Get your militia out of southern Syria, Russia’s Lavrov tells Iran

A tank with the Hezbollah banner operating in Syria (AFP)
Updated 29 May 2018
0

Get your militia out of southern Syria, Russia’s Lavrov tells Iran

  • Israel and Jordan have repeatedly insisted that the Shiite militias that backed President Bashar Assad in the war, should not be allowed near their borders. 
  • The US has voiced concern about reports of an impending Syrian offensive in the south, warning Damascus it would respond to breaches.

LONDON: Iran came under pressure from both alies and enemies on Tuesday as Russia, Israel and Jordan all insisted there was no place for Tehran-funded militias on Syria’s southern border.

Israel and Jordan have repeatedly insisted that the Shiite militias that backed President Bashar Assad in the war, should not be allowed near their borders. 

A cease-fire brokered last year by the US, Russia and Jordan, reduced fighting in south-west Syria, where rebel fighters still control territory.

With Assad’s forces now in their strongest military position since the war began seven years ago, there are fears he may launch a fresh offensive to seize the area. 

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, said on Monday only Syrian army troops should be on the country’s southern border.

“Of course, the withdrawal of all non-Syrian forces must be carried out on a mutual basis. This should be a two-way street,” Lavrov said.

“The result of this work, which should continue and is continuing should be a situation when representatives of the Syrian Arab Republic’s army stand at Syria’s border with Israel.”

Russia has also backed Assad in the conflict, with its air power regarded as one of the key turning points in the regime’s favor. 

But Moscow was also instrumental in the de-escalation deals that reduced fighting in certain parts of the country last year. 

The US has voiced concern about reports of an impending Syrian offensive in the south, warning Damascus it would respond to breaches.

Jordan said on Monday it was discussing south Syria with Washington and Moscow, and all three agreed on the need to preserve the cease-fire there.

“The de-escalation zone has produced the cease-fire that has held best in all of Syria. The parties to the agreement are all committed to preserving it,” a Jordanian official told Reuters.

Both Israel and Jordan have been seeking understandings with Moscow to push the  Shiite militias away from the area.

Israel has stepped up its military strikes on suspected Iranian targets across Syria in recent weeks.

Israel called for Tehran to be denied any military presence in Syria.

“We believe that there is no place for any Iranian military presence, anywhere in Syria.” 


Sudan protesters remain resilient, but Bashir unbowed

Updated 19 February 2019
0

Sudan protesters remain resilient, but Bashir unbowed

  • Demonstrators are pressing on with rallies despite a show of defiance from the veteran leader and a sweeping crackdown by the authorities
  • Officials say 31 people have died in protest-related violence so far

KHARTOUM: Sudanese protester Osman Sulaiman has taken to the streets of Khartoum chanting “overthrow, overthrow” almost daily since demonstrations erupted against President Omar Al-Bashir’s iron-fisted rule in December.
And he insists he has no intention of stopping now.
“We have to fight our battle if we have to secure our future and the future of our country,” Sulaiman, an engineering graduate who has been unemployed for years, told AFP.
As the protest campaign against Bashir’s regime enters its third month on Tuesday, demonstrators are pressing on with rallies despite a show of defiance from the veteran leader and a sweeping crackdown by the authorities.
Officials say 31 people have died in protest-related violence so far, while Human Rights Watch says at least 51 have been killed including medics and children.
Hundreds of protesters, opposition leaders, activists and journalists have been jailed by agents of the feared National Intelligence and Security Service (NISS).
“The protesters’ resilience has been very impressive,” says Murithi Mutiga of International Crisis Group (ICG).
“Two months have passed, but the movement’s momentum has remained and participation has grown geographically and across socio-economic classes.”
On Sunday, scores of protesters rallied in Khartoum chanting their catchcry “freedom, peace, justice” as police fired tear gas.
Demonstrations first erupted on December 19 in the farming town of Atbara against a government decision to triple the price of bread.
But the rallies swiftly mushroomed into a major challenge to Bashir’s three-decade rule, with those taking part demanding his resignation.
From the provinces to the streets of the capital and its twin city Omdurman the demonstrations have spread through villages, towns and cities across the east African nation.
They have drawn in a cross section of society including middle-class professionals, agricultural laborers, youths and Bashir’s political opponents — with thousands of women and men rallying across the country on some days.
Only the three conflict zones of Darfur, Blue Nile and South Kordofan have remained largely devoid of mass demonstrations.
“Despite the violence unleashed by the regime, the movement has extended even to the rural areas,” said Mohamed Yusuf, a spokesman for the Sudanese Professionals Association (SPA), an umbrella group of unions that has spearheaded the campaign.
“We believe the movement will not stop as new groups have joined it.”
Sudan’s main opposition National Umma Party led by former premier Sadiq Al-Mahdi has backed the campaign and called for Bashir to step down.
Bashir swept to power in an Islamist-backed coup in 1989 that overthrew the elected government of Mahdi.
The SPA has called on political groups to join their movement by signing a “Document for Freedom and Change.”
The text outlines a post-Bashir plan including rebuilding Sudan’s justice system and halting the country’s dire economic decline, the key reason for the nationwide demonstrations.
Sudan’s financial woes were long a cause of popular frustration before the anger spilt onto the streets after the bread price hike.
Soaring inflation along with acute foreign currency shortages have battered the economy, especially after the independence of South Sudan in 2011 took away the bulk of oil earnings.
Protest campaigners have kept their supporters motivated by announcing rallies on behalf of detained comrades or to honor “martyrs” killed in the protests.
If security forces have prevented protesters from reaching downtown Khartoum, then they have rallied in outlying neighborhoods, sometimes at night.
On occasion, the calls to protest have failed to mobilize people, but there have also been demonstrations that have seen crowds of professors, doctors, engineers and teachers chanting anti-Bashir slogans.
The president’s ruling National Congress Party (NCP) insists that after two months the campaign has begun petering out.
“The protests continued for a long time but the reality is that demonstrations have now slowed,” said NCP spokesman Ibrahim Al-Siddiq.
“This is because protesters lack popular support.”
Analysts say continuing support from the security forces for the regime and Bashir’s own defiance have created a deadlock.
“The president remains very stubborn and the protesters remain very determined,” said Mutiga of ICG.
“What we now have is a clear stalemate.”
Bashir has countered the demonstrations with his own rallies, promising economic development in the country and promoting peace in its war zones.
Dismissing calls for his resignation, he has insisted that the ballot box is the only way to change the government.
The 75-year-old leader is considering a run for a third term in an election scheduled in 2020.
For now, those taking to the streets say they will keep up the pressure.
Aaya Omer, a resident of Khartoum’s eastern district of Burri, shows no sign of giving up.
“We will continue with our struggle because we deserve a better life,” the 28-year-old woman said.
“I’ll continue to protest until our mission to overthrow this regime is achieved.”