Tehran accused of trying to carve out regional axis

French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian at a meeting of EU foreign ministers in Brussels. (AP)
Updated 13 December 2017
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Tehran accused of trying to carve out regional axis

PARIS: French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian on Tuesday hit out at Iran, accusing it of trying to carve out an “axis” of influence stretching through Syria to the Mediterranean Sea.
Speaking about the role of Russia and Iran in helping Syrian President Bashar Assad regain the upper hand in the civil war, Le Drian said: “Russia supplies aviation and support on the ground but Iran supplies its militia and supports Hezbollah.”
In a France 2 TV program on Syria, Le Drian was particularly critical of Iran, which is vying for regional supremacy.
“Iran’s presence (in Syria) and Iran’s desire to create an axis from the Mediterranean to Tehran: No!” Le Drian declared, insisting that any deal on Syria’s future needed to ensure it remained “independent from the pressure and presence of other countries.”
He said: “Syria must become a sovereign state again and that means (a country) independent of the pressure and presence of other countries.”
Referring to the besieged opposition-held region of Eastern Ghouta, he said: “If you can summon Assad to Sochi, you can also tell him to stop (bombing) and allow aid to everyone.”
The main actors in this affair are Russia and Iran, they need to use their weight to lead a political solution with the other members of the Security Council, Le Drian said, repeating that Assad was not the solution.
“He is barbaric, but he is there, so we have to a start the process that leads to a (new) constitution and elections under the UN,” he said. “I struggle to imagine that populations who have suffered so much consider him part of the solution.”
This is not the first time Le Drian has expressed concern over Iran’s intervention in conflicts.
In remarks following a visit to Saudi Arabia by French President Emmanuel Macron in November, Le Drian accused Iran of having “hegemonic” intentions in the region.
A furious Iran accused France of having a “biased and partisan approach to the crises in the region,” alleging the stance was “contributing to turning potential crises into real ones.”
Macron has announced plans to visit Iran in 2018.


Calm in Hodeidah as observers move in to monitor cease-fire

Sporadic clashes continued until about 3 a.m. on Tuesday, but residents said there was calm after that. (AFP)
Updated 19 December 2018
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Calm in Hodeidah as observers move in to monitor cease-fire

  • “Both parties said publicly they are abiding by the cease-fire,” a UN official said
  • The truce in Hodeidah officially began at midnight on Monday

JEDDAH: Truce monitoring observers will be deployed in the Red Sea port city of Hodeidah on Wednesday as the first 24 hours of a UN-brokered cease-fire passed without incident.

The Redeployment Coordination Committee comprises members of the Yemeni government supported by the Saudi-led coalition, and Houthi militias backed by Iran, and is overseen by the UN. 

The head of the committee will report to the UN Security Council every week.

Deployment of the observers is the latest stage in a peace deal reached after talks last week in Sweden. Both sides in the conflict agreed to a cease-fire in Hodeidah and the withdrawal of their forces within 21 days.

“Both parties said publicly they are abiding by the cease-fire,” a UN official said on Tuesday.

Local authorities and police will run the city and its three port facilities under UN supervision, and the two sides are barred from bringing in reinforcements.

UN envoy Martin Griffith said the committee was expected to start its work swiftly “to translate the momentum built up in Sweden into achievements on the ground.”

The truce in Hodeidah officially began at midnight on Monday. Sporadic clashes continued until about 3 a.m. on Tuesday, but residents said there was calm after that. 

“We are hopeful that things will go back to the way they were and that there will be no aggression, no airstrikes and lasting security,” said one, Amani Mohammed.

Another resident, Mohammed Al-Saikel, said he was optimistic the cease-fire would pave the way for a broader truce. “We are hopeful about this cease-fire in Hodeidah and one for Yemen in general,” he said. “We will reach out in peace to whoever does the same.”

The UN Security Council is considering a draft resolution that asks Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to submit proposals by the end of the month on how to monitor the cease-fire.

The resolution, submitted by the UK, “calls on all parties to the conflict to take further steps to facilitate the unhindered flow of commercial and humanitarian supplies including food, fuel, medicine and other essential imports and humanitarian personnel into and across the country.”