Syria slams ‘hypocrisy’ of donors

Damascus says the sanctions have contributed to a fuel crisis in the country, which on Friday marked the eighth anniversary of its civil war. (AP)
Updated 15 March 2019

Syria slams ‘hypocrisy’ of donors

  • International donors pledged nearly $7 billion in aid for 2019 for civilians caught up in the conflict
  • European powers stressed progress on a UN-led peace process must come before they release funds to rebuild Syria

DAMASCUS: Syria on Friday accused donors who pledged aid to help its citizens displaced by the country’s eight-year war of “hypocrisy” as they continue to impose sanctions on the regime.
International donors — led by the European Union — meeting on Thursday in Brussels pledged nearly $7 billion in aid for 2019 for civilians caught up in the conflict.
But European powers stressed progress on a UN-led peace process must come before they release funds to rebuild Syria — though they no longer insist President Bashar Assad must go.
“The hypocrisy of the discourse of the officials of some countries taking part in the Brussels conference is both laughable and angering,” a source at the foreign ministry said.
EU sanctions have deprived “the European Union of any credibility when it speaks about helping Syrians and alleviating their suffering,” state news agency SANA quoted the source as saying.
The source criticized what it called the “deliberate and systematic politicization of the humanitarian issue and attempts to use it through conferences like these to continue to exert pressure on Syria and compound the crisis.”
It slammed the conference for not inviting the Damascus government, calling it the “main concerned party” in the matter.
Since late 2011, the 28-member bloc has imposed sanctions on 277 Syrian officials including Damascus ministers over their role in the “violent repression” of civilians.
It has frozen the assets of some 72 entities and introduced an embargo on Syrian oil, investment restrictions and a freeze on Syrian central bank assets within the European Union.
The United States has also imposed a flurry of sanctions against Syrian officials, and had worked to hamper oil shipping to Syria.
Damascus says the sanctions have contributed to a fuel crisis in the country, which on Friday marked the eighth anniversary of its civil war.
Numerous rounds of US-backed peace talks have failed to stem the bloodshed, which has killed more than 370,000 people and pushed millions more from their homes.


At least 13 people drown in migrant shipwreck off Libya

Updated 48 min 6 sec ago

At least 13 people drown in migrant shipwreck off Libya

  • The boat had set off from the town of Zliten, east of the Libyan capital of Tripoli
  • The Libyan Coast Guard said that it had ordered the rescue, and that search teams were scouring the area

CAIRO: Over a dozen migrants trying to reach Europe drowned in the Mediterranean Sea when their small dinghy capsized off the coast of Libya, the United Nations reported Friday, the latest shipwreck to underscore the deadly risks facing those who flee the war-afflicted North African country.
Libyan fishermen spotted the sinking boat late Thursday, said the International Organization for Migration, and managed to pull 22 people from the water, including those from Egypt, Bangladesh, Syria, Somalia and Ghana.
But at least 13 of the other passengers were missing and presumed drowned. Three dead bodies were found floating in the water, including one Syrian man and woman. The boat had set off from the town of Zliten, east of the Libyan capital of Tripoli, late on Wednesday.
The Libyan Coast Guard said that it had ordered the rescue, and that search teams were scouring the area for more victims.
“So many boats are leaving these days, but autumn is a very difficult season,” said Commodore Masoud Abdal Samad. “When it gets windy, it’s deadly. It changes in an instant.”
Following the 2011 uprising that ousted and killed longtime dictator Muammar Qaddafi, Libya has emerged as the dominant transit point for migrants hoping to get to Europe from Africa and the Middle East. Smugglers often pack desperate families into ill-equipped rubber boats that stall and founder along the perilous Central Mediterranean route. At least 20,000 people have died in those waters since 2014, according to the UN
Those who survived Friday’s disaster were taken to the Tripoli port, where they received medical care for their burns, a common consequence of leaked engine fuel mixing with saltwater, said Safa Msehli, an IOM spokeswoman.
Libyan authorities shepherded the survivors to the Zliten detention center, run by the Tripoli-based government’s Interior Ministry. Migrants rescued at sea and returned to Libya routinely land in detention centers notorious for torture, extortion and abuse. Amnesty International revealed in a report Thursday that thousands of migrants have been forcibly disappeared from unofficial militia-run detention centers.
The shipwreck, the second to be recorded by the UN in as many weeks, “signals the need now more than ever for state-led search and rescue capacity to be redeployed and the need to support NGO vessels operating in a vacuum,” said Msehli.
Since 2017, European countries, particularly Italy, have delegated most search-and-rescue responsibility to the Libyan Coast Guard, which intercepts migrant boats before they can reach European waters. Activists have lamented that European authorities are increasingly blocking the work of nongovernmental rescue organizations that patrol the Mediterranean and seek to disembark at European ports.