Turkey, Russia, Iran to hold Syria talks next week

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov (C), Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif (R) and Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu attend a meeting on Syria in Astana on March 16, 2018. (File/AFP)
Updated 19 November 2018
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Turkey, Russia, Iran to hold Syria talks next week

ASTANA: Russia, Iran and Turkey will hold the next round of talks on Syria's conflict on November 28-29 in the Kazakh capital Astana, Kazakhstan's foreign minister said on Monday.
"The participants plan to discuss the current situation in Syria, in particular in Idlib, creating conditions for the return of refugees and internally displaced people, and post-conflict reconstruction," Kairat Abdrakhmanov said in Astana.
The meeting will be the 11th in the Astana peace process -- set up in early 2017 by Russia and Iran, who support President Bashar al-Assad's regime in Syria, and opposition backer Turkey.
Abdrakhmanov said representatives of Damascus and armed opposition groups would take part, but did not specify what level of officials from Russia, Iran and Turkey would attend.
The Astana process was launched after Russia's military intervention in Syria tipped the balance in the regime's favour. It has gradually eclipsed an earlier UN-sponsored negotiations framework known as the Geneva process.
This month's meeting comes with continued violence threatening plans for a buffer zone around Idlib, the last major opposition stronghold in Syria.
Russia and Turkey agreed in September to set up the buffer zone to avert a Syrian regime offensive, but jihadists who hold around 70 percent of the area have refused to withdraw.
Fighting in the area has continued, with jihadists on Friday killing 22 regime fighters in an attack on government forces in the northwest of Hama province near the planned zone.


UN Yemen envoy pushes Security Council for robust truce monitoring

Updated 53 min 8 sec ago
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UN Yemen envoy pushes Security Council for robust truce monitoring

  • Griffiths called for deployment of UN monitors to observe the implementation of a cease-fire in Hodeida and the withdrawal of Houthi militia
  • Saudi Arabia says it is committed to reaching a political solution that guarantees the security and stability of Yemen

JEDDAH: A robust monitoring regime is urgently needed in Yemen’s port city of Hodeidah to oversee compliance by the warring parties with an agreed cease-fire in the region, United Nations Yemen envoy Martin Griffiths told the Security Council on Friday.
The Iranian-aligned Houthis and the Arab Coalition-backed Yemen government of President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi agreed on Thursday to stop fighting for Houthi-held Hodeidah and withdraw their troops, the first significant breakthrough for UN-led peace efforts in five years of conflict.
“A robust and competent monitoring regime is not just essential, it is also urgently needed and both parties have told us they would very much welcome it and indeed depend on it,” Griffiths told the 15-member council, adding that UN officials were already planning for such a deployment.
Such a monitoring mission needs the backing of the Security Council in a resolution, diplomats said.
Griffiths said in a video briefing that retired Dutch Major General Patrick Cammaert had agreed to lead the monitoring component of the agreement, which took effect on Thursday when the deal was published. He said Cammaert could arrive in the region within days.
“Being present in the field soon is an essential part of the confidence that needs to go with the implementation of this agreement,” Griffiths said.
The council was already discussing a British-drafted resolution to enshrine five requests made by UN aid chief Mark Lowcock — one of which was for a truce around facilities needed for aid and commercial imports — and diplomats said that would now be reworked to endorse the agreement reached in Sweden.
“We hope to be able to work expeditiously with colleagues to bring about a Security Council resolution which will give the firmest possible support to what has been achieved so far,” British UN Ambassador Karen Pierce told the council.
“As requested we will of course want — with colleagues — to address the monitoring requirements,” she said.
“The UN will take on a leading role in supporting Yemen Red Sea Ports Corporation in management and inspections at Hodeidah, Salif and Ras Issa,” Griffiths said. “The UN ... has developed a plan seeking specific support from member states in the port.”
Meanwhile, in a statement by Saudi Arabia's King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the Kingdom backed “the agreements reached in Sweden in UN-sponsored talks between a delegation of Yemen’s legitimate government and the Houthi rebels,” the official SPA news agency reported.
“The Kingdom remains engaged in the search for a political solution in Yemen which guarantees the security and stability of the country,” the statement said.
The statement also called on the Iran-aligned Houthis to “embark on this path” toward a political solution.
Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Ministry also said on Friday that it welcomed the agreement between Yemen’s internationally recognized government and the Houthi militia. 
The ministry said that the Kingdom was committed to reaching a political solution that guarantees the security and stability of Yemen.
The handing over of the port of Hodeidah to the control of the United Nations will help to alleviate the suffering of the Yemeni people, the ministry stressed.