UN Security Council calls for Syria ceasefire to be implemented

US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley speaks to Stephen Hickey, Political Co-ordinator at the UK Mission to the UN and Swedish Ambassador to the UN Olof Skoog before the UN Security Council vote for cease-fire to Syrian bombing in eastern Ghouta, at the United Nations headquarters in New York. (File Photo: Reuters)
Updated 07 March 2018
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UN Security Council calls for Syria ceasefire to be implemented

UNITED NATIONS: The United Nations Security Council on Wednesday called for a ceasefire to be implemented across Syria and expressed concern about the country's humanitarian situation, said Netherlands U.N. Ambassador Karel van Oosterom, council president for March.
"The cessation of hostilities was discussed. The Security Council reiterated its call for implementation of resolution 2401," van Oosterom said. The 15-member council unanimously demanded a 30-day truce across Syria on Feb. 24.
He was speaking after the Security Council was briefed behind closed doors on the situation in Syria at the request of Britain and France.
The meeting was called to press Syria and Russia to comply with a ceasefire endorsed eleven days ago to allow humanitarian aid and medical evacuations from Eastern Ghouta.
France and Britain requested the urgent meeting as the Syrian government sent militias as reinforcements to the rebel enclave and heavy airstrikes battered key towns.
Swedish Ambassador Olof Skoog, who negotiated the ceasefire resolution along with Kuwait, said implementation of the truce remains "totally and completely inadequate."
"So far we see minimal signs only from the Syrian authorities to implement the resolution and we are very, very disappointed about that," Skoog told reporters ahead of the meeting.
Backed by Russia, 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.
A first aid convoy reached Eastern Ghouta on Monday but the delivery was cut short as air strikes pounded the enclave. Aid workers offloaded 32 of the 46 trucks.
Nearly half of the food carried on the convoy which had been approved by the Syrian government could not be delivered and part of the medical and health supplies were removed from trucks by Syrian authorities, the UN said.
The Swedish ambassador said the council would push for another aid convoy to be allowed to return to Eastern Ghouta on Thursday to deliver food and medicine.
Skoog said the safety of the aid workers must be guaranteed.
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 outside Damascus on February 18.


Tunisia’s premier unlikely to push reform as polls loom

Chahed has gathered enough support in Parliament to stave off a possible vote of no confidence. (Reuters)
Updated 22 September 2018
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Tunisia’s premier unlikely to push reform as polls loom

  • By surviving for more than two years, Chahed has become the longest-serving of Tunisia’s nine prime ministers since the Arab Spring in 2011
  • Western partners see him as the best guarantee of stability in an infant democracy that they are desperate to shore up

Tunisian Prime Minister Youssef Chahed has survived attempts by his own party and unions to force him out but, with elections looming, looks less and less able to enact the economic reforms that have so far secured IMF support for an ailing economy.

Last week, the Nidaa Tounes party suspended Chahed after a campaign by the party chairman, who is the son of President Beji Caid Essebsi.

Chahed has gathered enough support in Parliament to stave off a possible vote of no confidence by working with the co-ruling Islamist Ennahda party and a number of other lawmakers including 10 Nidaa Tounes rebels. But his political capital is now badly depleted.

By surviving for more than two years, Chahed has become the longest-serving of Tunisia’s nine prime ministers since the Arab Spring in 2011.

In that time, he has pushed through austerity measures and structural reforms such as cutting fuel subsidies that have helped to underpin a $2.8 billion loan from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and other financial support.

Western partners see him as the best guarantee of stability in an infant democracy that they are desperate to shore up, not least as a bulwark against extremism.

Yet the economy, and living standards, continue to suffer: inflation and unemployment are at record levels, and goods such as medicines or even staples such as milk are often in short supply, or simply unaffordable to many.

And in recent months, the 43-year old former agronomist’s main focus has been to hold on to his job as his party starts to look to its ratings ahead of presidential and parliamentary polls in a year’s time.

The breathing space he has won is at best temporary; while propping him up for now, Ennahda says it will not back him to be prime minister again after the elections.

And, more pressingly, the powerful UGTT labor union on Thursday called a public sector strike for Oct. 24 to protest against Chahed’s privatization plans.

This month, the government once more raised petrol and electricity prices to secure the next tranche of loans, worth $250 million, which the IMF is expected to approve next week.

But the IMF also wants it to cut a public wage bill that takes up 15 percent of GDP, one of the world’s highest rates.