France calls for Syria chemical attack reports to be investigated

Syrian children receive treatment for a suspected chemical attack in Eastern Ghouta last year. (AFP/File photo)
Updated 23 May 2019
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France calls for Syria chemical attack reports to be investigated

  • US said Syrian government may have carried out a chlorine attack on Sunday in northwest Syria

PARIS: New allegations the Syrian government is using chemical weapons must be looked into, the French foreign ministry said on Wednesday.
The US State Department on Tuesday said it saw signs that the Syrian government may be using chemical weapons, including an alleged chlorine attack on Sunday in northwest Syria.
“We have noted with a degree of alarm these allegations, which need to be looked into,” the foreign ministry said in an online press briefing.
“We have full confidence in the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons,” it added.

Meanwhile, US envoy James Jeffrey said on Wednesday a cease-fire is needed in Syria’s Idlib province where there has been a recent upsurge in violence, and the United States is working toward halting the clashes, which have put tremendous pressure on civilians there, 
“What we really need in Idlib and throughout the country is a cease-fire,” Jeffrey, US special representative for Syria engagement and special envoy to the global coalition to defeat Daesh, said at a House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee hearing.
“These conflicts, back and forth exchanges....just put tremendous pressure on civilians, they raise the specter of nation-to-nation clash,” he said. “So we’re very much engaged in trying to get this stopped and get it back to the cease-fire we had basically since September.”
At least 180,000 people have fled an upsurge in violence in northwest Syria, the last major stronghold of rebels who have fought against President Bashar Assad’s government since 2011. Government bombing has killed dozens in the past three weeks.
The latest clashes mark the biggest escalation since last summer between Assad and his rebel enemies in Idlib province and a belt of territory around it.
The region, home to an estimated 3 million people, including many who fled other parts of Syria as government forces advanced in recent years, has been partly shielded by a truce agreement since last year, brokered by Russia and Turkey. Much of the recent fighting has hit a buffer zone agreed under that deal.
The Syrian government says it is responding to attacks by Al-Qaeda-linked militants. The dominant insurgent faction in the region is the jihadist Hayat Tahrir Al-Sham (HTS), although the army offensive has not focused on the central Idlib area where it is most concentrated, an HTS-aligned opposition figure said.


Turkey launches new gas drillship amid tensions with Cyprus

Updated 22 min 5 sec ago
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Turkey launches new gas drillship amid tensions with Cyprus

  • Turkey’s energy minister boarded the 230-meter (750-foot) vessel, the Yavuz, which can drill to an estimated depth of up to 12,000 meters (40,000 feet), in a ceremony on Thursday
  • EU leaders meeting in Brussels are mulling possible actions against Turkey

ISTANBUL: Turkey has launched a second drillship that will drill for gas off neighboring Cyprus’ east coast despite European Union warnings to refrain from such illegal actions or face sanctions.
Turkey’s energy minister boarded the 230-meter (750-foot) vessel, the Yavuz, which can drill to an estimated depth of up to 12,000 meters (40,000 feet), in a ceremony on Thursday.
Another Turkish drillship is already drilling 40 miles off EU member Cyprus’ west coast in waters where the ethnically divided island nation has exclusive economic rights. The Cypriot government condemned the Turkish action as a violation of international law and its sovereign rights.
EU leaders meeting in Brussels are mulling possible actions against Turkey. Turkish Energy Minister Fatih Donmez said that his country would defend its rights and those of breakaway Turkish Cypriots to the area’s energy reserves “until the end” and would continue drilling “without interruptions.” Only Turkey recognizes a Turkish Cypriot declaration of independence.
In a dig at the 28-member EU, Donmez said Turkey rejects “attempts by actors from outside the region to delineate” the eastern Mediterranean.
He said the Yavuz will be drilling off Cyprus’ eastern coast in coming months.
Cyprus has divided its exclusive economic zone off its southern coast into 13 blocks, or areas. Turkey, which doesn’t recognize Cyprus as a state, says parts of three blocks off the island’s west coast fall within its own continental shelf. Turkish Cypriots claim most of seven blocks in the east.
The Cypriot government says any potential gas proceeds will be shared equitably with Turkish Cypriots after a reunification deal is agreed upon and has created a fund into which all such revenues will flow.