UN envoy: International community committed to peace in Yemen

The United Nations special envoy for Yemen, Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed. (AP file photo)
Updated 03 December 2016
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UN envoy: International community committed to peace in Yemen

ADEN: The UN special envoy to Yemen Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed on Friday confirmed the international community’s commitment and responsibility to achieving peace in Yemen based on the agreed-upon terms of reference of the Gulf initiative, the National Dialogue and UN Security Council resolutions.
Following his meeting with Yemeni President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi on Friday in Aden, Ahmed said the international community, the UN Security Council and 18 countries sponsoring peace efforts reconfirmed the legitimacy of Hadi and the government of Prime Minister Ahmed Obaid bin Dagher.
The envoy said the meeting was “positive,” and included discussion of peace efforts and opportunities in Yemen.
Hadi said rebels were continuing their hostilities, and were not serious about achieving peace.
He presided over an extraordinary meeting of the government in Aden on Friday, attended by bin Dagher.
During the meeting, Hadi stressed the importance of merging efforts to defeat the rebels in all areas of Yemen, especially in Taiz.
“Battles of honor and perseverance continue in the face of invaders seeking to destroy the city and kill and displace the population,” said the president.
The official Yemeni News Agency reported that the meeting included discussion on issues related to the status of services, development and field work in Yemen in the face of the coup and Houthi militias.
Hadi touched on the government’s peace efforts as per the agreed-upon references of the Gulf initiative, the National Dialogue, and UN Security Council resolutions such as 2216.
He referred to “important” steps taken, namely that “the state has agreed to issue salaries of state employees in the civil and military sectors in the coming days.”
Mohammed Mousa Al-Ameri, advisor to the president, said the government was determined to proceed with military operations against the rebels, especially after they had rejected peace initiatives and recently formed their own government.
“There is no choice before Yemenis but to build a federal state and continue in the regional project that will allow all Yemenis to achieve and live in justice, quality, and resolution of their issues,” Ameri said during a meeting on Friday in Al-Baidaa province with leaders of the popular resistance.
Those leaders praised the role of the Arab coalition in standing by the legitimate government in order to restore the state and its institutions, and assisting the popular resistance in Al-Baidaa against the Houthi rebels.
Meanwhile, the coalition said 172 civilians were killed and several hundred injured, including women and children, in November by “indiscriminate and heavy shelling” by rebels targeting residential neighborhoods in Taiz.
The coalition added that dozens of homes, commercial and civilian establishments were partially or totally destroyed by rebel shelling.
It said schools, mosques, government buildings and health facilities were bombed, while 36 schools in Al-Salu in Taiz were shut down due to weeks of shelling and targeted attacks.
Water and electricity are still cut off in Taiz, and most health and medical facilities have been destroyed.
Aid organizations have still not reached Taiz since the partial lifting of the siege on the city from its western port in mid-August.
The coalition said 752 families had been forcefully displaced from their homes due to armed combat and indiscriminate shelling in the Taiz countryside.


Turkey, Russia discussing Idlib airspace control: Sources

Updated 21 min 17 sec ago
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Turkey, Russia discussing Idlib airspace control: Sources

  • Turkey has set up observation posts in Idlib in a bid to prevent clashes between rebels and government forces
  • After a meeting on Sept. 17 between Putin and Erdogan, agreed to create a de-militarized zone in Idlib by Oct. 15

ANKARA: The partial transfer of control of the airspace over the de-escalation zone in Syria’s northwestern province of Idlib from Moscow to Ankara is being discussed by the two sides, Russian sources said. 

The aim is to enable Turkey to conduct an aerial campaign against Hayat Tahrir Al-Sham (HTS), which Ankara recently designated a terrorist organization. 

A former Al-Qaeda affiliate, HTS is the strongest armed group in Idlib, the last stronghold of Syrian anti-government rebels. 

In February, HTS claimed responsibility for the downing of a Russian warplane in Idlib using a surface-to-air missile.

Russia, Turkey and Iran are monitoring the de-escalation zone in the province as part of a trilateral agreement. 

Turkey has set up observation posts in Idlib in a bid to prevent clashes between rebels and government forces.

“Discussions are ongoing about the details of this transfer (of airspace control). I guess it will be limited to the buffer zone in Idlib for now,” Yury Barmin, an analyst at the Russian International Affairs Council, told Arab News.

“If Russia is taking steps to allow Turkey to use Idlib’s airspace, it will give Turkey more room for maneuver in the region.”

But airstrikes by Ankara against HTS might create another refugee influx into Turkey, which already hosts more than 3 million Syrian refugees, Barmin said. 

Idlib is home to more than 1 million displaced Syrians, and its population exceeds 3 million. Turkey is concerned that the creation of a humanitarian crisis near its border would further swell its own refugee population. 

After a meeting on Sept. 17 between Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the two countries agreed to create a de-militarized zone in Idlib by Oct. 15.

The deal requires that all radical groups, including HTS, withdraw from the area and that all heavy weapons be removed.

Russian and Turkish troops will conduct coordinated patrols to ensure that all armed groups respect the deal.

Emre Ersen, a Syria analyst at Marmara University in Istanbul, said a transfer of airspace control would mean that Ankara and Moscow are determined to implement their latest agreement regarding Idlib. 

“Until now, Idlib’s airspace has been fully controlled by Russia, which weakened Turkey’s hand in trying to convince rebel groups in the region to abandon their arms,” he told Arab News.

Transferring airspace control “would give Ankara additional diplomatic leverage in its dealings with HTS,” he said. 

“If Ankara fails to persuade HTS to comply with the Putin-Erdogan deal regarding Idlib, it’s almost certain that Russia and Syrian government forces will start a military operation in the region.”

So Turkey is sending a message to HTS that if carrots do not work, it has some sticks at its disposal, Ersen said.