Germany says ready to contribute to Syria rebuilding

Germany is ready to contribute to rebuilding Syria if a political solution was found for fair elections in the country, Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said Friday. (Reuters)
Updated 14 September 2018
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Germany says ready to contribute to Syria rebuilding

  • Russia-backed regime forces have massed around Idlib in recent weeks, sparking fears of an imminent air and ground attack to retake the last major opposition bastion.
  • The UN has warned a full-fledged assault on Idlib could create the century’s “worst humanitarian catastrophe,” sending thousands more fleeing.

BERLIN: Germany is ready to contribute to rebuilding Syria if a political solution was found for fair elections in the country, Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said Friday.
Hours before the minister was due to meet his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov in Berlin, Maas appeared to answer a request made by Russian President Vladimir Putin in August for Europe to step up in reconstructing Syria.
“If there’s a political solution in Syria that leads to free elections, then we are ready to take on the responsibility of reconstruction,” wrote Maas on Twitter.
“It is in our interest for Syria to be a stable country. For that, reconstruction is necessary. And we have an important role in that.”
At the same time, Maas also underlined Berlin’s demand for Moscow to use its influence to get President Bashar Assad to back off from a looming major offensive against opposition-held Idlib.
“I will impress upon my colleague Lavrov our expectations that there should be no major offensive in Idlib,” Maas wrote.
Russia-backed regime forces have massed around Idlib in recent weeks, sparking fears of an imminent air and ground attack to retake the last major opposition bastion.
During a visit to Berlin in August, Putin had called on Europe to fund the reconstruction of Syria to allow millions of refugees to go home.
“We need to strengthen the humanitarian effort in the Syrian conflict,” he said then.
“By that, I mean above all humanitarian aid to the Syrian people, and help the regions where refugees living abroad can return to.”
Germany has taken in more than a million asylum seekers since 2015, many fleeing wars in Syria and Iraq.
Chancellor Angela Merkel’s decision to keep Germany’s borders open at the height of the refugee influx deeply divided her country.
The UN has warned a full-fledged assault on Idlib could create the century’s “worst humanitarian catastrophe,” sending thousands more fleeing.


Indonesian fishermen return home after release from Philippines militants

Updated 20 September 2018
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Indonesian fishermen return home after release from Philippines militants

  • With the release of the trio, all Indonesians abducted by Filipino militants before 2018 have been released
  • Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines wil boost security cooperation in the Sulu Sea, which is a busy maritime area for fishing boats and cargo vessels transporting coal from Indonesia to the Philippines

JAKARTA: After 20 months being held hostage by militants in the southern Philippines, three Indonesian fishermen were finally reunited on Wednesday with their respective families at the Foreign Ministry.

Vice Foreign Minister A.M. Fachir handed them over from the government to their respective family representatives in a ceremony which was held without media presence.
 
"The condition on the field was getting more difficult. But we made the most of our contacts and assets on the field, and with the Philippines government support we were able to get them released,” Fachir said in a statement from the ministry. .
 
Lalu Muhammad Iqbal, the Foreign Ministry’s director for protection of Indonesians abroad, said the handover was held in private because “it was not a cause for celebration.”
 
“We are grateful for their release, but we still have two Indonesians who were abducted on Sept. 11 and we don’t want to hurt their families’ feeling,” Iqbal said.
 
The three fishermen are Hamdan bin Saleng, Sudarling bin Samansunga, and Subandi bin Sattu, who hail from Selayar and Bulukumba in South Sulawesi province. They were freed from their captors on Friday in Sulu province on the southern Philippines.
 
Rudi Wahyudin, a representative of Sattu’s family, said the family members were devastated during the 20 months Sattu was held hostage but they tried to keep their hopes up by keeping in touch with the foreign ministry to get updates of efforts to release him and his fellow fishermen.
 
“It’s normal for people in our village in Bulukumba to migrate and work abroad. Now his wife has asked Sattu to quit working overseas and find another job close to home instead,” Wahyudin said.
 
Indonesian ambassador to the Philippines, Sinyo Harry Sarundajang said the military attache and he flew to Zamboanga City to pick up the three men, after the embassy received information of their release from the West Mindanao Command.
 
“We thank President Duterte and the Philippines government for their attention and cooperation on this matter. It was a long and delicate process to release them and we had to be very careful because we didn’t want anyone to become victim in the process,” Sarundajang said at the press conference.    
 
According to the ambassador, the three men were moved and had to island-hopped to various small islands on the Sulu archipelago as their captors were avoiding the Philippine military operation.
 
The three men were working as crew members in a Malaysian fishing boat when they were abducted in the waters of Sabah in Malaysia on Jan 2017.
 
Iqbal said there are about 6,000 Indonesians working in fishing vessels in Sabah. Since 2016, there has been 34 Indonesian citizens who were kidnapped by armed militants in the southern Philippines and 13 of them were fishermen who were abducted from their vessels in the waters of Sabah.
 
With the release of the trio, all Indonesians abducted by Filipino militants before 2018 have been released.
 
“We are now working to release the two fishermen who were abducted on Sep 11. We have expressed our concerns to the Malaysian authority on the lack of security on their waters,” Iqbal said.
 
He added that Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines would boost security cooperation in the Sulu Sea between the three countries, which is a busy maritime area for fishing boats and cargo vessels transporting coal from Indonesia to the Philippines.
 
The three neighboring countries agreed in May 2016 to launch joint patrols in the area following a series of hijacking and kidnapping of Indonesian vessels and crew members. The initial maritime patrol was launched in June 2017 and was beefed up with air patrols in Oct 2017.