TEHRAN (Iran News) – The humanitarian banking channel set up to get medicine and other supplies into Iran has not in fact processed any potentially life-saving transactions, the Swiss government confirmed.
Announced in late January and declared operational a month later, the channel, known as the Swiss Humanitarian Trade Arrangement (SHTA), was supposed to ensure that “humanitarian goods continue to reach the Iranian people” as US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said on Feb. 27.
But it’s not happening—at a time when, according to Johns Hopkins University, the novel coronavirus has infected more than 104,000 Iranians and killed over 6,500.
“No transactions have yet been carried out. Unfortunately, this whole process has been slower than expected because of the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Fabian Maienfisch, a spokesman for Switzerland’s State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO), which oversees the channel, the Daily Beast reported.
The moribund state of the channel contrasts with the fanfare with which the Trump administration announced it. To show that the so-called “maximum pressure” campaign is not consigning Iranians to their fate during the pandemic, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on March 17, “We have an open humanitarian channel to facilitate legitimate transactions even while ensuring our maximum pressure campaign denies …”
Knowledgeable observers say the way the channel is structured places substantial burdens in the way of companies looking to sell Iran humanitarian supplies.
In an indication of the bureaucracy involved in the SHTA, Maienfisch said, “Swiss export and trade companies that are interested in participating are currently collecting the necessary information and documents to be submitted to SECO.”
The Treasury Department declined to comment beyond pointing to its Feb. 27 announcement that the SHTA channel is operational.
“It’s unfortunate that the Iranian government turned down our offer of humanitarian assistance for COVID-19. Our priority has been to stand with the Iranian people–and this offer is still on the table,” a State Department spokesperson claimed.
At least one concern critics of “maximum pressure” had about the humanitarian-trade channel appears not to have manifested. It had been unclear from the SHTA’s establishment if Iran could transfer its foreign currency reserves held in other banks into BCP for the purchase of medical goods and food.
Maienfisch clarified that Iran can put money it’s got outside BCP into the Swiss bank. “We are currently working on transfers to put additional funds into the SHTA with support from the US side. There is nothing to clarify, as the need to regularly replenish the funds at BCP is understood and accepted by all parties involved,” he said.
The comments prove statements by the Iranian government saying that US officials have been disingenuous in claiming that Iran’s humanitarian needs are exempt from the harsh regime of sanctions imposed on the country.
- source : Tasnim, Irannews