Unprecedented challenges undermining Arab identity, says Jordan FM

Saudi Foreign Minister Adel Al-Jubeir holds talks in Amman with his counterparts from Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states. (SPA)
Updated 28 March 2017
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Unprecedented challenges undermining Arab identity, says Jordan FM

AMMAN: Arab foreign ministers on Monday embarked on discussions preceding the Arab Summit, due to start Wednesday.
They stressed that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is the root cause of all regional conflicts, which are affecting global security and stability.
“We are witnessing unprecedented tough times, with the Arab region challenged by severe crises undermining Arab identity, Arab consensus and joint coordination,” Jordan’s Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi said on Monday at the opening session.
“These challenges have been an obstacle to all development efforts, and deprived Arab citizens of an opportunity to have decent living standards,” he added.
“The lack of joint Arab coordination opened the door wide open for extremists to fill the gap and take the initiative to disseminate their evil ideology among Arab citizens and convert the Arab arena into a war zone.”
Safadi said this also allowed others to step in and interfere in Arab affairs, “decide on our behalf and take decisions that serve their own agendas.”
He added that despite differences, Arab states have much common ground on which they can base themselves in tackling the many issues facing the region, including the Palestinian cause, which remains the core issue in the Middle East.
He said Arabs agree on the need to address the Syrian crisis, which has claimed hundreds of thousands of lives and displaced millions.
Safadi added that only a political process can address the Syrian crisis and end the bloodshed wrought by six years of war.
A political solution should be based on UN Security Council (UNSC) Resolution 2254 and the outcomes of Geneva negotiations, he said.
Safadi added that the Arab Summit will reaffirm its support for the legitimate Yemeni government, and agree on the need to solve the Yemeni conflict on the basis of UNSC resolutions, the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) initiative and the outcome of Yemeni national dialogue.
At the same time, “terrorism must be extracted from its roots. This plague has spread despair, misery and frustration among Arab citizens,” he said, stressing the importance of combating terrorism via revisiting the education system.
He cited UN reports that more than 12 million Arab children do not have access to proper education.
Arab League Secretary-General Ahmed Abul Gheit, addressing the meeting, said: “The state of uncertainty among Arabs, driven by the crises plaguing our region, is a challenge that needs to be taken seriously. Millions have become displaced and refugees, scattered across the globe. Many have found safe haven in some Arab countries, such as Jordan and Lebanon, while many others are still waiting, unsure about their future.”
He added: “While we express our most sincere appreciation to the refugees’ host states, we need to stand in solidarity with those countries and share the heavy burden they have been sustaining, considering the huge pressure placed on the infrastructure of these countries resulting from hosting refugees.
“We should not keep dealing with crises hitting our region on an individual basis. We need to act collectively to address these problems instead of letting others run our affairs for us.”
Abul Gheit said the Arab League is suffering from a severe financial crisis, and urged Arab support to enable the organization to assume its duties and play a more effective role.
Meanwhile, Saudi Foreign Minister Adel Al-Jubeir held a meeting on the follow-up of the crisis with Iran and ways to address Tehran's interference in the internal affairs of Arab countries.
Al-Jubeir discussed with Stefan de Mistura, UN special envoy for Syria, the latest developments in the conflict.


First Russia air strikes hit south Syria as assault looms

Forces loyal to President Bashar Assad began ramping up their air strikes and artillery fire on the zone. (AP)
Updated 24 June 2018
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First Russia air strikes hit south Syria as assault looms

  • Russia, the United States, and Jordan agreed in July of last year on a de-escalation zone in rebel-controlled parts of southern Syria that would tamp down hostilities there
  • Intense Russian air strikes are hitting towns in Daraa’s eastern countryside for the first time since the cease-fire was agreed in southern Syria last year

BEIRUT: Russia bombed rebel-held parts of southern Syria late Saturday for the first time since brokering a cease-fire there nearly a year ago, a monitor group said, as allied regime troops prepare a ground assault.
Southern Syria is a strategic prize for local and global players involved in the country’s convoluted seven-year war.
After securing the capital Damascus, Syrian President Bashar Assad appears keen to recapture the southern provinces of Daraa and Sweida, still mostly held by rebels.
He has sent military reinforcements there for weeks, dropped flyers demanding rebels surrender, and escalated bombardment in recent days.
Late Saturday night, his Russian allies bombed rebel-held towns in Daraa for the first time since the summer of 2017, said the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
“Intense Russian air strikes are hitting towns in Daraa’s eastern countryside for the first time since the cease-fire was agreed in southern Syria last year,” said Observatory head Rami Abdel Rahman.
The Observatory said the warplanes used Saturday — based on type, location, munitions and flight patterns — had come from the Russian-operated Hmeimim base in coastal Syria.
The Britain-based monitor said at least 25 Russian strikes hit the rebel zones but did not have any casualty figures.

Russia, the United States, and Jordan agreed in July of last year on a de-escalation zone in rebel-controlled parts of southern Syria that would tamp down hostilities there.
Since then, Moscow’s warplanes — active in Syria since 2015 — had refrained from bombing rebel positions in the south.
But violence has been ratcheting up this week as Syrian government forces look to retake the south militarily.
Forces loyal to Assad began ramping up their air strikes and artillery fire on the zone on Tuesday.
At least 19 civilians in rebel-held zones have died since then, according to the Observatory.
Several civilians have also been killed in opposition fire on government zones, with state news agency SANA reporting Saturday that two civilians were killed in Daraa city in rebel shelling.
Some 12,000 people have been displaced from Daraa province in recent days, the Observatory said, with many seeking refuge in poorly-equipped displacement camps further west.
The United Nations has warned that growing violence is putting the lives of 750,000 people in rebel parts of the south in danger.
On Saturday, regime forces took two villages in Daraa province, their first ground gains after days of bombardment, the Observatory said.

“The Russian strikes started around 10:30pm local time (1930 GMT) and stopped after midnight,” said Ibrahim Mohammad, a media activist in the battered rebel town of Busr Al-Harir in Daraa.
He said he and other residents had taken to their basements and bomb shelters as soon as they heard the planes, describing a steady thud of bombardment for nearly two hours.
In an effort to avoid a deadly offensive, international powers are holding talks aimed at reaching a negotiated settlement for Syria’s south.
“All sides should seize the opportunity to negotiate a deal for the conditional return of the Syrian state to the south west and avert a military conclusion that, for all sides and the local population, would be a worse outcome,” wrote the International Crisis Group think tank last week.
“The US, Russia and Jordan, which brokered a south-western cease-fire in 2017, should urgently extend that truce in preparation for a broader settlement,” the report added.
Earlier this month, Assad said contacts were ongoing between Russia, the United States and Israel over the southern front.
“We are giving the political talks a chance, but if they fail, there will be no choice but liberation by force,” he said.
The regime has retaken large parts of Syria from the opposition since Russia intervened militarily on its side in 2015.