UN special envoy meets Arab League chief for talks over Syria’s readmission

Geir Pedersen, the United Nations' new special envoy for Syria, gestures while speaking to Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, back to a camera, during their talks in Moscow, Russia, Monday, Jan. 21, 2019. (AP)
Updated 28 January 2019

UN special envoy meets Arab League chief for talks over Syria’s readmission

  • Several Arab states including Lebanon and Tunisia have recently called for Syria’s return to the Arab League

CAIRO: The new UN special envoy for Syria held talks on Sunday with the head of the Arab League, whose members appear divided about whether to readmit the war-torn country.
The League, which will hold its annual summit in Tunisia in March, suspended Syria’s membership in November 2011 as the death toll in the country’s civil war mounted.
Norwegian diplomat Geir Pedersen, who this month become the fourth UN negotiator aiming to resolve the nearly eight-year conflict, met with Arab League chief Ahmed Aboul Gheit in Cairo on Sunday, the organization said.
They discussed the latest talks among Arab states about the organization’s decisions on Syria since 2011, the League said in a statement.
Aboul Gheit also pointed to the importance of “reaching a peaceful solution” to the Syrian crisis, it said. Pedersen was also scheduled to meet with Egypt’s Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry.
Several Arab states including Lebanon and Tunisia have recently called for Syria’s return to the Arab League.
In December, Sudan’s President Omar Al-Bashir made the first visit by any Arab leader to the Syrian capital since 2011, and the UAE reopened its embassy in Damascus.
In another sign of a diplomatic thaw, the speaker of Jordan’s Parliament invited his Syrian counterpart to meetings of the Arab Parliamentary Union in Amman in March, Jordanian state news agency Petra reported Sunday. But not all of the League’s members support closer ties with Damascus.
Qatar, which has backed opposition in Syria’s civil war, said this month that Damascus under President Bashar Assad should not be allowed back into the Arab League.
Pedersen stressed the need for a UN-brokered political solution to the war when he visited Damascus after assuming his duties this month following the resignation of his predecessor Staffan de Mistura.


US military strengthens deployment in Syria

A US military vehicle patrols near the Rumaylan oil fields in Syria’s northeastern Hasakeh province, as Washington stepped up its military deployment in the area. (AFP)
Updated 20 September 2020

US military strengthens deployment in Syria

  • Several incidents in recent weeks have pitted the US military against Russian forces now deployed along the Turkish border under an agreement with Ankara

WASHINGTON: The US Army announced on Friday it was stepping up its military deployment — both troops and equipment — in northeastern Syria despite a push to limit its presence there, a move that follows tensions with Russia in the region.
US Central Command (Centcom) “has deployed Sentinel radar, increased the frequency of US fighter patrols over US forces, and deployed Bradley Fighting Vehicles to augment US forces” in the area, which is controlled by the US and its Kurdish allies, spokesman Captain Bill Urban said in a statement.
The number of armored vehicles sent as reinforcement did not exceed half a dozen, and “less than 100 people” were sent to maneuver them, a US official who spoke on condition of anonymity said.
Without mentioning Russia, Urban said the moves were meant “to help ensure the safety and security of coalition forces,” and that the US “does not seek conflict with any other nation in Syria, but will defend coalition forces if necessary.”
The US official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said however that the actions “are a clear signal to Russia to adhere to mutual de-confliction processes and for Russia and other parties to avoid unprofessional, unsafe and provocative actions in northeast Syria.”
US Bradley Fighting Vehicles were pulled out of the region last October by President Donald Trump, who tried in early 2019 to recall all US troops from Syria, before agreeing to leave a few hundred to protect oil wells.
Several incidents in recent weeks have pitted the US military against Russian forces now deployed along the Turkish border under an agreement with Ankara.
At the end of August, seven American soldiers were injured in a collision with a Russian vehicle.
Videos posted on Twitter, apparently filmed by witnesses and the Russians themselves, showed Russian armor and helicopters attempting to block American vehicles and then force them out of the area.

HIGHLIGHT

Several incidents in recent weeks have pitted the US military against Russian forces now deployed along the Turkish border under an agreement with Ankara.

The tanks were flown in from a base in Kuwait, anti-militant coalition spokesman Col. Wayne Marotto said in another statement.
US and Russian troops frequently interact in Syria, but confrontations have been rare.
Meanwhile, the Syrian regime criticized the Netherlands on Saturday for launching a new bid through international bodies to hold it responsible for alleged gross human rights violations.
A Foreign Ministry source quoted by state news agency SANA accused the Netherlands of abusing its position as host of a number of the bodies concerned.
“The Dutch government ... is determined to use the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague to serve the political agendas of its American master,” the ministry source said.
The source accused the Netherlands of doing so “in a flagrant violation of its obligations and commitments as the headquarters state of this international organization.”
On Friday, the Dutch government announced that it was pursuing all legal avenues to ensure that the Syrian regime was held to account for its human rights record.
An attempt to refer top Syrian government officials to the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague for prosecution was blocked by Chinese and Russian vetoes in May 2014.
But the Dutch government said that, if arbitration failed, it would pursue action through an international court, the most likely being the ICJ, also in The Hague.
Unlike the ICC, which deals with cases against individuals, the ICJ deals with disputes between UN member states and breaches of UN treaties, and is the world body’s top judicial organ.
Syria signed the UN Convention against Torture in 2004 and the Dutch government said its legal action would focus on alleged breaches of that treaty.
The US and the EU have targeted numerous figures linked to the Damascus regime with economic sanctions since the civil war erupted in 2011.
But concerted international action has been blocked by deep divisions over the conflict.
The war has killed more than 380,000 people and driven millions from their homes since it started with the brutal repression of anti-government protests.