Macron vows reprisals if chemical weapons used in Syria

French President Emmanuel Macron. (AFP)
Updated 30 May 2017

Macron vows reprisals if chemical weapons used in Syria

VERSAILLES: France would respond immediately to any use of chemical weapons in Syria, French President Emmanuel Macron said Monday while urging a stepped-up “partnership” with Moscow in fighting Daesh in the country.
“A very clear red line exists on our side, the use of chemical weapons by whomever,” Macron said at a joint news conference in Versailles with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin.
“Our absolute priority is the fight against terrorism and the eradication of terrorist groups and Daesh in particular,” he said.
“It’s the guiding principle of our action in Syria and in which I want... for us to be able to strengthen our partnership with Russia.”
The newly elected French leader said he favored “a democratic transition” in Syria that would “preserve the Syrian state.”
He added that “failed states in the region are a threat to our democracies, and we have seen each time they have enabled terrorist groups to advance.”
Putin said he and Macron agreed to discuss pursuing closer cooperation on anti-terror efforts, with a proposed exchange of experts to work toward that goal.
On Syria, Putin underlined the importance of securing the Syrian state, adding that it’s essential for combating terrorism.
Russia has staunchly backed Syrian President Bashar Assad throughout the conflict, while France has pushed for Assad’s removal from office.
Meanwhile, more airstrikes and artillery shelling hit the northern Syrian city of Raqqa, the de facto capital of Daesh, as US-backed fighters pushed closer to the extremists’ stronghold, activists said.
The developments come ahead of what is expected to be a major battle for Raqqa in the coming weeks.
Airstrikes have intensified over the past days as Kurdish-led Syria Democratic Forces (SDF) have pushed on toward the city, getting closer to it from all sides. The SDF captured dozens of towns and villages under the cover of airstrikes by the US-led coalition since November, when the group began an operation entitled Euphrates Wrath, aiming to eventually surround and capture Raqqa.
SDF fighters have surrounded Raqqa from the north, west and east. The extremists still have an exit from the south, even though the US-led coalition destroyed two bridges on the Euphrates River south of Raqqa.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the city was pounded by warplanes and artillery since early morning. The activist group had no immediate word on casualties from the new airstrikes, adding that about 38 people have been killed in Raqqa and its suburbs over the past three days.


India reimposes movement curbs on parts of Kashmir’s main city after clashes

Updated 49 sec ago

India reimposes movement curbs on parts of Kashmir’s main city after clashes

  • There were violent overnight clashes between residents and police in which dozens were injured
  • India has been fighting a revolt in which at least 50,000 people have been killed
SRINAGAR: Indian authorities reimposed restrictions on movement in major parts of Kashmir’s biggest city, Srinagar, on Sunday after violent overnight clashes between residents and police in which dozens were injured, two senior officials and eyewitnesses said.
In the past 24 hours, there has been a series of protests against New Delhi’s Aug. 5 revocation of the region’s autonomy. This followed an easing in curbs on movement on Saturday morning.
The state government has said that it has not imposed a curfew over the past two weeks, but on Sunday people were being turned back at multiple roadblocks set up in the city in the past few hours. Security forces at some roadblocks have told residents there is a curfew.
Two senior government officials told Reuters that at least two dozen people were admitted to hospitals with pellet injuries after violent clashes broke out in the old city on Saturday night.
Representatives in the Jammu and Kashmir government in Srinagar and the federal government in New Delhi did not immediately return calls asking about the latest clampdown or seeking an assessment of the number of injuries and clashes.
One of the official sources said that people pelted security forces with stones in around two dozen places across Srinagar. He said that the intensity of the stone pelting protests has increased over past few days.
The heavy overnight clashes took place mostly in Rainawari, Nowhetta and Gojwara areas of the old city where Indian troops fired tear smoke, chilly grenades and pellets to disperse protesters, eyewitnesses and officials said.
Chilly grenades contain very spicy chili pepper, and produce a major eye and skin irritant, as well as a pungent smell, when they are unleashed.
The officials, who declined to be identified because they aren’t supposed to talk to the media, said clashes also took place in other parts of the city including Soura, a hotbed of protests in the past two weeks.
A senior government official and hospital authorities at Srinagar’s main hospital said that at least 17 people came there with pellet injuries. They said 12 were discharged while five with grievous injuries were admitted.
The hospital officials and a police officer told Reuters that a 65-year-old man, Mohammad Ayub of Braripora, was admitted to the hospital after he had major breathing difficulties when tear gas and chilly grenades were fired in old city area on Saturday afternoon. He died in the hospital on Saturday night and has already been buried, they said.
Javed Ahmad, age 35 and from the wealthy Rajbagh area of Srinagar, was prevented from going to the old city early Sunday morning by paramilitary police at a barricade near the city center. “I had to visit my parents there. Troops had blocked the road with concertina wire. They asked me to go back as there was curfew in the area,” he said.
Telephone landlines were restored in parts of the city on Saturday after a 12-day blackout and the state government said most telephone exchanges in the region would start working by Sunday evening. Internet and cell phones remain blocked in Kashmir.
More than 500 political or community leaders and activists remained in detention, and some have been flown to prisons outside the state.
For 30 years in the part of Kashmir that it controls, India has been fighting a revolt in which at least 50,000 people have been killed. Critics say the decision to revoke autonomy will cause further alienation and fuel the armed resistance.
The change will allow non-residents to buy property in Jammu and Kashmir, and end the practice of reserving state government jobs for local residents.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government has said the measure is necessary to integrate Kashmir fully into India and speed up its development.