Putin should have ‘courage’ to push Assad: UN envoy

Staffan de Mistura, the UN special envoy for Syria, arrives to give a press conference closing a round of Syria peace talks in Geneva on Thursday. (AFP)
Updated 15 December 2017
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Putin should have ‘courage’ to push Assad: UN envoy

JEDDAH: Staffan de Mistura, the UN special envoy for Syria, on Thursday urged Russian President Vladimir Putin to “have the courage” to push Damascus to accept new elections and a new constitution.
De Mistura said Putin should “convince the (Syrian) government that there is no time to lose” in efforts to reach peace in Syria after nearly seven years of war. UN-led talks ended in Geneva on Thursday without any results.
Yahya Al-Aridi, opposition spokesman at the talks, told Arab News that Saudi Arabia and Western countries “have contributed to the constructive agenda by supporting the Syrian Negotiations Commission in its efforts to make progress on transition.”
He was reacting to regime negotiator Bashar Jaafari’s accusation that the opposition sabotaged the talks by putting down a precondition last month that President Bashar Assad should have no role in Syria’s political transition.
Rejecting the charge, Al-Aridi said both sides were asked by de Mistura to engage in serious discussions.
“We did that. We spent three weeks discussing in depth with de Mistura the pathway to political transition, taking a constructive approach on how to proceed on a new constitution and free and fair elections as part of the framework set out by (UN) Security Council Resolution 2254, with political transition at the forefront of this sequence,” Al-Aridi said.
The regime delegation’s accusations of sabotage are the latest pretext, he said, adding: “It’s not possible to sabotage negotiations by engaging constructively.”
Al-Aridi said every day lost to delay and procrastination “is another day of bombardment and starvation for Syrians besieged by the regime.”
Transition is the only way to free the Syrian people, he said. “And the only way to make Syria safe (for people) to come home (to) is by negotiations at the UN in line with resolution 2254.”
De Mistura said it was “regrettable” that Assad’s delegation had refused to meet face-to-face with the opposition.
At the start of the latest round, the delegations at one point sat just meters away from one another in separate rooms.
Bahia Mardini, a UK-based Syrian journalist and human rights activist who fled regime persecution, told Arab News: “It’s ridiculous for the regime to suggest that Western countries are stalling the talks when it’s Assad and his regime that refuse to engage.”
She said: “I’ve been at the negotiating table and seen first-hand how the regime stalled progress at every turn and used any excuse to delay progress.”
Mardini added: “The reason they did this is very simple: They want to maintain the status quo and a situation where they have full control over the Syrian people.
“They don’t want Syrians to have democracy because the regime knows that if this happened, Assad would be rejected once and for all.”
The regime, she said, has spent years murdering, torturing and threatening its civilians. “Everyone who believes that Syria deserves the chance to have democracy must now stand stronger than ever and not give up,” she added.
Mardini said her greatest hope is that “we will one day see meaningful peace and democracy in Syria.”
Democracy is the only way Syria can be free from the violence of Assad and terrorist groups such as Daesh, both of whom have been rejected by Syrian civilians, she added.
“It’s important that we remember that the reason the revolution started was Syrians refused to live their lives without freedom. Our aspirations are built on peace, not violence,” Mardini said.
“It’s time for Assad’s allies, especially Russia, to pressure the regime to enter UN negotiations in a meaningful way,” she said.
“That means Putin must apply pressure to his ‘friend’ Assad to re-enter the talks and do what’s in the best interests of the Syrian people.
“If they (the regime) won’t engage in talks fully, it’s further evidence they aren’t interested in making progress for Syria.”
Mardini said de Mistura should seek continued support from the international community to force the regime to negotiate with the opposition directly.
“Syrians just want to be able to return home, live without fear and have their basic human rights secured,” she added.
“There are still too many Syrian people without food or shelter, and these international diplomatic efforts mustn’t stop until we know they’re safe.”
 


Migrant charity files manslaughter complaint against cargo ship, Libya

Updated 38 sec ago
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Migrant charity files manslaughter complaint against cargo ship, Libya

  • The migrant rescue boat Open Arms docked in Spain on Saturday carrying the bodies of a woman and a four-year-old boy
  • Open Arms claimed the ship’s crew had seen the migrant dingy but had failed to provide help

PALMA DE MALLORCA: The charity Proactiva Open Arms has filed a complaint, including of involuntary manslaughter, with the Spanish police against a cargo ship for failing to help migrants adrift on a destroyed dinghy in the Mediterranean.
The captain of the charity’s rescue boat said on Saturday he also plans to file a separate suit against the Libyan lifeguard.
The migrant rescue boat Open Arms docked in Spain on Saturday carrying the bodies of a woman and a four-year-old boy as well as one woman who was found alive floating on the remains of a dinghy off the coast of Libya last week.
The boat took four days to arrive in the Spanish port of Palma after finding the migrants adrift about 80 miles (130 km)off Libya’s coast after being abandoned by the Libyan coast guard, the charity said.
“We have filed a complaint against the captain of the (merchant ship) Triades for failing to help and for involuntary manslaughter and we’ll also do it against the captain of the Libyan patrol,” Oscar Camps, the Open Arms captain and founder of the NGO, said at a news conference.
Open Arms claimed the ship’s crew had seen the migrant dingy but had failed to provide help. Reuters could not find a way to contact the captain of Triades, which flies a Panamanian flag. The ship is currently moored in the Libyan port of Misrata, where officials could not be reached for comment.
The Libyan lifeguard also left the three migrants to float amid the shattered remains of the raft after the two women and the boy had refused to board their patrol ship, the charity said.
Libya’s coast guard disputed the account on Tuesday but offered no explanation for how the three migrants came to be stranded on the remains of the dinghy.
The Spanish charity operates in the central Mediterranean, one of the deadliest areas of the sea and favored by people smugglers operating out of Libya.
Charity boats have been locked out of Italian ports, the closest European landing point, since Italy’s new government vowed to crack down on illegal immigration from Northern Africa.
Open Arms found itself at the center of the European immigrant crisis at the start of the month when it rescued 60 migrants off Libya and brought them to Barcelona in Spain after being refused docking in Italy and Malta.