Up to 2 million Syrians could flee to Turkey if clashes worsens: UN

Assad regime's recent attacks already displaced tens of thousands to leave their homes. (File/AFP)
Updated 11 June 2019
0

Up to 2 million Syrians could flee to Turkey if clashes worsens: UN

  • One of the most intense conflicts between Assad’s regime and insurgents started in April
  • Out of the $3.3bn UN requested, they received only $500mln

GENEVA: Up to 2 million refugees could flee to Turkey if fighting intensifies in northwestern Syria as aid funds run dangerously low, the United Nations said on Monday.

Syria’s Russian-backed military has been pressing an assault on rebels in their last major stronghold with air attacks and ground battles that have already forced tens of thousands to leave their homes.

“Our fear is if this continues, and if the numbers continue soaring, and if the conflict intensifies, that we could see really hundreds of thousands, a million, two, heading toward the borders with Turkey,” the UN Regional Humanitarian Coordinator for the Syria Crisis, Panos Moumtzis, said.

The onslaught since late April, focused mostly on southern parts of Idlib province and adjacent parts of Hama and Latakia, marks the most intense conflict between President Bashar Assad and his insurgent enemies since last summer.

Moumtzis told Reuters in Geneva that the situation was deteriorating and a deal between Russia and Turkey to deescalate the fighting there was effectively no longer in place.

“We see an offensive that is really targeting — or with an impact on — hospitals and schools in civilian areas, in areas where there is the population and urban areas — which really should not be happening according to international humanitarian law,” Moumtzis said.

Aid organizations have been encouraged to share their locations with the warring parties to avoid being hit. But after repeated air strikes on hospitals, many aid workers distrust such requests, Moumtzis said.

“It’s a catastrophe, what has been happening... for the sake of humanity, there has to be an intervention,” he said.

“A few months ago, we asked to make sure that this nightmare scenario will not take place. Actually, it’s unfolding in front of our own eyes as we speak.”

The UN appealed for $3.3 billion to cover humanitarian work within Syria this year, and despite generous pledges, it has so far received only $500 million, leaving the aid effort surviving “hand-to-mouth,” Moumtzis said.


Kushner: Trump wants fair deal for Palestinians

Updated 25 June 2019
0

Kushner: Trump wants fair deal for Palestinians

  • Fighting new economic plan ‘a strategic mistake,’ White House adviser says
  • Says plan would double Palestinian GDP in 10 years, create over a million jobs

MANAMA, Bahrain: Donald Trump wants a fair deal for Palestinians, the US president’s adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner said on the eve of the launch in Bahrain of the White House’s $50 billion “peace for prosperity” plan.

The Palestinians are missing an opportunity to participate in the Middle East peace process by boycotting the Bahrain conference, Kushner said. “This is a strong package that has been put together. Fighting it instead of embracing it, I think, is a strategic mistake.”

The plan proposes a global investment fund for Palestine and neighboring Arab states, and a $5 billion transport corridor between the West Bank and Gaza. Palestinian leaders have rejected it, but Kushner said their criticism was “more emotional than specific.”

“Nobody has refuted our core premise that this would do a lot to stimulate the economy,” he said. “The Palestinian people have been trapped in a situation for a long time and we wanted to show them, and their leadership, that there is a pathway forward that could be quite exciting.”

The Palestinian people have been trapped in a situation for a long time and we wanted to show them, and their leadership, that there is a pathway forward that could be quite exciting.

Jared Kushner, US president’s adviser

Kushner said Trump decisions such as recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and moving the US Embassy there from Tel Aviv were evidence that the president kept his promises.

“The Palestinians might not have liked his Jerusalem decision, but he made a promise and he did it,” he said. What the president wanted now was “to give the Palestinian people a fair solution.”

Kushner said the plan would double the GDP in 10 years, create over a million jobs, reduce poverty by 50 percent and bring unemployment to below 10 percent.

“We believe this doable,” he said. “It’s hard, but if there’s a peace agreement and we set up the right structure, we think it could really lead to improving people’s lives in a substantial way.

“I think there is a lot of enthusiasm in the West Bank and Gaza to see if we can find a political solution so that this can be implemented.”

The political element of the White House plan has been delayed by uncertainty in Israel, where there will be elections this year after an earlier vote failed to produce a stable coalition, and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu may also face a criminal trial for corruption.