UN, EU call for return to Syria peace talks

High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Federica Mogherini (L) and UN Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura speak to the media following a meeting as part of an international conference on the future of Syria and the region in Brussels. (AFP)
Updated 24 April 2018

UN, EU call for return to Syria peace talks

BRUSSELS: The European Union and the United Nations on Tuesday called for swift political talks to end the long war in Syria, saying the latest territorial gains by Damascus and its allies had not brought peace any closer.
The UN special envoy for Syria, Staffan de Mistura, spoke at an international donor conference hosted by the European Union in Brussels, which will seek more than $6 billion in aid for the country.
“We’re seeing in last few weeks, days ... that military gains, territorial gains and military escalation do not bring a political solution, has not brought any change. On the contrary,” he told a joint news conference with the EU’s top diplomat, Federica Mogherini.
Mogherini also spoke of the need to “return to the political process under the UN auspices ... to start real, meaningful political negotiations that are clearly the only way forward for the country.”
The EU and UN on Tuesday began a two-day push to drum up fresh aid pledges for war-torn Syria and reinvigorate the faltering Geneva peace process as the conflict enters its eighth year.
Donor countries, aid organizations and UN agencies are gathering in Brussels for the seventh annual conference on Syria’s future as international inspectors probe a suspected gas attack in the town of Douma, highlighting the brutal nature of the war.
The meeting comes in the wake of strikes by the United States, France and Britain on Syrian military installations, carried out in response to the alleged chemical weapons incident in Douma which has been widely blamed on Damascus.
EU officials hope to beat the $6 billion (5.6 billion euros) pledged at last year’s gathering, as forces loyal to President Bashar Assad launched a new offensive against Daesh militants entrenched in a southern district of Damascus.
The UN has warned that its own appeal for money for humanitarian work in Syria this year is less than a quarter funded, receiving less than $800 million of the $3.5 billion needed.
“Within the resources we can plausibly expect to mobilize this year we cannot meet even all the urgent needs,” Mark Lowcock, the head of UN humanitarian agency OCHA said at the start of the conference.

Lowcock said $8 billion needs to be raised at a donor conference in Brussels to help Syrians, adding resources for work inside Syria and with refugees in neighbouring countries were "desperately short."
“Our focus is now to ensure the 5.6 m people we assess as being in acute need inside Syria are made the focus.”
Some 6.1 people are now internally displaced, more than five million have fled Syria and 13 million including six million children are in need of aid, according to the EU.
Lowcock said the “intensity of the humanitarian crisis has escalated again in 2018,” with more than 700,000 people displaced since the start of the year.
UN and EU officials are holding talks with aid groups working in Syria and neighboring countries on Tuesday to get their views before government ministers arrive on Wednesday.
Save the Children International chief executive Helle Thorning-Schmidt urged donors to focus on education, saying a third of Syrian youngsters are out of school and a third of Syrian schools are unusable because of the war.
“We have let Syrian children down. This is the seventh year and they’re still being let down,” Thorning-Schmidt told AFP.
“2018 has been a very bloody year for Syrian children, and one of the things they are missing out on enormously is education.”
UN children’s agency UNICEF said some 2.8 million Syrian children had missed out on education, warning that in parts of the country simply going to school “has at times become a matter of life and death.”
According to EU figures, the total given by the international community after last year’s conference was $7.5 billion — 25 percent more than pledged — with Germany, the United States and EU institutions leading the way.
Eight rounds of talks under UN auspices in Geneva have made little headway, while Russia, Iran and Turkey launched a rival process in the Kazakh capital Astana last year.
Russia and Iran are Assad’s key allies and their military intervention in Syria is widely seen as tipping the balance in the civil war.
But the EU still insists the Geneva process is the best way to bring an end to the war.
“The only way to avoid that the Syrian crisis spirals into wider conflict is to put pressure on all parties including the Syrian regime to come to Geneva for meaningful discussions,” Mogherini said last week.
EU foreign ministers said the conference should be used to “reinvigorate” the Geneva process, but it is not clear how effectively the gathering will be able to do this.
As with previous editions of the conference, neither the Syrian government nor opposition groups will be represented. It also remains unclear who, if anyone, will come for Russia, Turkey and Iran.

Security alert as Qatari ex-minister linked to terror reappears in public

Updated 16 July 2018

Security alert as Qatari ex-minister linked to terror reappears in public

  • Abdullah bin Khalid Al-Thani was photographed in Doha recently autographing a wall portrait of Qatar ruler
  • The Anti-Terror Quartet — Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt – placed Abdullah Al-Thani on a list of 59 terrorists being sheltered by Qatar

JEDDAH: The re-emergence in public of a former Qatari interior minister linked to financing and promoting terrorism has rung alarm bells in the security community.

