Syria’s Assad says war turning in regime’s favor

Updated 16 April 2014

Syria’s Assad says war turning in regime’s favor

DAMASCUS: President Bashar Assad said Sunday that the war that has torn Syria apart for three years and cost more than 150,000 lives is turning in the government’s favor, state news agency SANA reported.
“This is a turning point in the crisis, both militarily in terms of the army’s achievements in the war against terror, and socially in terms of national reconciliation processes and growing awareness of the truth behind the (attacks) targeting the country,” he said.
Syria’s army has made a series of advances in recent months, overrunning opposition bastions near the Lebanese border and in the central province of Homs.
“The state is trying to restore security and stability in the main areas that the terrorists have struck,” said Assad, adding “we will go after their positions and sleeper cells later.”
But there is still no political solution in sight for the war, which has caused massive destruction and forced nearly half the Syrian population to flee their homes.
Syrian warplanes on Sunday launched fresh strikes on rebel strongholds on the edge of Damascus, some of which used highly destructive barrel bomb attacks, a monitoring group said.
“Warplanes carried out two air strikes against areas of Douma,” northeast of Damascus, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said adding that 13 people, including three children and three women, were killed in that particular raid.
The raids came as fighting raged on the edges of Daraya between rebels and the army, which for more than a year has battled to secure the capital.
On the economic front, Prime Minister Wael Al-Halqi said Sunday a “fierce economic war” was behind the sharp fall in the value of the Syrian pound against the US dollar.
“A fierce economic war ... is being waged against the national economy aimed at destabilising the Syrian pound,” he said, quoted by state news agency SANA.
The pound was trading on Sunday at 176 against the dollar, compared to 156 last week, in a trend which has seen it lose more than three-quarters of its value against the US currency since March 2011.
Central bank governor Adib Mayaleh said his institution would sell around $20 million (13 million euros) on April 21 in an effort to support the Syrian pound.


Since the start of a revolt against Assad in 2011, Damascus has blamed all violence in the country on a foreign-backed “terrorist” plot, denying the existence of any grassroots movement for political change.
Like its allies Iran and Lebanese Shiite movement Hezbollah, the government has said the violence in Syria is rooted in a bid to break the anti-Israel “resistance axis.”
Assad said the country “is not only being targeted because of its geo-political significance... but because of its historic role in the region and its big influence on the Arab street.”
Syria, he said, “is subject to a bid to take control of its independent decision-making, and an attempt to change its policy from one that suits the Syrian people’s interests, rather than the interests of the United States and the West’s interests in the region.”
On Sunday, Assad reiterated his belief that Israel “has played a key role in supporting the terrorist groups.”
Lebanon’s Hezbollah, a strategic ally of Assad’s regime which has sent thousands of fighters into Syria, has played a key role in helping turn the tide in Assad’s favor.
A series of truces have also been agreed, mainly in southern Damascus and the outskirts of the capital.
The cease-fires came after months of suffocating army sieges that had led to the deaths of scores of people, as a result of medical and food shortages.
The agreements stipulate rebels should hand over their heavy weapons in exchange for aid deliveries, but opposition activists in some areas where truces have been reached have accused the regime of violating the deals.
Syria’s conflict broke out after the regime unleashed a brutal crackdown against an Arab Spring-inspired peaceful protest movement.


End the political deadlock, support group tells Beirut

Updated 26 November 2020

End the political deadlock, support group tells Beirut

  • UN leads calls for “urgent action” to halt downward spiral  
  • The ISG called on Hassan Diab’s caretaker government to “fully implement its immediate responsibilities”

BEIRUT: The International Support Group for Lebanon (ISG) has voiced its dismay over delays in the formation of a government in the crisis-racked country and called on Lebanese authorities to implement urgent reforms.
In a statement on Wednesday directed at Lebanon’s leaders, the group warned that as the political stalemate in the country drags on, “the social and economic crisis is getting worse.”
The ISG called on Hassan Diab’s caretaker government to “fully implement its immediate responsibilities,” adding that the “overriding need is for Lebanon’s political leaders to agree to form a government with the capacity and will to implement necessary reforms without further delay.”
Pragmatic legislative steps are needed to alleviate the “economic stress faced by Lebanese families and businesses,” it said.
The ISG was launched in 2013, and includes the UN, along with China, France, Germany, Italy, Russia, Britain and the US, the EU and the Arab League.
In its statement, the group welcomed France’s plan to hold an international conference in support of the Lebanese people by the early December. The forum will be co-chaired by the UN.
However, the summit “did not detract from the urgent need for government formation and reforms,” it said.
On Wednesday, Reuters quoted “an official source” who claimed that Lebanon’s central bank is considering reducing the level of mandatory foreign exchange reserves in order to continue supporting basic imports next year, with the already low reserves dwindling.
According to the source, Riad Salameh, the central bank governor, met with ministers in the caretaker government on Tuesday to discuss cutting the mandatory reserve ratio from 15 percent to 12 percent or even 10 percent. Foreign exchange reserves are currently about $17.9 billion, leaving only $800 million to support imports of fuel, wheat and medicine until the end of the year.
Meanwhile, Lebanese political leaders are seeking to shift blame for the parliamentary deadlock in a dispute illustrated by the exchange of accusatory letters between Nabih Berri’s parliamentary bloc and President Michel Aoun.
Walid Jumblatt, leader of the Progressive Socialist Party, tweeted on Wednesday: “We are in a vicious circle under the slogan of conditions, counter-conditions, names and counter-names, electoral and presidential bids, and flimsy regional bets, amid a tremendous change in the region.”
At a meeting of the joint parliamentary committees on Wednesday to discuss a draft law for the parliamentary elections, representatives of the Free Patriotic Movement and the Lebanese Forces party voiced their objections, claiming the project presented by the Berri parliamentary bloc “fuels the political, sectarian and doctrinal divide because it is based on the idea that Lebanon is one electoral constituency.”
Lebanese Forces MP George Adwan said that “what is being discussed today is a change in the political system, not just an electoral law.”
The Lebanese Parliament is due to hold a plenary session on Friday to discuss a letter sent by Aoun “to enable the state to conduct a forensic accounting audit of the Bank of Lebanon’s accounts.”
Alvarez & Marsal, which was carrying out a forensic audit of the central bank’s accounts, said last week it was halting the investigation because it was not being given the information needed to carry out the task.
The company’s decision came after the central bank invoked a banking secrecy law to prevent disclosure of information.
Aoun had insisted on the forensic audit “so that Lebanon is not seen as a rogue or failed state in the eyes of the international community.”
Families of the victims of the Aug. 4 Beirut port explosion staging a sit-in near the parliament building demanded “a decree equating our martyrs with the martyrs of the army.”
Bereaved mothers, some carrying pictures of children killed in the blast, accused former and current heads of state of being responsible for the explosion.
Mohammed Choucair, head of the Lebanese Economic Organizations, said that Lebanese authorities “are dealing with this devastating event as if it were a normal accident.”
He said that “the only way to save Lebanon and rebuild Beirut is to form a capable and productive government that responds to the aspirations of the citizens.”