UN Dismayed by Toll of Terrorist Attack in Syria

UN Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura expressed dismay at the growing number of civilian casualties as a result of the terrorist attack on a refugee convoy in Syria on April 15.

According to the latest update, a truck-bomb left at least 130 dead, including 67 children, and 200 wounded, he told reporters in Geneva.

De Mistura said that the pain is greater when you see that the caravan of buses attacked on the outskirts of Aleppo was evacuating thousands of people that had been subjected to three years of siege in the towns of Kefraya and al-Fouaa.

When it seemed that they would come out of that situation, the tragedy occurs, he lamented.

According to the UN mediator at the Geneva peace talks, the horrific attack generated a moment of unity, as representatives of the Syrian government, the opposition and non-governmental organizations helped the wounded together.

Therefore, this attack somehow failed in its goal to divide, he asserted.

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Turkish Police Arrest 6 Linked to Russian Ambassador's Killer

Parents, relatives and roommate of the gunman have been arrested as officials claim there are signs of the assassin's links to Fethullah Gulen.

Following Monday’s gripping, gruesome assassination of Russian Ambassador Andrei Karlov by 22-year old riot police officer Mevlut Mert Altintas in the capital city of Ankara, Turkish authorities detained six people Tuesday linked to the gunman.

RELATED: Russian Ambassador to Turkey Shot Dead in Ankara​

Turkish police arrested the shooters parents, sister, two other relatives and a roommate.

As politicians, policymakers and pundits try to make sense of the event, a senior Turkish security official told Reuters that he alleges the shooter has ties to the U.S.-based Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has condemned Gulen as a terrorist, blaming him for July’s failed coup in the country.

Gulen, however, has denied involvement in the assassination.

"I condemn in the strongest terms this heinous act of terror," he said in a statement, as reported by The Middle East Eye. "No terrorist act can be justified, regardless of its perpetrators and their stated purposes."

RELATED: U.S. Closes Turkey Embassies After Shotgun-Wielding Man Attacks​

Both countries said that in the wake of the attack bilateral ties will not be damaged. Russian President Vladimir Putin said the attack was aimed at derailing Russia's attempts to find, with Iran and Turkey, a solution for the Syria crisis.

The Russian, Turkish and Iranian foreign ministers will meet in Moscow Tuesday to discuss the crisis in Syria.

The United States has also closed its embassies in Ankara, Istanbul and Adana following the arrest on Monday of a man who stood in front of the U.S. Embassy in Ankara and unloaded eight shotgun blasts into the air. No injuries or casualties have been reported.

 

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Memorandum Signed with Cuba Highlighted in Syria

The Syrian media highlights today the signing of a memorandum of understanding to strengthen economic and trade relations with Cuba.

The memorandum was signed by the chambers of commerce of the two countries as part of the 34th International Fair of Havana, said the media in Syria.

Samer Khalil, Syrian Deputy Minister of Economy and Foreign Trade, quoted by sources, said that this step is an incentive to increase bilateral relations.

The reports mentioned that president of the Chamber of Commerce of Cuba Orlando Hernandez said that this memorandum will identify the basic needs and what the Cuban market requires and also that Syrian businesspeople will be offered all kinds of services.

The Syrian media said the signing will also be a way to oppose the unfair blockade and unilateral economic measures against Cuba and Syria set up by the United States and its allies.

The Syrian delegation, led by Khalil, also discussed the prospects for economic and trade cooperation with deputy minister of Foreign Trade and Foreign Investment of Cuba Ileana Nuñez Mordoche.

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Syria's Only Alternative Is Victory, Presidential Advisor Says

Syria's only alternative is victory, and the future has already been determined by the blood of the Syrian army martyrs and the resistance of the people, said presidential advisor Bouzeina Shabaan.

In an interview with national television, Shabaan said that the current political scene undoubtedly favors the government and the people and is against those who started the war and generated unrest.

In this sense, she added that Syria's strength reinforces Russia and China's position in the international level, and any negotiation involving the separatist project in the northern province of Hasaka will be doomed to failure.

There are millions of Kurds that reject any cessation project; they are patriots and love Syria, Shabaan stressed.

