Eight countries under unilateral sanctions, mainly from the United States and European Union, have urged UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to ask for the immediate lifting of those measures to enable them to respond to the coronavirus pandemic.
The ambassadors from China, Cuba, North Korea, Iran, Nicaragua, Russia, Syria and Venezuela urged the UN chief to "reject the politicisation of such a pandemic."
The ambassadors did not name any countries responsible for what they called "illegal, coercive measures of economic pressure." But the United States has imposed sanctions on all of the nations except China and the European Union has imposed sanctions on all but Cuba.
In a speech to the Group of 20 major industrialised nations on Thursday, Secretary-General Guterres appealed "for the waiving of sanctions that can undermine countries' capacity to respond to the pandemic."
The eight countries said efforts to combat COVID-19 are hindered by "the destructive impact" of sanctions nationally, as well as their external consequences including difficulties accessing the international financial system or trading freely to procure medical equipment and supplies, including virus testing kits.
The ambassadors noted that UN independent experts have concluded that unilateral sanctions affect over a third of the world's population.
Iran is one of the countries hardest-hit by the new virus, representing eight of 10 cases of the virus in the Mideast, and those leaving the Islamic Republic have carried the virus to other countries.
On Sunday, Iran's supreme leader refused US assistance to fight the new coronavirus, citing an unfounded conspiracy theory claiming the virus could be man-made by America.
Australian Associated Press