Macron urges Putin to help end civilian suffering in Syria

French President Emmanuel Macron. (Reuters)
Updated 10 February 2018
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Macron urges Putin to help end civilian suffering in Syria

JEDDAH: French President Emmanuel Macron urged his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin on Friday to help ease civilian suffering caused by Syrian regime attacks on opposition positions.
In a telephone call, the French leader “asked Vladimir Putin to do everything so that the Syrian regime puts an end to the unbearable deterioration in the humanitarian situation in Eastern Ghouta and Idlib,” a statement said.
The opposition blamed Moscow, President Bashar Assad’s most powerful ally, for playing a dubious role. “There are parties in the Syrian conflict that are not interested in finding any solution or any decrease in tensions. Russia has taken the UN Security Council hostage without permitting any sort of penalty or punishment for the regime or stoppage of its violent raids,” Yahya Al-Aridi, opposition spokesman, told Arab News.
Russia, he said, is participating with its jets in attacks on markets and hospitals where civilians are being killed in their hundreds. “What we can do is once again call on the international community to stand up to the implementation of UN resolutions and stop aggressors from carrying out such brutal acts against civilians.” 
Russia has intervened alongside Syrian regime forces in the civil war and Putin is seen as the foreign leader with the most influence over Assad. Fresh airstrikes hit the opposition enclave of Eastern Ghouta on Friday, AFP correspondents reported, the fifth straight day in a bombing campaign that has killed more than 220 civilians.
Macron added that he was “worried about indications suggesting the possible use of chlorine on several occasions against the civilian population in Syria these last few weeks.”
Al-Aridi said: “With the situation turning into an international case, all sorts of conflicting interests are being settled in the Syrian arena. Russia is angry with the US. They just use the Syrian arena to settle such accounts with no attention being paid to civilians.”
Diplomacy is making no progress toward ending a war that is approaching its eighth year, having killed hundreds of thousands of people and forced half the pre-war Syrian population of 23 million from their homes, with millions forced out as refugees.
“We are very worried. The airstrikes need to end,” French Defense Minister Florence Parly said on France Inter radio. “Civilians are the targets, in Idlib and in the east of Damascus. This fighting is absolutely unacceptable.”
Russia said on Thursday a cease-fire was unrealistic. The UN called on Tuesday for a humanitarian truce of at least one month to allow for aid deliveries and evacuations of the wounded.
In the north-western province of Idlib, Daesh terrorists clashed with Syrian insurgent factions on Friday, an opposition commander said, accusing pro-regime forces of opening a corridor for the radical militants to reach the region.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said regime forces had allowed the Daesh fighters to leave a besieged pocket of territory at the intersection of Aleppo, Idlib and Hama provinces, and to go to southern Idlib.
Al-Aridi said: “We believe that the coordination between Daesh and regime forces has been going on for a long time.” 
He cited the example of Palmyra which was first taken by Daesh and then given back to the regime. 
“Many a time, Daesh fighters have been given protection or corridors by the regime to attack the Free Syrian Army (FSA) and civilians. This is done in order to reduce the degree of attention on the regime’s crimes, he said. “In Idlib too, the regime has opened a corridor in order to put the FSA face to face with Daesh and let the Daesh fighter do all sorts of atrocities against civilians.” 
Hasan Hajj Ali, commander of the Free Idlib Army, said his fighters were taking part in clashes with some 200 Daesh terrorists who had arrived in southern Idlib early on Friday.
“This morning at dawn we were surprised by the joint treachery by the regime and Daesh,” he told Reuters. 
Al-Aridi said the opposition has been calling on the UN to stop the carnage in Eastern Ghouta. “The Syrian Negotiation Commission (SNC) had a meeting with Staffan de Mistura, UN special envoy (for Syria), on Feb. 7 where the issue was discussed and the Security Council will also be updated next week,” he said. “But every minute counts in Syria and Syrian time is blood.”


US warns Syria of ‘firm’ action over southern offensive

Updated 26 May 2018
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US warns Syria of ‘firm’ action over southern offensive

  • The US has warned Damascus it will take “firm” action if the regime of Bashar Assad violates a cease-fire deal
  • Syrian regime and allied forces on Monday retook the Yarmuk area in southern Damascus, giving President Bashar Assad full control of the capital and its surroundings for the first time since 2012

WASHINGTON: The US has warned Damascus it will take “firm” action if the regime of Bashar Assad violates a cease-fire deal, after Syrian aircraft dropped leaflets on a southern province ahead of an expected offensive.
Residents of Daraa told AFP Friday that several different leaflets were scattered across the province, which has borders with Israel and Jordan and is expected to be among the next targets in the resurgent regime’s reconquest.
One of them, seen by a journalist contributing to AFP in the city of Daraa, includes a picture showing lined up bodies, presumably of anti-government fighters.
“This is the inevitable fate of anyone who insists on carrying arms,” reads the leaflet.
The US State Department issued a statement late Friday saying it was “concerned” by the reports and that the area in question was within the boundaries of a de-escalation zone it had negotiated with Russia and Jordan last year.
“We also caution the Syrian regime against any actions that risk broadening the conflict or jeopardize the cease-fire,” said spokeswoman Heather Nauert, adding that the cease-fire had been re-affirmed by President Donald Trump and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin at a meeting in Vietnam in November.
“As a guarantor of this de-escalation area with Russia and Jordan, the United States will take firm and appropriate measures in response to Assad regime violations,” she added.
Syrian regime and allied forces on Monday retook the Yarmuk area in southern Damascus, giving President Bashar Assad full control of the capital and its surroundings for the first time since 2012.
Daraa’s location makes any broad operation there very sensitive, with Israel suspecting Damascus’ Iranian allies of seeking to establish a military footprint closer to its borders.
Government and allied forces control about 30 percent of Daraa, the rest of which is held by various factions, including a small contingent of fighters from Daesh.