US accuses Syria of flooding Mena region with illicit drugs including Captagon

UN Security Council hears Syria acts as 'logistics node' for Russia to export its 'destabilising activities' to Africa

Kurdish security forces in northeastern Syria said they had seized more than two million captagon pills smuggled in from surrounding rebel-held areas, their biggest such bust to date. AFP
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The US on Thursday stood firm on its decision not to mend diplomatic relations with Syria and accused Damascus of flooding the region with illicit drugs including Captagon.

US deputy ambassador Jeffrey DeLaurentis told the 15-nation UN Security Council in New York that Washington would not lift sanctions on the regime of Syrian President Bashar Al Assad or support his country's reconstruction, “absent genuine, comprehensive and enduring reforms and progress on the political process”.

“And we have strongly discouraged others from doing so,” he added.

France’s UN diplomat Diarra Dime-Labille told council members that the EU had on Monday adopted new sanctions against individuals and entities involved in Captagon trafficking.

Twenty-five people and eight entities were named in the sanctions, including members of Mr Al Assad's family, over their alleged involvement in drug production and trafficking, particularly of Captagon.

Experts say Captagon is primarily produced in Syria, where packages containing millions of pills are smuggled into Gulf countries, Europe and beyond.

Mr DeLaurentis also accused Syria of allowing Russia to use its country as a “logistics node” to export its “destabilising activities” to Africa.

Russian troops have been active in the Syrian civil war, which began in 2011. The country's paramilitary Wagner Group is also present in a number of African nations.

In response to the US accusations, Russia's UN ambassador Vasily Nebenzya accused the West of sheltering Hayat Tahrir Al Sham, a former Al Qaeda affiliate and designated terror organisation, which has been “openly dismantling and undermining cross-line convoys in Idlib” and demanding “bribes” for access.

He told council members that the opening of two additional cross-border access points for humanitarian aid destined for earthquake survivors has “dampened” the enthusiasm of the UN to work out modalities for cross-line humanitarian access, which allows life-saving aid to be delivered to north-west Syria from the capital Damascus.

“We cannot tolerate the fact that contrary to the consensus-based resolution of the Security Council since August of 2021, only 10 convoys reached the de-escalation zone,” said Mr Nebenzya.

Moscow has previously sought to replace cross-border UN humanitarian aid with convoys from government-held areas across conflict lines in and around Syria's restive Idlib province.

Mr DeLaurentis urged all parties to remove obstructions to cross-line humanitarian deliveries to all parts of Syria and rejected any suggestion that humanitarian assistance is being blocked by US sanctions.

“We maintain robust humanitarian exceptions for US sanctions and welcome good faith discussions with the UN and others to address any specific instance where humanitarian actors have been unable to pursue humanitarian activities,” he said.

Mohammed Abushahab, UAE’s deputy ambassador to the UN, said that a political solution is the “only way” to overcome the Syrian crisis.

He underlined the need for an Arab leadership role that includes establishing the “necessary mechanisms and intensifying consultations among the Arab states to ensure the success of these endeavours”.

Updated: April 27, 2023, 10:43 PM