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EU Ready To Help Iran With Consequences Of Coronavirus

IRAN -- Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, left, welcomes European Union foreign policy chief Josep Borrell, for their meeting in Tehran, February 3, 2020
IRAN -- Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, left, welcomes European Union foreign policy chief Josep Borrell, for their meeting in Tehran, February 3, 2020

On Monday March 23rd , European Union's foreign policy chief Josep Borrell announced the block is preparing a 20-million euro aid package for Iran. Borrell who was speaking after a summit attended by all EU Foreign ministers told reporters : "We need to continue providing humanitarian aid to Iran. [To] continue is a way of saying, because by the time being, we have been not very much able to provide a lot of humanitarian help". Borrell also raised the issue of U.S. sanctions imposed on Iran saying it has to be "reaffirmed" that humanitarian trade is not under American sanctions. He added "This is not the case, but it has to be reaffirmed in order for everybody to understand that they can participate in this humanitarian help."

Iran has been hit hard by the spread of coronavirus. The official death tally stands at around two thousand while Radio Farda's research based on the accounts of different local officials and medical sources shows more than 2,700 have died of the pandemic.

To learn more about EU's plan to send aid to Iran, Radio Farda's Hannah Kaviani spoke with Peter Stano, lead spokesperson for the external affairs of the EU in Brussels.

Hanna Kaviani: What are the details of the EU aid to Iran? How is it going to greach Iran? When is it going to go?

Peter Stanot: EU is ready to help all its international partners who are greatly affected by the coronavirus and its consequences. Iran is one of the countries that struggles most and it's one of the most affected. That's why the EU cares and the High Representative Josep Burrell, after the discussion with the ministers of the EU member states, has announced that we are prepared to help Iran with approximately 20 million euros to deal with the consequences of this very serious humanitarian and healthcare crisis.

Hannah Kaviani: What form of aid will the EU provide? Is cash going to be given to Iran ?

In the current circumstances, it's not easy to provide assistance to Iran. But this is also what the European Union is concerned about. And the ministers of the member states have been discussing it and the High Representative has said that we need to make sure that legitimate humanitarian trade and humanitarian assistance to Iran can proceed despite existing U.S sanctions.

So this is something we are dealing with and if it's financial or in other means, the European assistance goes in various forms, for example, I mean, it's mostly dispersed through our regional partners on the ground, which is the UNHCR, for example or the organization called Relief International.

So we give them money, we give them funding and then they procure or they organize whatever it may be. Not necessarily just medicine or equipment or laboratory or testing kits. It's also education, for example, promotional material to spread information about good hygiene, for example, it's also training of the medical staff.

It is also improving the ability to provide for the isolation of the of positive cases. So it has many different forms and the ways how to deliver the assistance, is something the EU is really working on. But as I said, it's mostly through our partners on the ground.

Hannah Kaviani: So is the EU trying get help to Iran indirectly rather than through the government of Iran?

Peter Stano: For the EU, the citizen, the person is always in the center of all our efforts. When we are discussing how can we help we have people on our minds first of all; it's people, but then people live in certain framework of an institution or state. So of course, part of the assistance goes to the Ministry of Health Care, which submits a request, then whatever is done on the side of the EU and financed by the EU and goes and is dispersed through the partners on the ground, so that people can profit from it. People meaning people affected, that like vulnerable groups or people with chronic diseases, people with disabilities, elderly people, Afghan refugees in Iran, also very important, a big vulnerable group is medical personnel. We we are supporting the training of the medical personnel there.

Hannah Kaviani: A mission of Doctors Without Borders was expelled yesterday from Iran so how is the EU going to make sure that this aid gets to the people of Iran?

Peter Stano: I think the best guarantee for the European eight providing assistance to Iran is the partners with whom we are working. I think no one can put in doubt UNHCR as a very important part of the U.N. system, or organizations such as Relief International or Pasteur Institute. So our cooperation with these partners I think provides enough guarantees that our assistance will get to those who need it. And then we have, of course, our own means and ways to verify how the assistance was used in line with our objectives, and this is to help the people who are affected by the consequences of coronavirus in Iran.

Hannah Kaviani: Is the EU going to support Iran’s request for an IMF loan?

Peter Stano: Well, as I mentioned, the issue of providing humanitarian assistance and humanitarian aid to Iran was discussed yesterday, during discussions of the foreign ministers of member states. It was discussed how to help Iran as one of the countries which are most affected by the deadly impact of the pandemic. And whatever can be done in order to help to stabilize the situation and reverse the tragic impact is basically productive and positive for the people. I wouldn't go into details of what will be the next step of supporting the needs of Iran but also other affected countries.

The EU always tries to find solutions which are based on multilateral approach and which have people in the center of our efforts because this is where aid, attention and all efforts should be focused to help the people in Iran and in other countries of course to get out of the crisis and and to help them in whatever way we can because this is an issue for the whole humanity.

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    Hannah Kaviani

    Hannah Kaviani is a Radio Farda staffer based in Prague, since 2008. She followed the nuclear negotiations between Iran and 6 world powers between 2013 and 2015 and covers the aftermath of Iran deal.