Mursi cancels Paris visit amid crisis at home

Updated 31 January 2013
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Mursi cancels Paris visit amid crisis at home

CAIRO/BERLIN: Egyptian President Muhammad Mursi flew to Germany yesterday to try to convince Europe of his democratic credentials.
Meanwhile, two more protesters were shot dead before dawn near Cairo’s central Tahrir Square on the seventh day of what has become the deadliest wave of unrest since Mursi took power.
The Egyptian army chief warned on Tuesday that the state was on the brink of collapse if Mursi’s opponents and supporters did not end street battles that have marked the two-year anniversary of the revolt that toppled Hosni Mubarak.
Because of the crisis, Mursi has curtailed his European visit, canceling plans to go to Paris after Berlin.
Near Tahrir Square yesterday, dozens of protesters threw stones at police who fired back teargas, although the scuffles were brief.
Opposition politician Mohamed ElBaradei called for a meeting between the president, government ministers, the ruling party and the opposition to halt the violence. But he also restated the opposition’s precondition that Mursi first commit to seeking a national unity government, which the president has so far rejected.
Mursi’s critics accuse him of keeping too much power in his own hands and those of his Muslim Brotherhood, the party banned under Mubarak, which won repeated elections since the 2011 uprising.
Mursi’s supporters say the protesters want to overthrow Egypt’s first democratically elected leader. The unrest has prevented a return to stability ahead of parliamentary elections due within months, and worsened an economic crisis that has seen the pound currency tumble in recent weeks.
The worst violence has been in the Suez Canal city of Port Said, where rage was fueled by death sentences passed against soccer fans for deadly riots last year. Mursi responded by announcing on Sunday a month-long state of emergency and curfew in Port Said and two other Suez Canal cities.
Protesters have ignored the curfew and returned to the streets. Human Rights Watch called for Mursi to lift the decree.
Mursi will be keen to allay the West’s fears over the future of the most populous Arab country when he meets German Chancellor Angela Merkel and powerful industry groups in Berlin.
“We have seen worrying images in recent days, images of violence and destruction, and I appeal to both sides to engage in dialogue,” German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle said in a radio interview yesterday ahead of Mursi’s arrival.
Germany’s “offer to help with Egypt’s transformation clearly depends on it sticking to democratic reforms”, he added.


Global donors to seek more than $6 billion for Syrian aid

Updated 23 April 2018
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Global donors to seek more than $6 billion for Syrian aid

  • The $6-billion target is similar to the amount raised last year
  • Rebuilding destroyed cities such as Aleppo is likely to take billions more dollars

BRUSSELS: Governments will seek more than $6 billion in aid for Syria at a two-day donor conference from Tuesday, which the European Union hopes will also offer Russia, Turkey and Iran a chance to renew peace efforts.
As the conflict enters its eighth devastating year, Brussels has invited some 85 governments and non-governmental agencies to raise funds for humanitarian aid, limited reconstruction and de-mining of shattered cities.
“Funding the aid response is critical,” said Robert Beer at aid agency CARE International. “But funding is only part of the picture — the systematic and deliberate blocking of aid inside Syria must end, and aid workers must be granted unimpeded access to civilians,” he said in a statement.
This, the third annual conference after London in 2016 and then in Brussels last year, could help return some electricity and water to cities heavily damaged in the West’s campaign to push out Islamic militants.
But the majority is likely to go to help the refugees outside Syria and the millions displaced within, including some 160,000 people who fled a bombing campaign by Syrian ally Russia in eastern Ghouta near Damascus over the past six weeks.
The $6-billion target is similar to the amount raised last year, but officials say they want to go beyond that level now.
Rebuilding destroyed cities such as Aleppo is likely to take billions more dollars, however, and cannot start until powers involved in the proxy war back a peaceful transition away from the rule of Syrian President Bashar Assad, the EU says.
Some of the biggest aid donors include the European Union, the United States, Norway and Japan.
Governments are also expected to send senior ministers, with Turkey’s Deputy Prime Minister Recep Akdag confirmed and, possibly, Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif due, EU officials said.
Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has been invited, but it is not clear he will attend. The United Nations special envoy for Syria, Staffan de Mistura, who met Lavrov in Moscow on April 20, is also expected in Brussels.
Last year’s absence of top-level officials from Russia, Turkey and the United States, as well as a chemical attack in Syria, overshadowed the conference’s efforts to help end the conflict between anti-Assad rebels, Islamist militants, Syrian troops and foreign forces.
This time, the EU’s top diplomat Federica Mogherini is appealing to the trio of Iran, Russia and Turkey — the key powers with direct military involvement in the war — to support a lasting cease-fire to allow aid access and medical evacuations.
Mogherini wrote to the three last February to demand a 30-day humanitarian cease-fire. That has not seen a response as yet, said an EU official involved in Syria policy.

Meanwhile, more than a dozen Syrian regime forces were killed fighting Daesh in a devastated southern district of the capital Damascus, a monitoring group said on Monday.
Forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar Assad ramped up their ground operations and bombing raids against the Palestinian refugee camp of Yarmuk in southern Damascus last Thursday.