US threatens action over ‘sham’ Syria cease-fire

Russian Ambassador to the UN Vasilly Nebenzia talks with his US counterpart Nikki Haley before the start of a UN Security Council meeting concerning the situation in Iran, January 5, 2018 in New York City. (AFP)
Updated 13 March 2018
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US threatens action over ‘sham’ Syria cease-fire

NEW YORK: US Ambassador Nikki Haley told the UN Security Council on Monday that a Syrian cease-fire approved two weeks ago “has failed”.
“This is no cease-fire. This is the Assad regime, Iran, and Russia continuing to wage war against their political opponents,” Haley said.
The ambassador spoke as Syrian regime forces continued attacking Eastern Ghouta despite a 30-day UN truce.
She added that the US “remains prepared to act if we must,” if the UN fails to do so. The US asked the Security Council to demand an immediate 30-day cease-fire. 
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres again likened the chaos in rebel-held Eastern Ghouta to “hell on earth”
Guterres told the UN Security Council that “Syria is bleeding inside and out” and, despite some aid truck deliveries to the besieged Damascus suburb, the UN cease-fire deal of Feb. 25 had not been implemented.
“There has been no cessation of hostilities. Violence continues in Eastern Ghouta and beyond — including in Afrin, parts of Idlib and into Damascus and its suburbs,” Guterres told envoys in New York. 
“Particularly in Eastern Ghouta, airstrikes, shelling and ground offensives have intensified after the adoption of the resolution and claimed many hundreds of civilian lives — some even reporting the toll at more than 1,000.”  
The Syrian army’s offensive in Eastern Ghouta, backed by air and artillery strikes, has killed at least 1,160 people since Feb. 18, a war monitor said, as President Bashar Assad seeks to crush the last major rebel stronghold near the capital Damascus.
Russia, an ally of Assad, and Damascus say the UN cease-fire does not protect the fighters in Eastern Ghouta, arguing that they are terrorists.
The assault is one of the heaviest in the war, which enters its eighth year this week. 
The ferocity of the Eastern Ghouta assault prompted condemnation from Western countries and calls for a cease-fire. 
Hadi Al-Bahra, a member of the Syrian Negotiation Commission, was due to address the Security Council later on Monday. He urged Western powers to help civilians in Eastern Ghouta.
“I’m asking for the US and other permanent (UN council) members to put pressure in front of their own responsibility that it’s not permissible for the killing of civilians and for continuing the siege on Ghouta and other areas in Syria,” Al-Bahra told Arab News in an interview.
The US and other powers saved lives by intervening when Daesh overran Yazidi communities in Sinjar, Iraq, in 2014, and again in Kobani, Syria, the following year, Al-Bahra said. They should do the same for civilians in Eastern Ghouta now, he said.
Al-Bahra, who was president of the Syrian National Coalition from 2014-2015, urged Western governments to use targeted sanctions and trade curbs to pressure Assad and his backers, rather than draft more UN documents.
“We are tired of statements,” Al-Bahra said. “They need to find a way to turn this resolution into an implementable, enforceable resolution. If somebody is against providing real protection for civilians, let them show it.” 


Yemen warring parties say port city cease-fire starts on Tuesday

Updated 1 min 10 sec ago
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Yemen warring parties say port city cease-fire starts on Tuesday

  • Under the deal, international monitors would be deployed in Hodeidah and all armed forces would pull back completely within 21 days of the start of the cease-fire
  • Residents have reported continued skirmishes, mostly at night, on the outskirts of Hodeidah, where thousands of coalition-backed Yemeni troops have massed

SANAA: A cease-fire agreed between Yemen’s warring parties in Hodeidah will begin on Dec. 18, sources from both sides and the United Nations said on Sunday, to try to avert more bloodshed in a port city vital for food and aid supplies.
The Iranian-aligned Houthi militia and the Saudi-backed government of Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi agreed on Thursday after a week of UN-sponsored peace talks in Sweden to cease fighting in the Red Sea city and withdraw forces.
The Houthis control most towns and cities, including Hodeidah and the capital Sanaa, from where they ousted Hadi’s government in 2014 prompting a Saudi-led coalition to intervene. The government is now based in the southern port of Aden.
Residents have reported continued skirmishes, mostly at night, on the outskirts of Hodeidah, where thousands of coalition-backed Yemeni troops have massed.
Yahya Sarea, a senior official of the Houthi militia, told reporters in Sanaa the cease-fire was set to start on Tuesday.
“We hope they will be true to their words, otherwise we are ready to respond,” he added.
A source in the Saudi-backed government confirmed the date and said it was officially communicated to both parties in a letter from special Yemen envoy Martin Griffiths.
“While the Hodeidah agreement states an immediate start of the cease-fire, it is normal that it takes 48-72 hours to be communicated at the operational level,” a UN source said. “We expect the cease-fire to be implemented starting Tuesday.”
The United Nations is trying to avert a full-scale assault on the port, the entry point for most of Yemen’s commercial goods and crucial aid supplies. It is a lifeline for millions of Yemenis facing starvation.
The agreement, the first significant breakthrough in peace efforts in five years, was part of confidence-building measures discussed at peace talks that aim to pave the way for a wider truce and a framework for political negotiations.
Under the deal, international monitors would be deployed in Hodeidah and all armed forces would pull back completely within 21 days of the start of the cease-fire.
A UN-chaired Redeployment Coordination Committee including both sides would oversee implementation. The committee is expected to start its work this week, the UN source said.
Griffiths has asked the Security Council to pass a resolution backing deployment of a robust monitoring regime to oversee compliance with the truce, headed by retired Dutch Major General Patrick Cammaert.
The combatants are due to hold another round of talks in January to agree on the political framework for negotiations to end the war that has killed tens of thousands of people and spawned an urgent humanitarian crisis.