UN ramps up appeal for South Sudan refugees

The new head of the World Food Programme (WFP) David Beasley attends a press conference about an updated aid appeal for South Sudan on May 15, 2017 at the United Nations Office in Geneva. (AFP)
Updated 15 May 2017
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UN ramps up appeal for South Sudan refugees

GENEVA: UN agencies increased their 2017 appeal for South Sudan’s refugees on Monday, saying they needed at least $1.4 billion to help alleviate “unimaginable” levels of suffering.
The UN refugee agency and the World Food Programme had earlier asked for $1.2 billion to support more than 1.8 million people fleeing fighting. But even that was only 14 percent funded, the agencies said in a joint statement.
“The suffering of the South Sudanese people is just unimaginable ... They are close to the abyss,” WFP Executive Director David Beasley said.
Two years after its independence, South Sudan plunged into conflict in December 2013 after rivalry between President Salva Kiir and his then-vice president, Riek Machar, exploded into violence.
A 2015 peace deal was signed but the terms were never fully respected. Lingering suspicions between Machar and Kiir triggered a fresh bout of fighting in July 2016 and violence has since spread to large areas of the country.
The conflict has led parts of the oil-producing country into famine and paralyzed public services.
Other anti-government groups have also emerged since the conflict erupted. Some have fought each other.
On Saturday, seven opposition groups, including that of Machar, said they had agreed to work closely in their bid to oust Kiir’s government.
Last week, Kiir fired his army chief Paul Malong, raising fears of armed confrontation. Malong has said he had no intention of staging a revolt against Kiir’s government.
Beasley said the number of those displaced by fighting stood at 3.8 million, and that 5.5 million people are facing hunger, while the onset of the rainy season was expected to make many roads unusable, making it harder for help to reach them.
“I am deeply alarmed and saddened by the widespread hunger and misery suffered by the South Sudanese people due to the ongoing conflict. The situation in the country is bleak and getting frankly worse,” said Beasley, who added he would be returning to South Sudan later this week.
“This crisis is man-made and is fueled by violence. There is now a real danger that famine, which has already been declared in parts of the former Unity State, could spread to other areas.”


Erdogan and Putin vow closer cooperation on Syria at Moscow talks

Updated 23 January 2019
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Erdogan and Putin vow closer cooperation on Syria at Moscow talks

  • The two leaders are on opposite sides of the Syria conflict
  • Russia and Turkey have agreed to coordinate ground operations in Syria

MOSCOW: Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan at a meeting in Moscow on Wednesday vowed to coordinate their actions more closely in Syria.
“Cooperation between Russia and Turkey is a touchstone for Syrian peace and stability,” Erdogan said in translated comments at a joint press conference after their talks, which lasted around three hours.
“With our Russian friends we intend to strengthen our coordination even more.”
“We agreed how we’ll coordinate our work in the near future,” Putin said, calling the talks which included the countries’ defense ministers “effective.”
At the start of their meeting in the Kremlin, Putin addressed Erdogan as “dear friend,” saying that their countries “work on issues of regional security and actively cooperate on Syria.”
Erdogan used the same term for Putin and said “our solidarity makes a weighty contribution to the security of the region.”
The two leaders are on opposite sides of the Syria conflict: Russia provides critical support to the Syrian government, while Turkey has backed rebel groups fighting President Bashar Assad’s forces.
Despite this, they have worked closely to find a political solution to the seven-year conflict.
Russia and Turkey have agreed to coordinate ground operations in Syria following US President Donald Trump’s shock announcement last month about pulling 2,000 American troops out of Syria.
Putin said that if carried out, the withdrawal of US troops from northeastern Syria “will be a positive step, it will help stabilize the situation in this restive area.”
Turkey has also welcomed Washington’s planned withdrawal, but the future of US-backed Kurdish militia forces labelled terrorists by Ankara has upset ties between the NATO allies.
Erdogan had said on Monday he would discuss with Putin the creation of a Turkish-controlled “security zone” in northern Syria, suggested by Trump.
The US-allied Kurds, who control much of the north, have rejected the idea, fearing a Turkish offensive against territory under their control.
Putin said Wednesday that Russia supports “establishing dialogue between Damascus officials and representatives of the Kurds.”
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov last week said that Damascus must take control of the north.
The northwestern province of Idlib earlier this month fell under the full control of a jihadist group dominated by Syria’s former Al-Qaeda affiliate.
The Russian foreign ministry said earlier Wednesday that the situation in the province remained of “serious concern.”
Putin said that the leaders discussed the situation in Idlib “in great detail today.”
“We have a shared conviction that we must continue jointly fighting terrorists wherever they are, including in the Idlib zone,” the Russian leader said.
Erdogan said that the countries will wage a “lengthy fight” in Syria.
Nearly eight years into Syria’s deadly conflict, the planned US pullout has led to another key step in Assad’s Russian-backed drive to reassert control.
Kurdish forces who were left exposed by Trump’s pledge to withdraw have asked the Syrian regime for help to face a threatened Turkish offensive.
The Kremlin hailed the entry by Syrian forces into the key northern city of Manbij for the first time in six years after Kurds opened the gates.
Moscow plans to organize a three-way summit with Turkey and Iran early this year as part of the Astana peace process, launched by the three countries in 2017.
Putin said Wednesday the next summit would be held “in the near future” in Russia, saying the leaders still needed to agree the time and location with Iran.
The last meeting between Putin, Erdogan and Iran’s Hassan Rouhani took place in Iran in September last year with the fate of rebel-held Idlib province dominating the agenda.
Ties between Russia and Turkey plunged to their lowest level in years in November 2015 when Turkish forces shot down a Russian warplane over Syria.
But after a reconciliation deal in 2016, relations have recovered at a remarkable speed with Putin and Erdogan cooperating closely over Syria, Turkey buying Russian-made air defense systems and Russia building Turkey’s first nuclear power plant.