Syrian victims of chemical strikes file case with French prosecutors

Syrian victims of chemical strikes file case with French  prosecutors
In this file photo taken on May 22, 2017, smoke rises from buildings following a reported air strike on a rebel-held area in the southern Syrian city of Daraa. (AFP)
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Updated 03 March 2021

Syrian victims of chemical strikes file case with French prosecutors

Syrian victims of chemical strikes file case with French  prosecutors
  • People in Khartoum watch a movie at the Sudanese European Film Festival at an outdoor cinema for visitors adhering to COVID-19 restrictions. (AFP)

PARIS: Lawyers representing survivors of a chemical weapons attack in 2013 in Syria have filed a criminal complaint against Syrian officials whom they blame for the deaths of hundreds of civilians in a rebel-held area.
France is home to thousands of Syrian refugees, and its investigating judges have a mandate to determine whether crimes against humanity were committed anywhere in the world.
The case, which about a dozen people have joined, follows a similar one opened in Germany last year. It offers a rare legal avenue for action against the government of President Bashar Assad.
Attempts by Western powers to set up an international tribunal for Syria have been blocked by Russia and China at the UN Security Council.
“This is important so that the victims have the possibility to see those responsible being brought to justice and held accountable,” Mazen Darwish, who heads the Paris-based Syrian Center for Media and Freedom of Expression (SCM), said.
The SCM filed the complaint along with two other NGOs: the Open Society Foundation’s Justice Initiative and Syrian Archive.

BACKGROUND

France is home to thousands of Syrian refugees, and its investigating judges have a mandate to determine whether crimes against humanity were committed anywhere in the world.

France’s intelligence services concluded in 2013 that a sarin gas attack on the Eastern Ghouta region just south east of Damascus that killed 1,400 people had been carried out by Syrian government forces.
The complaint is based on what the lawyers say is the most comprehensive body of evidence on the use of substances such as sarin gas in Syria.
“We have compiled extensive evidence establishing exactly who is responsible for these attacks on Douma and Eastern Ghouta, whose horrific effects continue to impact survivors,” said Hadi Al-Khatib, founder and director of Syrian Archive.
A UN-commissioned investigation to identify those behind chemical weapons attacks in Syria concluded in 2016 that Syrian government forces had used chlorine and sarin gas.
Darwish said he expected another case to be opened in Sweden in the coming months.


US urges Lebanese leaders to break political impasse

US urges Lebanese leaders to break political impasse
Updated 44 min 5 sec ago

US urges Lebanese leaders to break political impasse

US urges Lebanese leaders to break political impasse
  • U.S. official said America and the international community can do nothing meaningful without a Lebanese partner
  • Current crisis was the culmination of decades of mismanagement, corruption and leaders’ failure to put the country’s interests first, said Hale

BEIRUT: A senior US official on Wednesday berated Lebanese politicians for fighting over the formation of a new government for months while millions endure mounting economic hardship.
David Hale, US undersecretary of state for political affairs, said America and the international community are ready to help, “but we can do nothing meaningful without a Lebanese partner.”
Hale spoke on a two-day visit to Lebanon amid a months-long political deadlock and dangerous rift between the president and prime minister-designate. The split has prevented the formation of a new Cabinet tasked with halting the country’s rapid economic collapse.
The outgoing government resigned last August, following a massive explosion at Beirut’s port that killed 211 people, injured more than 6,000 and damaged entire neighborhoods in the capital.
The blast hastened the country’s economic and financial decline, which began in late 2019 and has emerged as the gravest threat to Lebanon’s stability since the 15-year civil war ended in 1990.
The local currency has been in free fall since late 2019, losing around 90 percent of its value. The government defaulted on its foreign debt last year and nearly half the population has been pushed into poverty and unemployment.
“America and its international partners are gravely concerned with the failure here to advance the critical reform agenda long demanded by the Lebanese people,” Hale told reporters Wednesday after meeting Lebanon’s longtime Parliament Speaker, Nabih Berri.
The current crisis, he said, was the culmination of decades of mismanagement, corruption and the failure of Lebanese leaders to put the interests of the country first.
“It is time now to call on Lebanese leaders to show sufficient flexibility to form a government that is willing and capable of true and fundamental reform,” Hale added, calling it the only path out of this crisis.
“It’s also only a first step. Sustained cooperation will be needed if we’re going to see transparent reforms adopted and implemented.”


Saudi Arabia: Iran must be prevented from obtaining nuclear weapons

Saudi Arabia: Iran must be prevented from obtaining nuclear weapons
Updated 10 min 43 sec ago

Saudi Arabia: Iran must be prevented from obtaining nuclear weapons

Saudi Arabia: Iran must be prevented from obtaining nuclear weapons
  • Saudi Arabia said it was following with concern the current developments of the Iranian nuclear program

DUBAI: The international community must take measure to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons, Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs warned on Wednesday.

Iran’s increase of uranium enrichment to 60 percent cannot be considered as part of a peaceful program, the ministry said in a statement reported by state TV Al-Ekhbariya.

The world should take into account the concerns of the countries in the region about the escalation of Iran, the statement said.

The international community must reach an agreement with Iran, the statement added, urging for “stronger parameters of a longer duration.”

Saudi Arabia said it was following with concern the current developments of the Iranian nuclear program and called on Iran to avoid escalation and not to expose the security and stability of the region to further tension.

The kingdom also called on Iran to seriously engage in the negotiations currently underway.

