UK minister condemns Syria regime attacks, meets opposition negotiator

Nasser Al-Hariri, chief negotiator for Syria’s main opposition group, pictured in London. (Reuters)
Updated 16 January 2018
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UK minister condemns Syria regime attacks, meets opposition negotiator

LONDON: The UK’s minister for the Middle East has strongly condemned the Syrian regime’s attacks on its own people, as he met with an opposition negotiator in London.

Alistair Burt met with members of the Syrian Negotiations Commission, led by Nasser Al-Hariri, during a meeting in London on Tuesday, according to a Foreign & Commonwealth Office statement.

“The UK continues to play a leading role in response to the tragedy in Syria. We have committed nearly £2.5 billion ($3.4 billion) to our humanitarian response to the crisis,” Burt said.

“I am alarmed that in spite of commitments to de-escalation the regime and its backers continue to bomb and shell opposition areas in eastern Ghouta and Idlib. In recent weeks these regime offensives have killed hundreds of civilians, displaced tens of thousands, and destroyed hospitals and other civilian infrastructure. These attacks must stop.”

The Syrian Negotiations Commission said earlier on Tuesday that the opposition would take part in a new round of negotiations hosted by the UN in Vienna.

Billed as “UN Geneva talks, but taking place in Vienna,” the dates are as yet unconfirmed.

The UN declined to comment on the change of venue or confirm dates for the new round.

Burt said the UK backs the UN-mediated Geneva process.

“After nearly seven years of conflict and over 400,000 deaths, it is abundantly clear that only a political settlement can bring a durable end to the human suffering and the regional instability the conflict fuels,” he said.

“Along with our international partners, the UK supports the efforts of the UN-mediated Geneva process as we believe this is the best way of reaching a lasting political settlement to end the conflict. We commend the constructive engagement by Nasser Hariri and the Syrian opposition in the latest round of Geneva talks and call on the Syrian regime to likewise engage constructively and agree to direct talks.”


Pakistan heatwave kills 65 people in Karachi — welfare organization

Updated 55 min 31 sec ago
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Pakistan heatwave kills 65 people in Karachi — welfare organization

  • Temperatures hit 44 degrees Celsius (111 Fahrenheit) on Monday
  • Most of the dead were low wage factory workers who work around heaters and boilers in textile factories and there is eight to nine hours of scheduled power outages in these areas, says Faisal Edhi, who runs the Edhi Foundation

ISLAMABAD: A heatwave has killed 65 people in Pakistan’s southern city of Karachi over the past three days, a social welfare organization said on Tuesday, amid fears the death toll could climb as the high temperatures persist.
The heatwave has coincided with power outages and the holy month of Ramadan, when most Muslims do not eat or drink during daylight hours. Temperatures hit 44 degrees Celsius (111 Fahrenheit) on Monday, local media reported.
Faisal Edhi, who runs the Edhi Foundation that operates morgues and an ambulance service in Pakistan’s biggest city, said the deaths occurred mostly in the poor areas of Karachi.
“Sixty-five people have died over the last three days,” Edhi told Reuters. “We have the bodies in our cold storage facilities and their neighborhood doctors have said they died of heat-stroke.”
A government spokesperson could not be reached for comment.
But Sindh province’s Health Secretary Fazlullah Pechuho told the English-language Dawn newspaper that no one has died from heat-stroke.
“Only doctors and hospitals can decide whether the cause of death was heat-stroke or not. I categorically reject that people have died due to heat-stroke in Karachi,” Pechuho was quoted as saying.
Nonetheless, reports of heat stroke deaths in Karachi will stir unease amid fears of a repeat of a heatwave in of 2015, when morgues and hospitals were overwhelmed and at least 1,300 mostly elderly and sick people died from the searing heat.
In 2015, the Edhi morgue ran out of freezer space after about 650 bodies were brought in the space of a few days. Ambulances left decaying corpses outside in sweltering heat.
The provincial government has assured residents that there would be no repeat of 2015 and was working on ensuring those in need of care receive rapid treatment.
Edhi said most of the dead brought to the morgue were working class factory workers who came from the low-income Landhi and Qur’angi areas of Karachi.
“They work around heaters and boilers in textile factories and there is eight to nine hours of (scheduled power outages) in these areas,” he said.
Temperatures are expected to stay above 40C until Thursday, local media reported.