The head of Cyprus' Orthodox Christian Church says he will petition European and U.S. diplomats to quickly lift an embargo against Syria.

Archbishop Chrysostomos II said Wednesday the embargo collectively punishes the Syrian people instead of helping to oust Syrian President Bashar Assad.

Chrysostomos said he promised Assad to help end the embargo after meeting the Syrian president during a visit to the war-torn country earlier this week.

The Church head said Assad had told him Syrians can live on what they produce themselves, but the country is in need of medicines.

Chrysostomos said Assad is "justified" in seeking an end to the embargo because it's putting Syrian lives even more at risk.

The war in Syria has killed as many as a half-million people since 2011.