor Emeritus, Edmond Jouve, Paris University 
Professor Dr Franz Hamburger, Johannes Gutenberg-University 
Dr Audrey Wells, Research Associate, Royal Holloway College 
Dr med. Antoine Salloum, President, Soins Pour Tous in Paris 
Dr John Eibner, International President, Christian Solidarity International (CSI) 
Fr Peter Fuchs, Director, CSI-Germany 
Paul Kurt, Chairman, International Society of Oriental Christians 
Ken McDonald, President, Marist International Solidarity Foundation 
Neville Kyrke-Smith, National Director, Aid to the Church in Need (UK) 
Karine Bailly, President, Solidarite Chretiens d’Orient
Benjamin Blanchard, General Director, SOS Chretiens d’Orient 
Charles de Meyer, President, SOS Chretiens d’Orient Revd 
Dr Andrew Ashdown, Humanitarian Aid Relief Trust 
Ricardo Loy, CEO, Manos Unidas 
Clara Pardo, President, Manos Unidas 
Jacques Hogard, Founder, Société d'Intelligence Economique 
Didier Destramau, President, France-Syria Friendship Association 
Ahmed Manai, President, Tunisian Institute for International Relations 
Abdelmadjid Ait Saadi, Chairman, International Cultural Activities in Algeria 
Dr Anas Chebib, President of France-Near East Association 
Dr Maher Daoud, President, French-Syrian Medical Association 
Dr Salem El-Hamid, President, German-Syrian Society 
Dr Makram Khoury-Machool, Director, EuroCSE 
Mouna Mansour, President, Heart Without Borders 
Clemens Graf von Mirbach-Harff, Secretary General, Malteser International 
Françoise Parmentier, President, French Cultural Association 
Ivana Borsotto, President, Federazione Organismi Cristiani Servizio Internazionale Volontario 
François Ernenwein, President, Confrontations (Association d’intellectuels chrétiens) 
Fr Hervé Legrand, Vice President, Confrontations 
Dr Selma Cherif, Vice President Youth Business International, Tunisia 
Dr Jorge Dias Ferreira, Main Representative of New Humanity to the UN 
François Richard, Founder, Ar-Bed Conseil (Security) 
Dr Sabine Kebir, 
Daniel Lillis KHS, Director, Lillis International Government Relations Consultancy 
Pierre le Corf, Humanitarian Aid Worker in Aleppo 
Peter Oborne, Journalist


You can read the open letter written to President Joe Biden by clicking this link
*(AH) Andrew Haigh

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