UN chief calls for access for further aid convoys in Syria

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres. (AP)
Updated 07 March 2018
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UN chief calls for access for further aid convoys in Syria

UNITED NATIONS: United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called Tuesday for aid convoys to have immediate access in Syria a day after air strikes cut short deliveries of food and medicine to Eastern Ghouta.
Guterres urged all warring sides to allow aid trucks to return Thursday to the main town of Douma in Eastern Ghouta to complete the delivery of humanitarian supplies “as previously agreed with the Syrian authorities,” a UN statement read.
As air strikes and artillery fire continued, aid workers on Monday decided to pull out of Eastern Ghouta after offloading 32 of the 46 trucks in the convoy.
Nearly half of the food carried on the convoy could not be delivered and part of the medical and health supplies were removed from the trucks by the Syrian authorities, the UN said.
Guterres “calls on all parties to immediately allow safe and unimpeded access for further convoys to deliver critical supplies to hundreds of thousands of people in desperate need,” said the statement.
His appeal came ahead of a Security Council meeting called by Britain and France to discuss the failure of a cease-fire in Syria to take hold, 10 days after the top UN body demanded the truce.
Backed by Russia, Syria’s ally, the council unanimously adopted on February 24 a resolution demanding the 30-day cessation of hostilities to allow deliveries of humanitarian aid and evacuations of the sick and wounded.
Air strikes, and artillery and rocket fire on the rebel-held enclave near the capital Damascus have killed hundreds and devastated residential areas since they began on February 18.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said 800 civilians — including at least 177 children — have been killed since Russia-backed Syrian forces launched an assault on the besieged enclave on February 18.
 


Prince William on first official royal visit to Occupied Territories and Israel

On his first official visit to Israel and Palestine, Prince William is unlikely to talk about politics. Getty Images
Updated 23 June 2018
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Prince William on first official royal visit to Occupied Territories and Israel

  • The second-in-line to the British throne is due to meet Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu
  • There is a pretty naked desire to build relationships and Israel is a warm target for an increase in trade

LONDON: Prince William will embark on the first official visit to Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories by a member of the British royal family on Sunday.

But even with more than 120 Palestinians killed in protests in Gaza during recent weeks and controversy still surrounding the opening of the US embassy in Jerusalem, the second-in-line to the throne is not expected to talk politics.
Chris Doyle, director of the Council for Arab-British Understanding (CAABU), told Arab News that the four-day tour is likely to focus on making trade deals in preparation for Britain’s departure from the EU next year, rather than on addressing the moribund Middle East peace process.
“There is a pretty naked desire to build relationships and Israel is a warm target for an increase in trade,” he said.
The visit risks “normalizing” the abusive regime under which Palestinians live, he added.
“Of course Prince William has to go to both the Israeli and Palestinian sectors or there would have been outrage. But there is a risk of his visit making it appear more acceptable and normal to carry out abuses of international law like the blockade of Gaza,” Doyle said.
William begins his Middle Eastern tour on Sunday in Jordan, a long-time ally of Britain. On Tuesday he will move on to Jerusalem, where he will visit Yad Vashem, the official memorial to Holocaust victims, meet Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and later attend a football event with a mixed Arab and Jewish team.
On Wednesday he will meet young activists, both Arab and Jewish, who are involved in education and social programs, and also cross into the Occupied Palestinian Territories to meet Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah before attending an event focusing on Palestinian refugees.
He is due to deliver a speech at a reception hosted by the American consul in Jerusalem. However, protocol prevents him from making any remarks that might be deemed partisan. Doyle told Arab News this was a pity in view of how William’s mother, the late Princess Diana, championed justice for the oppressed.
“It is a pity that someone of his status, who clearly cares about his mother’s legacy, cannot give voice to real major concerns about the treatment of the Palestinians and the human rights abuses that are daily issues for them under Israeli control but which will be airbrushed out,” he said.
“Yes, he will see co-operative programs and Arabs and Jews playing football together, but the reality is that the Palestinian footballers can only travel to matches with Israeli permission.”
William was a surprise choice for the visit. Many expected the task to fall to his father, Prince Charles, who has more experience of countries which are politically extremely sensitive. But it is thought he was chosen because his youth chimes better with young Israelis working in hi-tech fields who he is scheduled to meet. Among Palestinians, his presence will barely register, said Doyle.
“I hope the language can be found for him to say something to his Israeli hosts, that his visit will be more than window-dressing, but the reality is it’s very unlikely. So the visit won’t register as important with Palestinians. They don’t want to be part of some tourist show or box-ticking exercise,” he said.