Majid Takht Ravanchi made the remarks on Saturday evening while addressing the International Webinar on ‘Sanctioned Countries Speak: US Sanctions and COVID-19, A Global Threat.’
The Iranian diplomat commented on four decades of Washington’s "inhumane" sanctions against the Islamic Republic and their "vast socioeconomic consequences" on Iran’s fight against the novel coronavirus pandemic.
"On 27 February 2020, the US Treasury finalized with much fanfare 'The Swiss Humanitarian Trade Arrangement' (SHTA) allowing certain humanitarian transactions with Iran. However, this narrow channel does not match Iran’s humanitarian needs in the current situation," he said.
At the same time, he added, the United States has forced SHTA to pursue a "very tight and tough procedure" which made it practically very difficult for companies to trade with Iran.
"Additionally, the almost impossible or cumbersome nature of transferring Iran’s reserves blocked outside the country to the designated Swiss bank, not only does not allow the SHTA to function properly now, but may actually render it redundant in a matter of few months," the Iranian diplomat said.
"Likewise, recently several companies that supply the medicine and medical equipment required to fight the coronavirus have stopped shipping to Iran, because the current US sanctions regime makes the shipping of such data-x-items to Iran almost impossible."
Takht Ravanchi rejected the US officials' claim that humanitarian and medical needs are exempt from sanctions, saying, "This is despite the fact that Iran’s medical facilities, doctors, and nurses are among the very finest in the world, and the professional nature of our national efforts to suppress COVID-19 is highly acknowledged by the WHO (World Health Organization)."
He noted that Washington's additional new sanctions, imposed in the midst of the disease outbreak, conveyed the only message that "companies must avoid doing any business with Iran, even if their work is humanitarian in nature."
Iran's diplomat said the US sanctions, including its relevant penalties, have created a compliance minefield for the legal trade with Iran as "medical suppliers and relief organizations simply steer clear of doing business in Iran in the fear of accidentally getting caught up in the US sanctions’ web."
"While Iran is experiencing one of the worst outbreaks of the coronavirus, the US sanctions – which, according to its officials are the most extensive sanctions ever imposed on a country – are drastically hindering Iran's efforts to treat patients and effectively prevent the spread of the virus."
Takht Ravanchi then pointed to the valuable emergency aid dispatched to Iran by some countries, the WHO and certain humanitarian organizations since the start of the COVID-19 outbreak and emphasized that such emergency aid is not the panacea for a vast country like Iran which is among the worst impacted countries by the disease.