Meeting to go ahead ‘despite Turkey’s concerns: Kremlin

Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Vladimir Putin. (Reuters)
Updated 23 November 2017

Meeting to go ahead ‘despite Turkey’s concerns: Kremlin

SOCHI/BEIRUT: The Kremlin said Thursday Turkey’s opposition to the participation of Kurdish militias in Syria’s political process would not stand in the way of a peace “congress” Moscow is seeking to organize in the near future.
“We know that there are certain reservations on the part of our Turkish partners with regard to the forces they believe pose a threat to their national security,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters at the Black Sea resort of Sochi.
“But this does not mean that work will not be conducted. Intense expert work to agree and check the lists (of congress participants) lies ahead.”
He said the congress would be convened “in the near future” but did not provide more details.
On Wednesday, President Vladimir Putin hosted the leaders of Iran and Turkey for a key trilateral summit aimed at finding a political settlement of Syria’s six-year civil war.
The trio sought to show a united front, saying they hoped a Moscow-championed “congress” would bring together Syrian strongman Bashar Assad’s forces and various opposition groups and reinvigorate a hobbled peace process.
Meanwhile, a senior adviser to Assad said that Russia’s planned peace talks among Syrian groups will only succeed if the opposition ends its fight against the government.
“The success of the congress depends on the various opposition groups realizing that the time has come to stop the violence, lay down their weapons and engage in a national dialogue,” said Bouthaina Shaaban in comments to a Russian news agency carried by Syrian state media.
Shaaban said the government is ready for dialogue with those who believe in a political solution, adding that the opposition’s desire — or even ability — to engage in a real political operation has not yet been made clear.
Syria’s six-year-old civil war has killed hundreds of thousands, pushed millions to flee in the worst refugee crisis since World War Two and embroiled regional and world powers.
In a separate development, Russia’s UN ambassador says the expert body that has determined responsibility for chemical weapons attacks in Syria “is dead” but Moscow is ready to discuss “a new mechanism.”
Vassily Nebenzia told reporters after a closed Security Council discussion that the Joint Investigative Mechanism, or JIM, “has discredited itself completely.”
Russia vetoed two council resolutions last week to keep the JIM in operation, and this week it rejected a third Swedish-Uruguayan draft resolution to revive the joint UN-Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons investigative body before it was put to a vote.
At the heart of the dispute is Russia’s demand for major changes in the way the JIM operates, and the insistence of the US and 10 other council members that its independence and operation remain unchanged.

Saudi Arabia pledges $100m to help ‘stabilize’ Syria’s northeast

Updated 24 min 6 sec ago

Saudi Arabia pledges $100m to help ‘stabilize’ Syria’s northeast

  • United States, which leads the anti-Daesh coalition, expressed its  thanks for the funds
  • The money will help ensure the militants cannot re-emerge as a threat

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia has contributed $100 million to help reconstruct areas of north-eastern Syria formerly held by Daesh.

The Kingdom said the contribution would go toward a campaign by the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS to “stabilize” the former Daesh bastion and help ensure the militants cannot re-emerge as a threat.

The United States, which leads the coalition, expressed its  thanks and appreciation to Riyadh.

“This significant contribution is critical to stabilization and early recovery efforts,” a State Department spokeswoman said. “Saudi Arabia has been a leading partner in the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS from the outset.”

The funds are the biggest single financial  contribution yet for reconstruction efforts in areas formerly controlled by the extremists.

The money would “save lives, help facilitate the return of displaced Syrians, and help ensure that Daesh cannot reemerge to threaten Syria, its neighbors, or plan attacks against the international community,” the Saudi Embassy in Washington said.

The contribution aims to support “stabilization projects” and “will play a critical role in the coalition’s efforts to revitalize communities, such as Raqqa, that have been devastated by Daesh terrorists.”

The statement said the money showed Saudi Arabia’s continued commitment to serve as a stabilizing force in the region.

The funds, part of a pledge made by Foreign Minister Adel Al-Jubeir last month, will go towards projects to restore essential services in the areas of health, agriculture, electricity, water, education, and transportation.

The United Nations has said reconstruction in Syria would cost at least $250 billion. The Daesh takeover of large areas of territory in Syria and Iraq in 2014 led to huge levels of destruction. 

A conference on the reconstruction of Iraq held in Kuwait in February raised $30 billion in funding commitment. Saudi Arabia said at the event it would contribute $1.5 billion in financial and reconstruction support. 

Saudi Arabia also hosted the founding conference for the coalition in Jeddah in September 2014, and soon after flew the first air missions to bomb Daesh targets in Syria.