UK’s Hunt says Yemen peace deal is now ‘in last chance saloon’

The Stockholm Agreement is now in “last chance saloon,” British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt said in a statement during a visit to Yemen on Sunday. (AFP)
Updated 04 March 2019
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UK’s Hunt says Yemen peace deal is now ‘in last chance saloon’

  • Hunt's visit to Yemen is part of his trip to the Gulf region to urge the immediate implementation of the UN-brokered Stockholm Agreement
  • He had met with Yemeni President Mansour Hadi, a Houthi militia leader and Saudi Arabian top diplomats

LONDON: The Stockholm Agreement is now in “last chance saloon,” British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt said in a statement during a visit to Yemen on Sunday.    

"The process could be dead within weeks if we do not see both sides sticking to their commitments in Stockholm."

The British foreign secretary held talks with his Yemeni counterpart in government-held Aden on Sunday, in the first visit by a western foreign minister to the war-torn country in years.
"I am here because this is really the last chance for peace," Hunt said from Aden, in a video uploaded to his Twitter account.

They discussed an agreement on a ceasefire and prisoner exchange between the warring sides, brokered by the United Nations at talks in Sweden in December, the state news agency Saba said.

 

Hunt's visit to Yemen is part of his trip to the Gulf region to urge the immediate implementation of the UN-brokered Stockholm Agreement. 

The foreign secretary added that a peace process in Yemen’s main port city “could be dead within weeks” without more committed effort from both sides.
The agreement to implement a troop withdrawal in Hodeidah, a lifeline for millions facing famine, by Jan. 7 was intended to clear the way for wider negotiations to end the four-year war but progress has been slow.

On Saturday, the foreign secretary met with Saudi Arabia’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Ibrahim Al-Assaf and Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Adel Al-Jubeir in Riyadh. 

Hunt said that he and Al-Jubeir agreed that progress on the agreement was “overdue,” and that it is “vital for Hodeidah to be cleared of militia urgently” so that a humanitarian corridor can be opened.

He also met Yemeni President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi in Riyadh earlier on Saturday, and Houthi militia spokesman Mohamed Abdul Salem on Friday. 


Air raids kill 12 civilians in militant-held Syrian town: monitor

Updated 22 May 2019
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Air raids kill 12 civilians in militant-held Syrian town: monitor

  • The militant-dominated Idlib region is nominally protected by a buffer zone deal
  • The Observatory said they have no proof of the chemical attacks

BEIRUT: Air strikes by Damascus or its ally Moscow killed 12 civilians in a market in Syria’s Idlib province, a monitor said Wednesday, and denied allegations that the government used chemical weapons.

Another 18 people were wounded when the warplanes hit the militant-held town of Maarat Al-Numan around midnight on Tuesday, the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.
The market was crowded with people out and about after breaking the daytime fast observed by Muslims during the holy month of Ramadan.

The Observatory said it had no evidence to suggest the Syrian army had carried out a new chemical attack despite Washington’s announcement it had suspicions.

“We have no proof at all of the attack,” Rami Abdul Rahman, head of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, told AFP.

“We have not documented any chemical attack in the mountains of Latakia,” he said.
The air strikes in Idlib came as heavy clashes raged in the north of neighboring Hama province after the militants launched a counterattack on Tuesday against pro-government forces in the town of Kafr Nabuda.
Fresh fighting on Wednesday took the death toll to 52 — 29 troops and militia and 23 militants, the Observatory said.
It said that the militants had retaken most of the town from government forces who recaptured it on May 8.
The militant-dominated Idlib region is nominally protected by a buffer zone deal, but the regime and its Russian ally have escalated their bombardment of it in recent weeks, seizing several towns on its southern flank.
A militant alliance led by Syria’s former Al-Qaeda affiliate, Hayat Tahrir Al-Sham, controls a large part of Idlib province as well as adjacent slivers of Aleppo, Hama and Latakia provinces.

The northern mountains are the only part of Latakia province, on Syria’s Mediterranean coast, that are not firmly in the hands of the government.

The Hayat Tahrir Al-Sham accused government forces on Sunday of launching a chlorine gas attack on its fighters in the north of Latakia province.

The Syrian army dismissed the reports as a fabrication, a military source told the pro-government Al-Watan newspaper.

But the US State Department said on Tuesday it was assessing indications that the government of president Bashar Assad used chemical weapons on Sunday.

“There were no civilians in the area,” Abdel Rahman said.

White Helmets rescue volunteers, who have reported past chemical attacks in rebel-held areas of Syria, told AFP Wednesday that they had no information on the purported gas attack.

International inspectors say Assad’s forces have carried out a series of chemical attacks during the Syrian civil war, which has killed more than 370,000 people and displaced millions since it started in 2011.
Russia and rebel ally Turkey inked the buffer zone deal in September to avert a government offensive on the region which threatened humanitarian disaster for its three million residents.
President Bashar Assad’s government has renewed its bombardment of the region since HTS took control in January.
Russia too has stepped up its air strikes in recent weeks as Turkey proved unable to secure implementation of the truce deal by the militants.
The Observatory says more than 180 civilians have been killed in the flare-up since April 30, and the United Nations has said tens of thousands have fled their homes.