Syria’s Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem blamed the suffering of his country’s people on sanctions imposed by the U.S. and EU, telling Valerie Amos, U.N. humanitarian chief on Sunday that the international body should condemn these measures and work towards lifting them.

Ms. Amos, during her one-day visit to Syria, had asked about the needs of Syrians after 21 months of conflict.

“The sanctions imposed by the United States and countries of the European Union on Syria are responsible for the suffering of the Syrian people,” the state-run news agency SANA quoted Mr. al-Moallem as saying. The measures include a travel ban and freeze on the assets of Mr. Assad and other leaders, along with an embargo on the oil and arms trades.

The battle to bring down Mr. Assad has already forced some three million Syrians from their homes, according to a new estimate, and cold, wet winter weather is making life increasingly unbearable for the displaced. Among those who left their homes are more than 500,000 who fled to neighbouring countries. The U.N. does humanitarian work in both government and rebel-controlled areas.

Ms. Amos met later in the day Minister of National Reconciliation Ali Haidar who criticised the U.N., saying, “It is exploiting this matter politically not as a humanitarian case.”

More In: International | News