US role ‘more important than ever’ under Trump: UAE

UAE Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Anwar Gargash. (Reuters file photo)
Updated 14 November 2016
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US role ‘more important than ever’ under Trump: UAE

JEDDAH: The UAE has urged President Donald Trump’s United States to develop a stronger strategy on the Middle East, after a “disconcerting vacuum” seen during Obama years.
Anwar Gargash, the country’s minister of state for foreign affairs, said that the influence of Washington in the region was “more important than ever.”
“Following eight years of weakened American engagement in the region, which many feel has created a disconcerting vacuum, it looks like we will have to wait a little longer until the contours of President-elect Trump’s approach to the region become clearer,” Gargash told the Third Abu Dhabi Strategic Debate in the UAE capital.
“It is essential that there is an overarching strategy rather than isolated positions toward regional issues. In short, America’s engagement is positive and its withdrawal and disengagement is counterproductive.”
He said that the stability of the Middle East “cannot rest on American engagement alone,” with the likes of Russia, China, India and the EU also having a role to play.
“But solving regional problems also requires an active role for the UN. This means that the international community has to reverse the failures of recent years, by providing a more activist and effective role,” Gargash said, according to the UAE state news agency WAM.
President Barack Obama administration’s policy in
withdrawing from the region has been “a recipe for unremitting chaos and violence,” Gargash added, pointing to crises in Iraq, Syria and Libya which have spiraled out of control and fueled extremism.


Thousands head home in Syria’s Idlib after deal, says monitor

Syrian children play in Morek, a town in the northern countryside of Hama province in neighboring Idlib province to the north, on Tuesday. (AFP)
Updated 2 min 9 sec ago
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Thousands head home in Syria’s Idlib after deal, says monitor

  • At a camp for the displaced in the town of Atme on the Turkish border on Tuesday, dozens of Syrians held up banners welcoming the agreement
  • As airstrikes intensified earlier this month, the looming threat of a Russian-backed assault had prompted tens of thousands of civilians to flee areas near the front line.

BEIRUT, MOSCOW: Thousands of residents of Syria’s last major opposition bastion Idlib headed home within 48 hours of the announcement of a deal to avoid a government offensive to retake it, a war monitor said on Wednesday.

As airstrikes intensified earlier this month, the looming threat of a Russian-backed assault had prompted tens of thousands of civilians to flee areas near the front line.

But the announcement of an agreement between Russia and opposition supporter Turkey to create a demilitarized buffer zone along the front line as the first step in a wider settlement prompted many to head home, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

“Around 7,000 people have returned to their towns and villages since the announcement of the deal on Monday, especially in the southeast of Idlib and the north of (neighboring) Hama,” said Observatory head Rami Abdel Rahman.

At a camp for the displaced in the town of Atme on the Turkish border on Tuesday, dozens of Syrians held up banners welcoming the agreement.

“We will return, God permitting,” said one.

“Thank you to our Turkish brothers,” said another, signed by the people of a town in the north of Hama province that had been bombarded in recent weeks.

One of the demonstrators, Marhaf Al-Jadou, said he was tired of running from the shelling and airstrikes.

“Enough of being displaced and sitting in tents. We want to return to our homes and our children to their schools,” he said.

The UN has given cautious backing to the Russian-Turkish agreement.

It “will allow for the delivery of humanitarian assistance and for the saving of civilian lives,” the UN humanitarian coordinator in Syria, Ali Al-Zaatari, said on Tuesday.

The civil war in Syria has killed more than 360,000 people and displaced millions more since it erupted with the brutal repression of anti-government protests in 2011.

Around half of the three million residents of the rebel zone around Idlib have fled from other parts of Syria recaptured by government forces in previous offensives.

Meanwhile, Russian President Vladimir Putin has said that the military’s combat experience gained in Syria has helped develop new weapons systems.

Russia has waged a campaign in Syria since September 2015, helping turn the tide of war in favor of Assad. The Russian military has used the conflict to test its new jets, cruise missiles and other weapons in combat for the first time.

Speaking on Wednesday at a meeting focusing on military industries, Putin said that new Russian weapons excel their foreign equivalents.

Putin singled out the new Sarmat heavy intercontinental ballistic missiles, the Su-57 fighter jet, the S-500 air defense system and the Armata battle tank, which are set to enter service in the coming years.