Russia blocks access of UN inspectors to Douma: French Foreign Minister

Photo showing a Syrian soldier, a Russian military policeman seen during a Syrian army-organised tour for journalists in the Eastern Ghouta town of Douma on the outskirts of the capital Damascus, 20 Apr, 2018. (AFP)
Updated 20 April 2018
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Russia blocks access of UN inspectors to Douma: French Foreign Minister

  • Le Drian said Russia was issuing “contradictory official statements on the chemical attack.”
  • "One day the attack didn’t take place, the next, it was carried out by militants, a day later, it’s a Western manipulation": Le Drian

PARIS: France urged the Syrian regime and its ally Moscow on Friday to grant weapons inspectors immediate access to the site of an alleged chemical attack, accusing them of “obstruction” aimed at eroding the quality of the evidence.
Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said the inspectors from the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), who arrived in Damascus last Saturday, needed “full, immediate and unhindered access” to the site in the town of Douma.
Their mission has been put on hold after a United Nations security assessment team were fired at, and officials at the OPCW have said that Russian and Syrian forces have likely removed key evidence.
“At this time the OPCW investigators still have no access to the chemical attack site in Douma. If Russia and Syria ultimately abide by their commitments, it will take (the investigators) at least two weeks,” Le Drian said in a statement.
“The OPCW mission has as its goal establishing whether a chemical attack indeed took place and identifying the nature of the chemical agent used. This obstruction will obviously harm the quality of the investigation,” he added.
“It seems likely that this attitude is intended to make proof and material evidence linked to the chemical attack disappear.”
France joined the United States and Britain in launching air strikes a week ago against the regime of President Bashar Assad, in retaliation against an alleged chemical attack in Douma which local medics said killed at least 40 people.
Le Drian said Russia was issuing “contradictory official statements on the chemical attack.”
“One day the attack didn’t take place, the next, it was carried out by armed groups,” he said.
“A day later, it’s a Western manipulation. There’s no concern for either coherence or truth when it comes to sowing doubt and confusion.”
He reiterated France’s assertion that it has conclusive evidence of a chemical attack in Douma on April 7 as well as proof that it was carried out by the regime.

 

 


Calm in Hodeidah as observers move in to monitor cease-fire

Sporadic clashes continued until about 3 a.m. on Tuesday, but residents said there was calm after that. (AFP)
Updated 19 December 2018
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Calm in Hodeidah as observers move in to monitor cease-fire

  • “Both parties said publicly they are abiding by the cease-fire,” a UN official said
  • The truce in Hodeidah officially began at midnight on Monday

JEDDAH: Truce monitoring observers will be deployed in the Red Sea port city of Hodeidah on Wednesday as the first 24 hours of a UN-brokered cease-fire passed without incident.

The Redeployment Coordination Committee comprises members of the Yemeni government supported by the Saudi-led coalition, and Houthi militias backed by Iran, and is overseen by the UN. 

The head of the committee will report to the UN Security Council every week.

Deployment of the observers is the latest stage in a peace deal reached after talks last week in Sweden. Both sides in the conflict agreed to a cease-fire in Hodeidah and the withdrawal of their forces within 21 days.

“Both parties said publicly they are abiding by the cease-fire,” a UN official said on Tuesday.

Local authorities and police will run the city and its three port facilities under UN supervision, and the two sides are barred from bringing in reinforcements.

UN envoy Martin Griffith said the committee was expected to start its work swiftly “to translate the momentum built up in Sweden into achievements on the ground.”

The truce in Hodeidah officially began at midnight on Monday. Sporadic clashes continued until about 3 a.m. on Tuesday, but residents said there was calm after that. 

“We are hopeful that things will go back to the way they were and that there will be no aggression, no airstrikes and lasting security,” said one, Amani Mohammed.

Another resident, Mohammed Al-Saikel, said he was optimistic the cease-fire would pave the way for a broader truce. “We are hopeful about this cease-fire in Hodeidah and one for Yemen in general,” he said. “We will reach out in peace to whoever does the same.”

The UN Security Council is considering a draft resolution that asks Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to submit proposals by the end of the month on how to monitor the cease-fire.

The resolution, submitted by the UK, “calls on all parties to the conflict to take further steps to facilitate the unhindered flow of commercial and humanitarian supplies including food, fuel, medicine and other essential imports and humanitarian personnel into and across the country.”