Shabaan explained that 'Turkey is trying to harvest the results of what it did against the Syrian state, but we have Russia and Iran as honest allies, coordinating with us word by word.

She also referred to the national reconciliation program and was surprised by the stir some have caused in the United Nations about this topic and the achievements in Syrian areas like Daraya and Moadamieh.

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Syria Denounces Violation of its Border by the Turkish Army

The Syrian Foreign Ministry today condemned the entry of Turkish troops on the northern border of the province of Aleppo and the city of Jarablos, backed by the International Coalition led by the United States.

According to informations, tanks and armored vehicles supported by the aviation attacked positions of the Islamic State (Daesh, in Arabic) near this town, which they occupy since 2013.

In the statement by the Syrian Ministry of Foreign Affairs it is stressed that any action against terrorists must be coordinated between all parties and it was asked to the United Nations to fulfill the resolutions on the matter and stop the violation of its territory.

'What is happening in Jarablos now is not a fight against terrorism as claimed by Turkey; it is rather replacing one kind of terrorism with another', the communication declared.

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Towards the end of the Geneva negotiations

US implication in Syria is as bewildering as ever. Despite the fact that John Kerry had negotiated a cessation of hostilites on the 22 February 2016, and that Russia had withdrawn its bombers, Turkey - a member of NATO – continued its support for Daesh.

On the 8 March, Russia registered a report with the Security Council accusing Ankara of controlling the traffic of antiques for the benefit of Daesh [1]. On the 18 March, it registered a further report accusing Turkey of delivering arms and munitions to Daesh [2]. In both cases, Turkey «totally refuted» these allegations and accused Russia of organising a diversionary manœuvre to «distract the attention of the international community from the civilian losses, the chaos and the considerable destruction caused by the Syrian régime and Russian military operations in Syria». The Russian Chief of Staff retaliated by revealing that Ankara had just allowed 9,000 new jihadists to enter Syria. However, it is possible to imagine that Turkey had acted alone, without referring to the United States.

On the 7 April, the US Department of Defense delivered 2,000 tonnes of weapons to the «moderate armed groups», of which 500 tonnes were immediately redistributed to Al-Nusra (Al-Qaïda), and 500 more to Daesh [3].

In any case, Turkey’s support for Daesh seems to have diminished rapidly over the last few days.

It would seem that Moscow had secretly but violently protested, to the extent that on the 9 May, John Kerry and Sergeï Lavrov published a joint declaration [4]. They called on «all states to implement Security Council Resolution 2253 (2015), which forbids all material or financial assistance to Daesh, the al-Nusra Front or any other group qualified as terrorist by the UN Security Council, and to prevent any of these groups from crossing the frontier into Syria».

Above all, it was agreed that Washington would set a deadline for its allies - the start of July - to arrive at a negotiated agreement in Geneva. Beyond that date, the US would withdraw all their armed forces, while Russia would redirect its aircraft-carrier Admiral Kutznesov to the Syrian coast in order to resume, on a reduced scale, its bombing campaign against the terrorist organisations (who have since been re-armed) [5].

However, the uncertainty has still not been definitively resolved. A heated dispute opposed Russia and the United States at the UN concerning the Army of Islam (Jaysh al-islam) and the Islamic Movement of the Free Men of the Levant (Ahrar al-Sham). Moscow intended to add them to the list of «terrorist organisations», while Washington still wants to consider them as a «moderate armed group».

The Army of Islam is a formation funded by Saudi Arabia and supervised by the British SAS. Originally commanded by Zahran Allouche, it spread terror throughout the suburbs of Damascus and threatened the capital for three years. Its leader, who worshipped Osama Bin Laden, was characterised by his cruelty, ordering the decapitation of a number of local inhabitants, and using others, locked in cages, as human shields. Finally, the ’bunker-buster’ bombs of the Russian Air Force destroyed the underground head-quarters specially built to house his Staff. After a period of confusion, one of Allouche’s assistants, Issam el-Bouaydani, temporarily assumed his succession. He was rapidly ousted in favour of a Wahabist cleric, Sheikh Abou Abdarrahman Kaake, who recommended the nomination of one of Zahran Allouche’s cousins, Mohamed Allouche, to direct the delegation of the Saudi opposition at the intra-Syrian peace negotiations in Geneva. Mohamed Allouche had become celebrated for having thrown Syrians accused of being gay from the rooftops – the Syrian Arab Republic is the only Arab state to respect the private life of its citizens, and does not penalise homosexuals.

