WASHINGTON (AP) — Stepping up pressure on Syria, the Treasury Department on Thursday sanctioned six Syrian officials and a Russian bank for their alleged support of the government of Syrian President Bashar Assad, who has been fighting opposition forces in a 3-year-old bloody civil war.
Treasury said Tempbank, based in Moscow, has provided millions of dollars in cash and has helped facilitate financial services to the Syrian government. Throughout the crisis in Syria, Russia has been in Assad's corner, while the U.S. has supported the opposition.
The new sanctions were announced as the State Department pledged $27 million in new non-lethal aid to the leader of Syria's main moderate opposition group, President Ahmad al-Jarba. Al-Jarba has repeatedly asked the U.S. for heavy weaponry, such as anti-armor rockets, to combat the deluge of the Syrian government's barrel bombings and other attacks against rebel-held areas. But the Obama administration has resisted for fear that the arms could fall into the hands of extremist groups who are also fighting Assad's military.
"We've had difficult moments in this journey," Secretary of State John Kerry said at the start of a meeting with al-Jarba at the State Department. "But we are committed to do our part to support the moderate opposition in its efforts to provide a legitimate voice to the aspirations and hopes of the Syrian people."
If approved by Congress, the aid would help provide equipment such as generators, radios, trucks, and search and rescue kits to rebel fighters or nongovernment organizations that oppose Assad. It also would provide food to needed areas and technical equipment for independent Syrian media.
"The Syrian people (are) looking to the superpower and country that plays a leading role in the world," al-Jarba told Kerry. "And we look forward also to work with you now and in the future."
The Treasury Department sanctions also targeted Tempbank's senior executive, Mikhail Gagloev, who the U.S. claims has personally traveled to the Syrian capital of Damascus to make deals with Assad's government.
"In one instance, Tempbank arranged to deliver millions of dollars in cash to Vnukovo Airport in Moscow for pickup by cash couriers working for the Central Bank of Syria," the department said in a statement. "In addition to its close cooperation with the Central Bank of Syria, Tempbank has facilitated deals and provided financial services to SYTROL, a Syrian state oil company sanctioned by the United States and the European Union."
Continue reading this story on the...