Meanwhile, the European powers party to the Iran nuclear deal told Tehran on Wednesday that its decision to enrich uranium at 60 percent purity and install a further 1,000 centrifuges at its Natanz site were contrary to efforts to revive the 2015 nuclear deal.
Talks between world powers, Iran and the United States are due to resume in Vienna on Thursday, but in a joint statement Britain, France and Germany said Tehran’s decision to enrich at 60 percent was not based on credible civilian reasons and constituted an important step in the production of a nuclear weapon.
“Iran’s announcements are particularly regrettable given they come at a time when all JCPoA (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action) participants and the United States have started substantive discussions, with the objective of finding a rapid diplomatic solution to revitalise and restore the JCPoA,” the three countries said.
“Iran’s dangerous recent communication is contrary to the constructive spirit and good faith of these discussions.”
Tehran has said its decisions came after arch-foe Israel sabotaged its key Natanz nuclear site on Sunday.
“In light of recent developments, we reject all escalatory measures by any actor, and we call upon Iran not to further complicate the diplomatic process,” the E3 said.

Iran's president said his country’s decision to dramatically increase its uranium enrichment after saboteurs attacked a nuclear site “an answer to your evilness,” saying Israel hoped to derail ongoing talks aimed at reviving Tehran's tattered nuclear deal with world powers.
This weekend's sabotage at the Natanz nuclear facility appears to be part of an escalating shadow war between the two countries. Israeli authorities have not commented on the attack, but are widely suspected of having carried it out.


Jordan begins investigation on those who attempted to destabilize the county

Jordan begins investigation on those who attempted to destabilize the county
Updated 14 April 2021

Jordan begins investigation on those who attempted to destabilize the county

Jordan begins investigation on those who attempted to destabilize the county
  • At least 16 detentions have been made in relation to the case

CAIRO: Jordan’s state public prosecutor has proceeded with an investigation of all those involved in an alleged plot to destabilize the country. 

Local state media, Al-Mamlaka TV, reported the news on Wednesday citing an unnamed source.

Jordanian officials announced on April 3 the arrest of citizens Al-Sharif Hassan bin Zaid, Bassem Awad Allah, a former head of the Jordanian Royal Court, for security reasons. 

At least 16 detentions have been made in relation to the case. 

Authorities at the time said those were being held as part of “joint comprehensive investigation undertaken by security forces,” according to state-run Petra news agency.  

Jordanian foreign minister Ayman Safadi said previously that investigations found links between Bassem Awadallah and external parties, and the so-called foreign opposition. 


Turkey hails ‘new era’ with Egypt after tensions

Turkey hails ‘new era’ with Egypt after tensions
Updated 14 April 2021

Turkey hails ‘new era’ with Egypt after tensions

Turkey hails ‘new era’ with Egypt after tensions
  • Turkish officials said last month Ankara had established the first diplomatic contacts with Cairo since 2013
  • Cavusoglu told Turkish reporters that the appointment of ambassadors “will come up on the agenda”

ANKARA: Turkey’s foreign minister hailed the start of “a new era” with Egypt as Ankara pushes ahead with normalizing relations with Cairo, local media reported on Wednesday.
Turkey and Egypt broke off relations after the 2013 overthrow of ex-Islamist president Muhammad Mursi, who was supported by Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
That year Turkey and Egypt expelled each others’ ambassadors and froze their relations.
Turkish officials said last month Ankara had established the first diplomatic contacts with Cairo since 2013 as part of wider efforts to fix ties with other Middle Eastern rivals.
“A new era is beginning,” Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu was quoted as saying by NTV broadcaster.
He said there would be a meeting between the two countries’ deputy foreign ministers and diplomats but a date had not yet been set.
Cavusoglu told Turkish reporters that the appointment of ambassadors “will come up on the agenda” during those talks.
When asked, the minister also indicated there would be meetings between himself and his Egyptian counterpart.
“Why not. There can be reciprocal visits and meetings, too,” Cavusoglu said.
Last month, members of Egypt’s Istanbul-based opposition media said Turkish officials had asked them to “tone down” criticism of Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi.
The request appeared to be an attempt by Turkey to curry favor with Egypt in a bid to mend relations.
An Egyptian broadcaster known for his outspoken criticism of Cairo on an Istanbul-based channel, said on Saturday he was going on “unlimited leave.”
Moataz Matar, 46, made the announcement during his popular daily show “With Moataz,” which he has presented for several years on the liberal El-Sharq channel.
Matar said he was not forced by Turkey or the channel to leave but added he did not want to “embarrass” anyone.
“I will come back when I am able to tell the truth on El-Sharq again as I always have,” he added.
After the Arab Spring, Istanbul became a capital of Arab media critical of their governments back home, especially for Egyptian media linked to Mursi’s Muslim Brotherhood.


Twenty killed in road accident in Egypt

Twenty killed in road accident in Egypt
Updated 14 April 2021

Twenty killed in road accident in Egypt

Twenty killed in road accident in Egypt
  • The bus from Cairo collided with a truck loaded with cement in the province of Assiut
  • Reckless driving and the poor condition of roads are responsible for many crashes in Egypt

CAIRO: Twenty people were killed and three injured in an accident involving a bus and a truck on a desert highway in Upper Egypt late on Tuesday, the health ministry said on Wednesday.

The bus from Cairo collided with a truck loaded with cement, which was stopping due to a malfunction, in the province of Assiut, about 370 km south of the capital, the provincial governor's office said in a statement.

The bus was burned out within minutes, and the bodies and the injured were removed from it with difficulty, it added.

Thirty-six ambulances rushed to the scene, the health ministry said.

Reckless driving and the poor condition of roads are responsible for many crashes in Egypt. Dozens have been killed in a recent spate of rail and road crashes.

Eighteen people were killed in March when a truck collided with a minibus in Giza province, about 80 km south of Cairo. At least 20 people were killed and nearly 200 people wounded injured when two trains collided near Tahta, about 440 km south of Cairo.