Syria accuses U.S. using sanctions to suffocate Syrians 'like George Floyd'

FILE PHOTO: Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moualem speaks during a meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in Moscow, Russia August 30, 2018. REUTERS/Maxim Shemetov

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Syria’s foreign minister accused U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration on Saturday of attempting to suffocate Syrians with sanctions “just like George Floyd and others were cruelly suffocated in the United States.”

New U.S. sanctions that took effect in June under the so-called Caesar Act have further crippled the war-torn country’s already crumbling economy by prohibiting foreign companies trading with Damascus.

Addressing the United Nations General Assembly via a pre-recorded video on Saturday, Syria’s Foreign Minister and Deputy Prime Minister Walid Al-Moualem likened the effect of the sanctions to the death of Floyd, a Black American who died in May after a white police officer knelt on his neck.

“The real purpose of the Act is to put pressure on Syrians, their livelihoods, and their daily lives. It is an inhumane attempt to suffocate Syrians, just like George Floyd and others were cruelly suffocated in the United States,” Al-Moualem said.

The U.S. mission to the United Nations did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

In June, Russia also made a veiled reference to Floyd’s death, which sparked protests across the United States and around the world, when it slammed U.S. policy toward Iran as like “putting a knee” to the country’s neck.

Washington says the sanctions aim to cut revenue for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s government and push him back into U.N.-led talks to end the more than eight-year-long conflict.

A crackdown by Assad on pro-democracy protesters in 2011 led to civil war, with Moscow backing Assad and Washington supporting the opposition. Millions of people have fled Syria and millions are internally displaced.

Reporting by Michelle Nichols; Editing by Sandra Maler