UN ‘ready to engage’ with Assad in Geneva talks; Daesh bomb kills 8 in Homs

United Nations Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura looks on during a press conference on November 30, 2017 at the United Nations Offices in Geneva. (AFP)
Updated 05 December 2017

UN ‘ready to engage’ with Assad in Geneva talks; Daesh bomb kills 8 in Homs

GENEVA: The UN envoy for Syria is “ready to engage” with President Bashar Assad’s representatives as peace talks are set to resume in Geneva, but they have not shown up yet.
UN spokeswoman Alessandra Vellucci said the eighth round of peace talks under special envoy Staffan de Mistura was set to restart Tuesday after a weekend break.
She said: “The delegation of the government has been invited back in Geneva as of today.”
Syria’s ambassador to Geneva, Hussam Edin Aala, told The Associated Press that Damascus was “studying” the invitation.
The head of Syria’s regime delegation has blasted the opposition for a communique in which it stated its ultimate goal was to remove Assad from power. Bashar Jaafari said on Friday his team was leaving Geneva for the weekend and that Syria would decide whether it would return to the talks.
Jaafari warned then that there could be no progress in the talks as long as the opposition insisted on what he described as a “provocative and irresponsible” position.
Meanwhile, Syrian state media and an opposition monitoring group said an explosion has ripped through a van near the central city of Homs, killing at least eight people.
Daesh claimed Tuesday’s attack in Akarma, a regime stronghold south of Homs.
Daesh said it targeted a bus carrying Syrian soldiers, but the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said those killed were civilians, including six women.
Syrian state TV has aired images of the van’s charred body, as well as damaged vehicles nearby. State news agency SANA says eight people were killed and 18 wounded.
Separately, Syria’s state news agency said Syrian air defense has shot down three Israeli missiles that were targeting a military post near Damascus.
SANA said the attack occurred early on Tuesday but has not said whether there were casualties.


New board of directors appointed to run Lebanon’s ‘corrupt’ state power company

Updated 08 July 2020

New board of directors appointed to run Lebanon’s ‘corrupt’ state power company

  • Regulation of electricity sector a key condition of international bailout for collapsing economy

BEIRUT: Lebanon’s government finally appointed a new board of directors on Tuesday to control the state-owned electricity company.
Electricite du Liban (EDL) has long been mired in allegations of corruption and fraud. Its annual losses of up to $2 billion a year are the biggest single drain on state finances as Lebanon faces economic collapse and the plunging value of its currency.
Reform of the electricity sector has been a key demand of the International Monetary Fund and potential donor states before they will consider a financial bailout.
“Lebanon’s electricity policy has been inefficient and ineffective for decades — always on the brink of collapse, but staying afloat with last minute patchwork solutions,” said Kareem Chehayeb of the Tahrir Institute for Middle East Policy in Washington, DC.
“The economic crisis has made fuel imports more expensive, causing a shortage, with external generator providers hiking their prices or seeking business in Syria. It is a wake-up call to decades of overspending and poor planning of a basic public service.”
The World Bank has described the electricity sector in Lebanon as “tainted with corruption and waste,” and the IMF said “canceling the subsidy to electricity is the most important potential saving in spending.”
Electricity rationing was applied for the first time to hospitals and the law courts, but Minister of Energy Raymond Ghajar said: “The first vessel loaded with diesel for power plants has arrived, and as of Wednesday the power supply will improve.”
Prime Minister Hassan Diab promised the Lebanese people on Tuesday that they would see the results of government efforts to resolve the country’s financial chaos “in the coming weeks.”
Addressing a Cabinet meeting, Diab said: “The glimmer of hope is growing.” However, the appointment of an  EDF board of directors was criticized by opposition politicians. Former prime minister Najib Mikati said the appointments meant “the crime of wrong prevailing over right … is being repeated.”