GCC-Russia pact ‘will help resolve Mideast crises’

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov listens to his Saudi counterpart Adel Al-Jubeir (R) during their meeting in Moscow, Russia, on Thursday. (REUTERS)
Updated 27 May 2016
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GCC-Russia pact ‘will help resolve Mideast crises’

MOSCOW: Russia’s pact with the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council will help solve the crises facing the Middle East, particular Syria, Saudi Foreign Minister Adel Al-Jubeir said here Thursday.
Al-Jubeir made the comments following a meeting between the GCC’s foreign ministers and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov at the fourth GCC-Russian strategic dialogue gathering.
At a press conference with Lavrov, Al-Jubeir said the GCC and Russia have enjoyed solid ties over the years and share common interests. He said Russia also respected the sovereignty of nations and was committing to international law.
Al-Jubeir said the meeting was fruitful and that there had been intense discussion on seeking a cease-fire in Syria and tackling extremist and terrorist groups. “We are working with Russia to confront the challenges facing the region.” He also praised Moscow for supporting the Palestinian cause.
Lavrov said that Russia, under the auspices of the UN Security Council, supports attempts to seek peace in the Middle East and North Africa. He said the discussions focused on Syria, Yemen, Libya, Iraq among others.
Lavrov said the Russian government supports Saudi Arabia’s formation of an Islamic alliance to tackle terrorism globally. He said Russia was seeking to consolidate agreements with Saudi Arabia in the oil and nuclear fields.
Thursday’s meeting comes as rebels in northern Syria reportedly continue to make slow progress in their campaign to evict Daesh from its stronghold in the Iraqi city of Raqqa.


Coalition hits back over reported civilian deaths in east Syria

Updated 18 November 2018
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Coalition hits back over reported civilian deaths in east Syria

  • 43 people were killed in the strikes launched by the coalition
  • The US-led coalition has consistently denied reports by the Observatory in recent days

BEIRUT: The US-led anti-militant coalition hit back Sunday at reports its air strikes on a Daesh group holdout in eastern Syria had killed civilians, appearing to blame their deaths on regime forces.
More than seven years into the country’s civil war, multiple offensives have whittled down the swathes of Syrian territory Daesh once controlled to a small pocket in the eastern province of Deir Ezzor on the Iraqi border.
A Kurdish-led alliance backed by the coalition is battling to expel Daesh from that holdout, on the eastern bank of the Euphrates.
Russian-backed regime forces have been fighting the militants west of the river.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said coalition strikes on Saturday killed 43 people, including 36 family members of Daesh fighters in the village of Abu Al-Husn.
But the coalition denied that its air raids there had killed any non-combatants.
The US envoy for the coalition, Brett McGurk on Sunday appeared to blame regime forces stationed “across the river” for the civilian casualties.
“Reports of civilian casualties attributed to coalition strikes are false. All other forces should cease uncoordinated fires from across the river immediately,” he said on Twitter.
In a statement late Saturday, the coalition reported 19 coalition strikes on Daesh targets “free of civilian presence” between late Friday and Saturday afternoon in the militant enclave, which includes the town of Hajjin.
The coalition’s “initial assessment following the strikes is that there was no evidence of civilians near the strikes,” it said.
But the coalition “detected a total of ten additional strikes in the same area of Hajjin that did not originate from the coalition or partner forces,” it added.
It called “on all other actors to cease uncoordinated fires across the Euphrates.”
The Observatory, a Britain-based war monitor, said regime forces and Daesh fighters exchanged fire across the river on Saturday, but pro-government shelling did not hit Abu Al-Husn.
The US-led international coalition has consistently denied reports by the Observatory in recent days that its air raids have killed civilians.
It says it takes allegations of civilian casualties seriously and investigates each one thoroughly.
Daesh overran large swathes of Syria and neighboring Iraq in 2014, proclaiming a “caliphate” in land it controlled.
But the militant group has since lost most of it to offensives by multiple forces in both countries.
On Saturday, Syrian regime forces retook control of the group’s last holdout in the country’s south as the militants retreated into the desert after months of fighting, the Observatory said.
Syria’s war has killed more than 360,000 people since it erupted in 2011 with the brutal repression of anti-government protests.
Since 2014, the US-led coalition has acknowledged direct responsibility for over 1,100 civilian deaths in Syria and Iraq, but rights groups put the number much higher.