US stance on Syria remains, no reconstruction aid before political solution: Official

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The Biden administration will not alter Washington’s stance on the refusal to provide reconstruction aid for Syria, US officials said Tuesday.

Despite criticism from Syrian officials, backed by Russia and China, the US has continued to impose economic sanctions on the Assad regime, which has prevented international businesses from engaging in financial transactions to begin reconstruction efforts.

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The Caesar Act was released by the Trump administration last year to pressure Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to reach a political solution with his opponents in Syria.

US sanctions, along with the coronavirus pandemic and the crisis in neighboring Lebanon, have led to the collapse of the Syrian pound and forced the government to ration oil supplies to residents.

But President Joe Biden will not provide any leeway for those wishing to engage with the Assad regime, US officials said.

A State Department official told reporters Tuesday that the US “proudly” stood with its allies and the international community to support UN Special Envoy Geir Pedersen’s efforts to reach a political settlement and permanent solution to the Syrian conflict.

“The United States will not provide any reconstruction assistance, absent progress on the political track,” said Acting Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary, Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration Richard Albright.

Albright said that no military solution would bring peace, security and stability to Syria and the region.

On Monday, Russia and China said all humanitarian aid needed to be distributed from Damascus. This is seen as an attempt to get the West to engage with the Assad regime since pro-government forces maintain control over highways and areas that lead to Syria’s northern parts.

Asked to respond to these calls, Albright said it was not viable and that cross-border aid from Iraq, Turkey and Jordan needed to be allowed. “And the Russians know very well that there have been minimal cross-line shipments from Damascus into these areas. And that’s not a viable alternative ... for the huge needs in the northwest [of Syria],” Albright told Al Arabiya English.

Read more: US Secretary Blinken assails Russia for Syria role, calls for more border openings

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