UN and Syria ‘close’ to agreeing constitutional committee

United Nations special envoy to Syria Geir Pedersen speaks to journalists upon his arrival in the Syrian capital Damascus Tuesday. (AFP)
Updated 11 July 2019

UN and Syria ‘close’ to agreeing constitutional committee

  • UN Syria envoy Gerd Pedersen made the statement after meeting the Syrian foreign minister
  • A Syrian Foreign Ministry statement said significant progress had been made in the talks

DAMASCUS: The United Nations is close to agreement with Syria on setting up a constitutional committee, a long-awaited step in a stalled peace process, the UN Syria envoy said on Wednesday.
"I believe we have made a very solid progress and we are very close to have agreement on establishing the constitutional committee," Gerd Pedersen told reporters after meeting Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Al-Moualem.
The United Nations wants to convene the committee as a next step in efforts to find a political solution to end the war in Syria, but there has been no agreement so far on who should be on it.
A Syrian Foreign Ministry statement said significant progress had been made in the talks, but also reiterated its previous stance that the constitutional committee should be a purely Syrian affair.
Pedersen also called for a return to stability in Idlib province, where a government offensive has targeted the last major rebel stronghold, and said a truce there agreed last year between Russia and Turkey should come back into force.
Russia is along with Iran the main supporter of President Bashar al-Assad, who now controls most of the country, while Turkey backs some of the rebel groups in Idlib and adjacent areas.


Upgrade on track as Russian trains join Egypt rail fleet

Updated 13 August 2020

Upgrade on track as Russian trains join Egypt rail fleet

  • Egypt’s rail authority confirmed that a new batch of Russian railway cars has been shipped
  • The new batch includes regular, dynamic-ventilated cars that will operate on main railways

CAIRO: Egypt’s rail authority confirmed that a new batch of Russian railway cars has been shipped as part of a contract with the Russian Transmashholding Company to provide 1,300 carriages.
The batch includes 35 carriages on board two ships that are expected to dock at Alexandria before the end of August.
With the arrival of this batch, the number of Russian railway cars that have reached the Egyptian Railway Authority has increased to 68, including the 33 that arrived in two batches weeks ago and are now operating.
The new batch includes regular, dynamic-ventilated cars that will operate on main railways, named “improved second class.”
According to plans, the batch is expected to enter service immediately after arrival and will form from three to four trains.
Mohamed Kamal, an Egyptian transport expert, said that with the arrival of the new batch of Russian railway cars in Egypt, the number of Russian trains operating on the lower and upper Egypt lines will increase to seven.
He explained that the plan is to receive new batches of 35 Russian cars every month, and to be in possession of over 240 new Russian railway carriages by the end of the year.
Kamal added that the cost of the 1,300 vehicles contracted with Russia is more than €1 billion ($1.2 billion) and is financed in the form of a soft loan in collaboration with the Russian Exim Bank. The Russian cars will operate on main lines only.
The agreement with the Russian-Hungarian alliance led by the Transmashholding Company includes the supply of the 1,300 vehicles.
The contract includes the manufacture and supply of 800 air-conditioned vehicles, including 500 air-conditioned third class carriages, which is a new service that is offered to passengers for the first time in the history of the Egyptian railways. The contract also includes 180 second-class air conditioned cars, 90 first-class air-conditioned cars and 30 air-conditioned buffet trolleys.
The rail authority began operating the first three Russian trains to join the fleet just before Eid Al-Adha, after President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi assigned them to transport passengers during the holidays.
The railway commissioned the trains to work on lines between Cairo to Alexandria as well as from Cairo to Aswan. The Russian train now operates alongside a fleet of Spanish, French, Romanian, German and Egyptian trains.