Abdullah bin Khalid Al-Thani was photographed in Doha recently autographing a wall portrait of Qatari Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani.

The Anti-Terror Quartet — Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt  — placed Abdullah Al-Thani on a list of 59 terrorists being sheltered by Qatar. He has been accused of financing several terror operations and of accommodating terrorists, including those involved in the planning and execution of the 9/11 attacks, at his farmhouse in Qatar.

Al-Qaeda operative Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the principal architect of those attacks, moved to Qatar “at the suggestion of Abdullah Al-Thani,” according to the US Department of Defense.

In 1995, Abdullah Al-Thani is believed to have provided funding to Khalid Sheikh Mohammed to support him in combat in the Bosnian war. While the US pushed for Khalid Sheikh Mohammed’s arrest, Abdullah Al-Thani told Khalid Sheikh Mohammed about the growing pressure for his detention, leading to him leaving the country with a Qatar-provided passport on a government executive jet. When he returned, Abdullah Al-Thani was briefly confined to house arrest.

“This man is a big supporter of terrorism and of Al-Qaeda and there is no doubt that he enjoys the patronage of the Qatari regime. His re-appearance confirms all our worst fears that Qatar is a hotbed of terrorists and anti-Arab plotters,” said Saudi scholar and international affairs expert Dr. Hamdan Al-Shehri.

“We had no problem with the United States. We were great allies. But Qatar wanted to drive a wedge between our good ties and so, in league with Iran, they supported and facilitated Al-Qaeda's 9/11 operation.”

Al-Shehri said it was not a coincidence that 15 Saudis were selected by Al-Qaeda, Iran and Qatar for the 9/11 operation. “Their primary purpose was to finish our relationship with the United States. With time and painstaking work by other countries it soon became obvious who was pulling the strings of those terrorists, and why.”

"I think it's the right time to put all international pressure on the Qatari regime," said Salman Al-Ansari, head of the Saudi American Public Relation Affairs Committee (SAPRAC).

Abdullah Al-Thani was among the key links, Al-Shehri said. “When Doha realized it was being exposed it sent Abdullah Al-Thani out of the public eye. But it now seems emboldened enough to bring him back into the public glare. This proves once again that Qatar is the biggest promoter and supporter of terrorism, and that the Arabs, led by Saudi Arabia, have been absolutely justified in snapping ties with Qatar.”

After Saudi Arabia and three other states severed relations with Qatar in June 2017, Al-Qaeda operatives and ideologues came out instantly in support of Qatar. Egyptian Mohammed Shawqi Islambouli, a US-designated terrorist, described Qatar as “the pride of the Arabs.” Abdalrahman bin Omeir Al-Nuaymi, who the US sanctioned in December 2013 for “providing financial support to Al-Qaeda, Asbat Al-Ansar, Al-Qaeda in Iraq, and Al-Shabaab,” was also among those who rallied in support of Qatar.

On June 4, Al-Nuaymi posted on Twitter: “The latest developments in our region have proven that a state that sows destruction (Saudi Arabia) is inciting the West to sanction states (Qatar) and individuals.”

Al-Nuaymi is a Qatar University professor and former president of the Qatar Football Association. He was also a founding member of a prominent charity — the Sheikh Eid bin Mohammad Al-Thani Charitable Foundation, named after a member of the country’s ruling family. The Telegraph newspaper described him as “one of the world’s most prolific terrorist financiers.”

Among the list of 59 individuals and 12 organizations that the ATQ blamed for supporting terror are several who are also sanctioned by international organizations, including the UN. 

Sa’d bin Sa’d Muhammad Shariyan Al-Ka’bi, a Qatari national openly living in Qatar, was designated by the UN in 2015 as a known facilitator and fundraiser for the Nusra Front. Al-Ka’bi’s activities in Qatar, including the arranging of funding and transferring funds are well known and documented, yet the Qatari government has done nothing to stop his actions.

Abd Al-Latif bin Abdallah Salih Mohammed Al-Kawari is a known fundraiser for terrorist groups dating back to the early 2000s. At that time Al-Kawari was associated with Ibrahim Isa Haji Mohammed Al-Bakr, himself a designated terrorist by the UN and US. The two were working in Qatar to raise funds for Al-Qaeda organizations based in Pakistan and Al- Kawari was directly connected to the transfer of funds from Qatar to Pakistan. Al-Kawari has also been associated with fundraising and the transfer of funders to the Al-Qaeda offshoot, the Nusra Front.

One of the major demands made of Qatar by the Anti-Terror Quartet was: “Full withdrawal of all support, shelter and funding for terror and extremist organizations of all kinds.”