Russia ‘skeptical’ over UN Syrian crimes against humanity report

Pro-government forces sit amidst destroyed buildings in the Eastern Ghouta town of Douma on April 20. A UN report said that forces loyal to the government had deliberately starved civilians during the Eastern Ghouta siege between February and April, among other crimes. (AFP)
Updated 21 June 2018
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Russia ‘skeptical’ over UN Syrian crimes against humanity report

MOSCOW: Russia’s foreign minister on Thursday said he was “skeptical” about a UN report accusing the Syrian regime of committing crimes against humanity during the siege of Eastern Ghouta.
The report published Wednesday said forces loyal to the government had deliberately starved civilians during the siege between February and April, among other crimes.
“We are in principle very skeptical toward the methods of this sort of work, whether it comes to war crimes or the use of chemical weapons,” Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said at a press conference in Moscow with UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres.
When questioned by journalists, Lavrov confirmed he had not seen the report.
He said it was “based on data obtained through social networks, video that was filmed by witnesses,” rather than being put together on the ground.
The five-year siege, on the outskirts of the capital, ended in April when Damascus regained control of the rebel enclave.
As pro-government forces dramatically escalated their campaign to recapture the besieged enclave, they used tactics that were “largely unlawful in nature,” the UN-commissioned report said.
The tactics, it said, “aimed at punishing the inhabitants of eastern Ghouta and forcing the population, collectively, to surrender or starve.”
Russia has been involved in Syria’s civil war since September 2015. Its military support of the regime changed the course of the war, allowing government troops to retake more than half the country from rebels and the Daesh group.
More than 350,000 people have been killed in Syria’s war since it started in 2011 with the brutal repression of anti-government protests.


Interfaith dialogue ‘vital to curb extremism,’ says Islamic researcher

Ahmed Qassim Al-Ghamdi
Updated 25 min 34 sec ago
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Interfaith dialogue ‘vital to curb extremism,’ says Islamic researcher

  • Dialogue is the only choice for contemporary societies to coexist in a peaceful world: Al-Ghamdi
  • We hope this cooperation will promote the culture of moderation and correct misconceptions about Islam, said the researcher

JEDDAH: Interfaith dialogue is essential to combat terrorism, curb extremism and promote peace, a leading Islamic researcher has told Arab News.

Open discussion between followers of different religions would also correct many common misconceptions about Islam, said Sheikh Ahmed Qassim Al-Ghamdi, former president of the Makkah branch of the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice.

“Dialogue is the only choice for contemporary societies to coexist in a peaceful world,” Al-Ghamdi said. “It establishes a legitimate relationship between members of different societies. It also ignites their understanding and openness toward each other.”

Such discussions did not conflict with the values of Islam, he said. On the contrary, they encouraged greater mutual understanding. “They are, in fact, in compliance with the Qur’anic approach to protecting human communities, which have been created from the same soul, against racism, sectarian strife, hostility and dissonance.

“We hope this cooperation will promote the culture of moderation and correct misconceptions about Islam.”

It was normal for people to have different views and beliefs, Al-Ghamdi said, but rather than create conflict, this was an opportunity to exchange experiences and share benefits. 

A good example was the recent agreement between the Vatican and the Muslim World League on achieving common objectives. Al-Ghamdi said. “It will cut off the way to extremism and terrorism, encourage members of different religions to work on common humanitarian, religious and social interests, and reinforce positive relations between followers of different religions.”

Saudi Arabia was a unique and distinguished model in the fight against terrorism and extremism, Al-Ghamdi said. The Kingdom continued to combat the evil of terrorism in all forms, locally, regionally and internationally, and it called upon the international community to cooperate to eradicate terrorism.