Saudi Arabia, Russia in push for Syria solution

Updated 06 December 2013
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Saudi Arabia, Russia in push for Syria solution

MOSCOW: Saudi intelligence chief has held a new meeting in Russia with President Vladimir Putin on the Syrian conflict, the second closed-door encounter this year.
The Kremlin said in a statement that Prince Bandar bin Sultan discussed with Putin at the president’s suburban Moscow residence the situation in the Middle East and preparations for a Syria peace conference planned in January.
“There was a detailed exchange of views on the situation around Syria, including in the context of preparations for the Geneva II conference,” the Kremlin said, without giving further details.
The Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement Wednesday that Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov had also met Prince Bandar in Moscow to discuss the Syria peace conference.
“The emphasis was placed on the need to ensure that regional problems are solved on the basis of respect of the UN Charter and principles of international law,” the Russian Foreign Ministry said.
Lina Sobonina, a Russian political analyst and researcher, told Al Arabiya News Channel that the discussion could address President Bashar Assad’s future role in Syria. Russia might also invite Saudi Arabia to attend the Geneva II conference.
“Russia believes that the participation of all regional powers would be useful and necessary, including Iran and Saudi Arabia,” Sobonina said.
The US-Russian peace initiative dubbed Geneva II, which aims at bringing the Syrian regime and opposition representatives to the negotiating table in a bid to end the bloody 32-month war, is being planned for Jan. 22.
The opposition has agreed to attend the talks on condition that they lead to a transitional phase that excludes Assad and his regime.
But government officials and their backers in Iran and Russia insist there should be no preconditions, and Assad has also said he would be willing to stand for re-election in 2014.
Syrian Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal Muqdad has said that no solution will be implemented without Assad’s approval.
“The Syrian (government) delegation at Geneva will be working under Assad’s directives, and any solutions proposed will have no impact unless Assad approves of them,” said in remarks in the Syrian press.
According to Muqdad, “in their closed meetings, Western leaders say there is no replacement for Assad.”
He also said that at Geneva 2, “we will gather around the table and we will discuss, without foreign interference ... and there will be an enlarged government.”


Gaza: Palestinian territory ravaged by war and poverty

Updated 17 July 2018
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Gaza: Palestinian territory ravaged by war and poverty

  • Israel tightened its blockade of the Strip on Tuesday by suspending fuel deliveries amid fears of a new all-out conflict
  • Gaza is one of the most densely populated territories on the planet with around two million Palestinians squeezed into 362 square kilometers

GAZA CITY, Palestinian Territories: The Gaza Strip, run by Hamas, is a poverty-stricken and overcrowded Palestinian coastal enclave under a crippling blockade by Israel, with which it has fought several wars.
After Israel tightened the blockade on Tuesday by suspending fuel deliveries amid fears of a new all-out conflict, here is some background.
On the Mediterranean coast, Gaza is one of the most densely populated territories on the planet with around two million Palestinians squeezed into 362 square kilometers (140 square miles).
After the creation of the Jewish state of Israel in 1948 and the Arab-Israeli war of 1948-1949, Gaza came under the administration of neighboring Egypt.
It was seized by Israel during the Six-Day War in 1967.
In 2005 Israel withdrew its soldiers and settlers, ending 38 years of occupation.
But it imposed a blockade in 2006, restricting the cross-border movement of people and goods following the capture of a soldier by Hamas militants on Israeli territory.
The blockade was tightened a year later after the ousting of troops loyal to the rival Fatah faction of Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas.
The only entrance to Gaza not controlled by Israel is at Rafah on the Egyptian border. This too has been almost completely closed since extremists launched an insurgency in the Sinai Peninsula after the military overthrew Egypt’s president Muhammad Mursi in 2013.
In May 2018 Israel began working on a “new and impenetrable” coastal barrier just north of Gaza to prevent the possibility of Palestinians entering by sea.
The Gaza Strip has almost no industry and suffers from a chronic lack of water and fuel. Its GDP losses caused by the blockade are estimated at more than 50 percent, the World Bank says.
Unemployment stands at 45 percent and more than two-thirds of the population depends on aid.
A reconciliation deal in 2017 between Hamas and the Palestinian Authority raised hopes of an improvement in the harsh conditions in the enclave, but talks have stalled.
In January 2018 UN Middle East peace envoy Nickolay Mladenov warned the Gaza Strip was on the verge of “full collapse.”
Donors in March greenlighted a project to build a desalination plant in Gaza, where more than 95 percent of water is unfit for drinking due to overpumping of groundwater.
Israel has carried out several military operations against Palestinian militants in Gaza, with thousands killed.
“Operation Hot Winter” in February-March 2008, in response to the killing of an Israeli by a rocket fired from Gaza, left more than 120 Palestinians dead in just days.
It led to weeks of unrest, with rocket fire from Gaza and attacks from Israel, in which hundreds of Palestinians were killed until a truce in June.
A vast air offensive, “Operation Cast Lead,” was launched in December 2008 to stop Palestinian rocket fire into Israel. It ended with a cease-fire in January 2009 and 1,400 Palestinians and 13 Israelis dead.
In November 2012 “Operation Pillar of Defense” kicked off with a missile strike that killed top Hamas commander Ahmed Jaabari. In the ensuing eight-day flare-up, 177 Palestinians and six Israelis were killed.
In July 2014 Israel launched “Operation Protective Edge” to stop the rocket fire and destroy tunnels used for smuggling and the movement of militants.
It lead to a war that left 2,251 dead on the Palestinian side and 74 on the Israeli side.