Iran has denounced the latest sanctions imposed by the United States against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad as “cruel” and vowed to strengthen its economic ties with Damascus.

Washington’s new “Caesar Act” restrictions came into force on June 17. The law, signed by US President Donald Trump in December last year, targets organizations providing support to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in politics, trade, and the military. It also targets 39 individuals, including the president and his wife Asma al-Assad. 

On Thursday, Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Abbas Mousavi condemned the punitive measures as contrary to international law and human rights, and accused the US of continuously trying to destabilize Syria.

“As the world deals with the coronavirus pandemic, the imposition of such inhumane sanctions will only exacerbate the suffering of the Syrian people,” he said in a statement to local media.

Mousavi vowed Tehran would continue its financial cooperation with the “resilient” Syrian government and to strengthen economic cooperation despite the “oppressive and unilateral” measures.

The new sanctions triggered a fall in value of the Syrian lira, and sent prices of oil, food, and essential goods soaring. 

Human rights activists have warned that the new restrictions will harm ordinary Syrians, trying to rebuild their lives after nine years of war. However, the US State Department claimed on Wednesday that the new bill is not intended to harm the Syrian people, but to promote “accountability for the Assad regime’s violence and destruction.”

Syria and Iran are long-standing strategic allies. Iran has also been under strict US sanctions since 2018, when President Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew from the JCPOA nuclear deal and reimposed restrictions, targeting the country’s oil and financial sectors.

Separately on Thursday, Iran’s Foreign Ministry welcomed the upcoming UN Human Rights Council debate on racial discrimination and police brutality in the United States.

“Systemic racism, police brutality and violence against peaceful protests represent just the tip of the iceberg,” the Iranian Foreign Ministry said in a Twitter post, adding that it was “high time” the world works towards “accountability” for the US on human rights “at home and abroad.”

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