UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - Syria’s U.N. ambassador complained on Thursday that his mission is unable to open a U.S. bank account due to sanctions imposed on his country because of its 14-month assault on an opposition determined to oust Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Last year several U.S. banks suddenly closed the accounts of a number of diplomatic missions and foreign diplomats due to the high costs of monitoring financial activity to prevent money laundering and monetary support for terrorist activity.
Syrian U.N. Ambassador Bashar Ja’afari told the U.N. budget committee that because of the closure of his mission’s accounts last year, it found a new bank in Washington.
“This new bank has now closed our accounts unexpectedly and the Syrian delegation is now without a bank account here in the host country,” he said. “We are now facing enormous difficulties as we search for another bank. All of the banks we have contacted have refused to open an account for our delegation.”
“We would like to remind the host country of its obligations with regard to guaranteeing an appropriate environment for member states so that those member states can carry out their U.N.-related activities,” he said.
Ja’afari urged the U.S. government and U.N. secretariat to find a “quick solution” to the problem, which he said was preventing his mission from functioning.
The U.S. mission was not immediately available to comment.
He blamed the problem on “unilateral sanctions.” The United States and European Union have imposed an array of sanctions on Damascus due to the Syrian bloodshed, which they blame on Assad’s government’s assault on an uprising that began peacefully but has become increasingly militarized.
Western powers have urged the U.N. Security Council to impose sanctions too, but Russia and China have rejected the idea.
“We are therefore unable to receive adequate transfer of funds in order to cover the expenses of our delegation on a daily basis,” he said. “We are therefore unable to maintain our financial commitments to the organization this year.”
“This is an absolutely absurd situation,” Ja’afari said. “It’s even surreal.”
Reporting by Louis Charbonneau; Editing by Lisa Shumaker