UN says deal reached on committee for new Syria constitution

Secretary-General of the United Nations Antonio Guterres speaks to the press at United Nations headquarters in the Manhattan borough of New York, New York, U.S., September 18, 2019. (Reuters)
Updated 18 September 2019

UN says deal reached on committee for new Syria constitution

  • Guterres expressed hope that the constitutional committee “will be a very important step" towards reaching a political solution
  • It has taken nearly 20 months to agree on the list the United Nations was authorized to put together

UNITED NATIONS: United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres announced Wednesday that a long-sought agreement has been reached on the composition of a committee to draft a new constitution for Syria, an important step toward hopefully ending the more than eight-year conflict.
The UN chief told a news conference that UN special envoy for Syria Geir Pedersen “is doing the final work with the parties in relation to the terms of reference, and we hope that this will be very soon concluded.”
Guterres expressed hope that formation of the constitutional committee “will be a very important step in creating the conditions for a political solution for this tragic conflict.”
At a Russian-hosted Syrian peace conference in January 2018, an agreement was reached to form a 150-member committee to draft a new constitution. This was a key step toward elections and a political settlement to the Syrian conflict, which has killed over 400,000 people.
There was early agreement on 50-member lists from the Syrian government and the opposition. But it has taken nearly 20 months to agree on the list the United Nations was authorized to put together representing experts, independents, tribal leaders and women, mainly because of objections from the Syrian government.
Pedersen, the UN envoy, told the Security Council in late August that the package to resolve outstanding names and terms of reference and rules of procedure was “nearly finalized, and the outstanding differences are, in my assessment, comparatively minor.”
He said he was “quietly hopeful” an agreement would be announced before world leaders gather next week for their annual meeting at the General Assembly.
An agreement on a blueprint for peace in Syria that was approved in Geneva on June 30, 2012 by representatives of the UN, Arab League, European Union, Turkey and all five veto-wielding Security Council members — the US, Russia, China, France and Britain — remains the basis for ending the conflict.
It calls for a Syrian-led political process starting with the establishment of a transitional governing body vested with full executive powers, moving on to the drafting of a new constitution and ending with elections. The Security Council unanimously endorsed the agreement in a resolution in December 2015 that set a timetable for talks and a cease-fire that was never met.


UAE airports screen passengers from China amid coronavirus outbreak

Updated 26 January 2020

UAE airports screen passengers from China amid coronavirus outbreak

  • Abu Dhabi and Dubai airports confirmed thermal screening had begun for people on direct flight from China
  • The death toll from the coronavirus has risen to 56 on Sunday morning, with the number of infected people also rising to almost 2000

DUBAI: Major airports in the UAE started screening passengers arriving from China over the weekend, as countries continued to step up precautions against the spread of the viral outbreak.

Abu Dhabi and Dubai airports confirmed thermal screening had begun following directives from the UAE’s Civil Aviation Authority and the Ministry of Health.

“All passengers arriving on direct flights from the People’s Republic of China must receive thermal screening at the gate upon arrival and be provided with informational leaflets,” the Dubai Airports said in a statement.

The check-ups will be held at “secured, closed gates” by airport medical teams and the Dubai Health Authority, according to Dubai Airports, assuring it “will continue to provide medical teams with any and all support that may be required.”

The Abu Dhabi International Airport also released a six-point list of “preventive tips” for people travelling to China.

UAE officials earlier confirmed there were no cases of coronavirus in the country, adding it was “in constant touch with the World Health Organization (WHO) to find out latest updates, recommendations and procedures taken in this matter.”

“The health situation poses no grounds for concern and the ministry is closely following up on the situation to ensure the health and safety of everyone,” said the National Committee for International Health Regulations and the Control of Pandemics in a statement.

The death toll from the coronavirus has risen to 56 on Sunday morning, with the number of infected people also rising to almost 2000, according to Chinese authorities.

The contagion remained centered on the Hubei provincial capital of Wuhan, but more than a dozen other cities in the province have been locked down in fears of further spreading.

The previously unknown virus has caused global concern because of its similarity to the SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) pathogen, which killed hundreds across mainland China and Hong Kong in 2002-2003.