The Islamic Movement of the Free Men of the Levant is also supervised by the British. Like the Army of Islam, its communications are handled by InCoStrat [6]. Its «Minister for Foreign Affairs», Labib al-Nahhas, circulates freely in the West. He is in fact also British, and a member of MI6. He published an op-ed in the Washington Post [7], and paid a secret visit to New York last December to present his report to Jeffrey Feltman.

On the 17 May, the International Syria Support Group met in Vienna. In its final declaration [8], it questions the Syrian Arab Army’s strategy of encircling the villages controlled by the jihadists of the «moderate opposition». But above all, it once more validates all of the Russo-US decisions of these last months, namely -

- to form a common organisation for the transition between the Syrian government and the entire range of opposition parties when the moment for transition is reached;

- to elaborate a new Constitution;

- then to organise new Presidential and parliamentary elections on that basis.

However, even though Saudi Arabia is a member of the International Syria Support Group, the moderate opposition still refuses to accept these three points. It persists in demanding the departure of President el-Assad and most of the Christian, Chiite and Alawite senior civil servants before the formation of the transition organisation. Furthermore, it does not intend to run against the current leaders in a round of democratic elections.

It is not inconsequential that during the meeting in Vienna, a diplomat declared that his country was ready to fight Al-Qaïda, but that he was concerned as to who would then ocupy the terrain. Sergeï Lavrov noted what he considered to be a «lapsus» - this diplomat was admitting, de facto, that his country preferred the victory of Al-Qaïda to the victory of the Syrian Arab Republic. By doing so, he was distancing himself from the decision of the Security Council to make the fight against terrorism its primary objective.

On the same day, the 17 May, the special representative for the UN Secretary General, Terje Rød-Larsen, presented his final report on the application of Resolution 1559, and announced his resignation. The Resolution had been drawn up in 2004, on the initiative of the United States, France and Saudi Arabia, to demand the disarmement of the Lebanese Hezbollah, the non-renewal of President Emile Lahoud’s mandate, and the withdrawal of the Syrian peace force from Lebanon. The Resolution had never been applied, although Syria withdrew its soldiers of its own accord when asked to do so by the Lebanese public during the «Cedar Revolution». Mr. Ban immediately charged his assistant for Political Affaires, Jeffrey Feltman, with taking over Mr. Terje Rød-Larsen’s functions as well as his own until the end of the year. However, very many observers consider that Jeffrey Feltman, ex-US Ambassador in Beirut, is the real author of Resolution 1559, and that today, he secretly directs the military coalition against Syria from New York.

On the 19 May, Jeffrey Feltman took part in a ceremony in Paris alongside members of the foreign Syrian opposition, Burhan Ghalioun, Michel Kilo, Bassma Kodmani and Samar Yazbeck.

Still in France, General Benoît Puga announced his resignation as the French President’s personal Chief of Staff, in order to join the Chancellory of the Légion d’Honneur. An integrist Christian, nostalgic for the monarchy and colonisation, he was the only military man to occupy his post during the mandates of two successive Presidents, Nicolas Sarkozy and François Hollande. He had personally directed France’s secret operations in Syria – sometimes in contradiction to the advice of the Army’s Chief of Staff – notably with the assistance of the officers of the French Foreign Legion who worked directly for the Presidency.

We are moving inexorably towards an interruption of the Geneva negotiations. Moreover, if an agreement should be found between the Syrian parties present, it would be invalidated in the light of earlier international decisions, taking into account the exclusion – demanded by Turkey – of the main Kurdish party. This is why the failure of the Geneva talks would probably be followed by the reumption of the intra-Syrian negotiations between those who wish to take part – in other words, without the pro-Saudis, but with the Kurds. Then the formation of a transitional system with new participants. On the military side, the Syrian Arab Army should take back the country’s main cities, but combats will probably persist at the Iraqi-Syrian frontier.

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