US preparing new sanctions on Russia for covering up Syrian regime’s use of chemical weapons: Haley

US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley speaks during a Security Council meeting on the situation in Syria on April 14, 2018 at United Nations headquarters in New York. (Drew Angerer/Getty Images/AFP)
Updated 15 April 2018
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US preparing new sanctions on Russia for covering up Syrian regime’s use of chemical weapons: Haley

  • New sanctions aimed at companies dealing with equipment related to Assad and any chemical weapons use
  • US Treasury Chief to announce new sanctions on Monday

LONDON: Washington is preparing new economic sanctions on Russia for its support of Syrian President Bashar Assad and his continuing use of chemical weapons, the US envoy to the United Nations said on Sunday.
Ambassador Nikki Haley said the new sanctions, to be announced by Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin on Monday, targets Russian companies that are “dealing with equipment related to Assad and any chemical weapons use.”
Russia needs to feel the consequences for protecting the Assad regime, Haley told CBS’ “Face the Nation”.
She pointed out that Russia has vetoed six resolutions in the UN Security Council regarding Syria's chemical weapons.
The fact that Assad was making the use of chemical weapons “more normal and that Russia was covering this up, all that has got to stop,” she said.
Syrian opposition activists and first responders say a chemical attack on the town of Douma, near the Syrian capital, killed more than 40 people on April 7.
Haley also said that the US will not have any one-on-one talks with Assad.
She said Syria had so far refused to take part in multilateral negotiations as part of a political process facilitated by the United Nations, adding that Russia should “deliver” Syria to the negotiating table.
But she said Syria was not “worthy” of direct talks with Washington: “We are not going to have any one-on-one talks with Assad.”

Call for resumption of talks
Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz, meanwhile, called for a resumption of Syrian peace talks, which took place in Vienna in 2015, to halt the bloodshed in the devastated country.
Kurz said no military solution appeared possible in the conflict which had already caused massive suffering for the Syrian people.
“After the shocking use of chemical weapons on April 7 and the recent Western military action in Syria, it is now the order of the day to remember reason and to press ahead with the diplomatic peace process with all necessary vigour,” Kurz said in a statement on Sunday.
“The Syrian population had already suffered too much with over 400,000 deaths and over five million refugees outside Syria.”
Kurz said there could be no military solution to the conflict and therefore appealed “to all responsible actors” to continue the peace talks of the ‘International Syria Support Group’ took place between 20 different groups in Vienna in 2015.
A further escalation of the Syrian “proxy war” or even a direct military conflict between the US and Russia must be prevented by all means, Kurz added in a statement received by Reuters.
Austria has a long tradition as a place of dialogue and a bridge builder in conflicts, most recently in the Iranian nuclear deal, he said, with Austria ready to host talks over Syria at any time.
Since Kurz, a conservative, formed a coalition government with the far-right and pro-Putin Freedom Party in December, Austria had repeatedly said it wants to serve as a “bridge-builder” between east and west.
It repeated that position when it declined to follow most other EU countries in expelling one or several Russian diplomats over the poisoning by nerve agent of a former Russian spy and his daughter in Salisbury, England. Britain has blamed the attack on Russia but Vienna said it wanted to keep lines of communication with Moscow open. 

(With agencies)


Daesh militants kill 7 US-backed fighters in Syria: commanders

Updated 26 March 2019
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Daesh militants kill 7 US-backed fighters in Syria: commanders

  • Manbij is a former Daesh stronghold that is now ruled by a military council affiliated with the Syrian Democratic Forces
  • Daesh has vowed to carry out revenge attacks against the SDF

BEIRUT: Daesh militants killed seven US-backed fighters in the northern Syrian city of Manbij, its military council said on Tuesday, days after the group’s “caliphate” was declared defeated.

Daesh has claimed the Manbij attack. Manbij is a former Daesh stronghold that is now ruled by a military council affiliated with the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), the US-backed Kurdish-led alliance which declared victory over Daesh in its last redoubt in eastern Syria on Saturday.
At around midnight (2200 GMT) on Monday, gunmen opened fire at fighters manning a checkpoint at the entrance to the city, killing seven, the council said.

“The caliphate’s soldiers attacked a checkpoint ... west of Manbij city last night,” said a statement published on the group’s social media channels.
Council spokesman Sherfan Darwish earlier said it could be a revenge attack by Daesh sleeper cells.
“After the victory over IS, we have entered the phase of sleeper cells,” Darwish said.
“These sleeper cells are being activated and carrying out attacks but we will foil their operations.”
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based monitor of the war, said the attack was probably the work of Daesh, which would make it “the first attack of its kind” since the SDF declared the defeat of the caliphate last week.
Observatory head Rami Abdul Rahman said it was also the bloodiest attack in Manbij since January 16, when 19 people, including four US service personnel, were killed in a suicide bombing claimed by Daesh.
Daesh has vowed to carry out revenge attacks against the SDF for the six-month offensive which culminated in the militants’ defeat in the village of Baghouz, close to the Iraqi border, on Saturday.
The Observatory said hundreds of SDF members had been killed in attacks believed to have been carried out by Daesh sleeper cells since August.
Manbij is also a major point of contention between the Kurds, who lead the SDF, and neighboring Turkey, which is deeply opposed to their autonomous administration in northeastern and parts of northern Syria.
The city is one of the few areas west of the Euphrates that remains under Kurdish influence after Turkish troops and their Syrian rebel allies overran the Kurdish enclave of Afrin in March last year.
In December, Ankara threatened to launch a new offensive to dislodge the People’s Protection Units (YPG) — the Kurdish force that forms the backbone of the SDF — from the entire length of the border.
The YPG is considered a terrorist group by Ankara because of its links to the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), the outlawed rebel group that has fought a deadly insurgency for self-rule in southeastern Turkey since 1984.