Syrian regime blasted for quitting Geneva talks

UN special envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura attends a news conference in Geneva on Friday. (Reuters)
Updated 02 December 2017
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Syrian regime blasted for quitting Geneva talks

JEDDAH/GENEVA: The Syrian opposition on Friday urged the international community to pressurize President Bashar Assad’s regime to engage with the political process.
The opposition also rejected claims that it was seeking to undermine the talks, and said it sought a “political solution.”
The regime negotiator earlier said that his team was quitting UN-led peace talks in Geneva and might not return next week, blaming the opposition’s rejection of any role for President Bashar Assad in a transition.
Opposition groups met in Riyadh last month to hammer out a unified position ahead of the Geneva talks after two years of Russian military intervention that has helped Assad’s regime recapture all of Syria’s main cities. This gave Damascus the upper hand after more than six years of war.
“As long as the other side sticks to the language of Riyadh 2 ... there will be no progress,” Bashar Jaafari said after a morning of talks, adding that the Damascus government would decide if his delegation would return next week.
“For us (this) round is over, as a government delegation. He, as mediator, he can announce his own opinion,” he said, referring to UN mediator Staffan de Mistura.
Pressed about whether the regime’s delegation would return to Geneva next week, Jaafari replied: “Damascus will decide.”
Nasr Hariri, the opposition delegation chief, said on Friday his side had come to Geneva for serious, direct negotiations with Assad’s regime. The opposition was to have talks with de Mistura later on Friday.
“The regime’s game of opposing everything” proposed to it must stop, he said in a statement.
Reacting to the development, Yahya Al-Aridi, spokesman of the Syrian High Negotiations Committee, said in a statement: “We will continue to engage in the political process. We are exchanging ideas and thoughts with the UN envoy. We have presented a list of basic principles that may constitute a light at the end of the tunnel and not the path to the political transition…”
He said the implementation of the UN resolution 2254 is a necessity for the future of Syria. It is not a precondition as the Assad regime claims.
De Mistura separately consulted delegations from the regime and the opposition. He said direct talks were not a priority for that round.
Al-Aridi told Arab News from Geneva: “We are doing our job, we are involved in the political process, and we know it is the way out from this tragedy for our country. And if somebody is not interested in the Syrian people but only interested in remaining in power under the protection of Iran and Russia, that’s their problem. There is international law they have to stand before.”
Asked how any progress could be achieved in the absence of direct talks, Al-Aridi, said: “We are one delegation and are ready with no preconditions. They do not want to talk directly, but seven times in history they were ready for it with the Israelis. We are not Israelis.”
He said in the 1990s, there were direct Syrian-Israeli talks. “But here we have somebody who is not ready for direct talks with the Syrians.”
He added: “We have a UN Security Council resolution and a Geneva communique to report to if there is no advancement.”
Responding to Amnesty International’s accusation that the Assad regime used cluster munitions in attacks on Eastern Ghouta, Al-Aridi said: “This is no accusation. They have done so, and this is a reflection of reality. It is high time for the international community to react and stop it.”
On the resumed shelling by the regime on Eastern Ghouta following the announcement of a 48-hour truce at the start of the talks, Al-Aridi said the regime was not traditionally committed to its words. “This has turned into a habit. They tell the world they are committed to something and they do the opposite. So we are used to that.”
Bahia Al-Mardini, a UK-based Syrian journalist and human rights activist who fled the regime’s persecution, told Arab News: “When I was the director of media for the Syrian opposition in Geneva, I saw firsthand how the regime stalled progress at every turn, despite our enormous determination and hopes for democracy.”
She said: “The Syrian regime is not engaging because they want to keep the status quo, not deliver true change for ordinary Syrians. These talks are absolutely vital to delivering long-term progress for Syria and so if we want to see genuine democratic change, the talks must involve direct negotiation between the regime and the opposition at the same negotiating table.”
Al-Mardini added: “There is no legitimacy in any statement from Assad and his allies on Syria’s future. Seven years ago, ordinary Syrians in towns like Raqqa rejected Assad’s oppressive regime —  only for Daesh to then inflict a new tyranny on them. But across Syria, civilians have now said “enough” to the brutality of both Assad and Daesh — and civilians are renewing their demands for freedom, democracy and human rights.”
She said: “Assad and the Syrian regime must be held to account for their crimes, and so must the terrorists. Daesh has now crumbled — and we truly celebrate this. But until the misery inflicted on Syrians by the Assad regime is put to an end, the country can never be called ‘liberated’.”


New social deal signed in Morocco, salaries to rise

Updated 40 min 48 sec ago
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New social deal signed in Morocco, salaries to rise

  • The minimum wage, currently 2,570 dirhams a month ($266), will be increased by 10 percent over two years from July
  • Last July King Mohammed VI urged the government to take “urgent action” to address social issues
RABAT: The Moroccan government on Thursday announced a “new social deal” with employers and the main labor unions, under which many workers will enjoy a pay rise.
The deal agreed by the General Confederation of Moroccan Businesses (CGEM) and the three main unions — the UMT, UGTM and UNMT — is the fruit of months of negotiations
The minimum wage, currently 2,570 dirhams a month ($266), will be increased by 10 percent over two years from July, except for the agricultural sector.
Government-paid family allowances will also rise.
Meanwhile public sector workers will be given a 300-500 dirham monthly pay increase over three years.
Of Morocco’s main trade unions only the Democratic Labour Confederation has not signed the social deal which, according to the government statement, is aimed at “improving spending power and the social climate.”
Last July King Mohammed VI urged the government to take “urgent action” to address social issues, in particular health and education in the north African country which has been hit by protests over employment and corruption.
Mohammed VI pointed to social support and social protection programs that “overlap each other, suffer from a lack of consistency and fail to effectively target eligible groups.”
After months of stalemate, the dossier was handed to the interior ministry at the beginning of the year and the final rounds of talks were held.
The social unrest began in October 2016 after the death of a fisherman and spiralled into a wave of protests demanding more development in the neglected Rif region and railing against corruption and unemployment.
Morocco is marked by glaring social and territorial inequalities, against a backdrop of high unemployment among young people. In 2018, it was ranked 123rd out of 189 countries and territories on the Human Development Index.