Saudi Arabia calls on Syria to comply with chemical weapons watchdog

Saudi Arabia calls on Syria to comply with chemical weapons watchdog
Saudi Arabia has urged Syrian authorities to cooperate with the chemical weapons watchdog and implement all decisions related to the use of chemical weapons in Syria. (AFP)
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Updated 03 December 2021

Saudi Arabia calls on Syria to comply with chemical weapons watchdog

Saudi Arabia calls on Syria to comply with chemical weapons watchdog

LONDON: Saudi Arabia has urged Syrian authorities to cooperate with the chemical weapons watchdog and implement all decisions related to the use of chemical weapons in Syria.

The Kingdom’s position on the matter was reiterated by the Saudi permanent representative to the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, Ziyad Al-Attiyah.

He said: “The use of chemical weapons and toxic chemicals as weapons anywhere by any person and under any circumstances is reprehensible and completely contradicts the provisions of the convention and the legal rules and standards of the international community.”

His comments came during the 26th session of the Conference of the States Parties to the Chemical Weapons Convention on Thursday in The Hague, in the Netherlands.

Al-Attiyah also highlighted the importance his country attached to implementing its obligations under the Chemical Weapons Convention, believing in its objectives, and based on its consistent policy to strengthen cooperation to ban weapons of mass destruction and prevent their spread.

He pointed out that Saudi Arabia was keen to help free the Middle East of all WMDs, a move that would increase international peace and security.

Al-Attiyah thanked the organization’s director general, Fernando Arias, for his efforts toward the cause, adding that the Kingdom would be supporting his reappointment for a second term.


Twelve Syrian police wounded in bus blast: state media

Updated 6 sec ago

Twelve Syrian police wounded in bus blast: state media

Twelve Syrian police wounded in bus blast: state media
DAMASCUS: Twelve members of Syria’s internal security forces were lightly wounded Wednesday in a bomb blast on a police bus in the southern province of Daraa, state news agency SANA reported.
The device exploded near Jisr Saida in Daraa province, SANA said.
Daraa province and its capital of the same name, the cradle of Syria’s 2011 uprising, returned to government control in 2018.
However, holdout rebels who stayed on in a southern part of the city called Daraa Al-Balad continued to battle regime forces last year.
A Moscow-brokered 2021 truce saw dozens of opposition fighters bused out of the city, but some have stayed on.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which has an extensive network of sources inside Syria, said 20 attacks have been recorded in Daraa province since the beginning of the year.
The war monitor says 16 people have been killed in those attacks, including eight civilians.
In October last year, two bombs planted on an army bus in the capital Damascus killed at least 14 people and wounded three others, the worst such attack there in four years, according to SANA.
The Syria conflict, which broke out in 2011, has killed close to half a million people and spurred the largest conflict-induced displacement since World War II.

Algeria closes schools for ten days over omicron

Algeria closes schools for ten days over omicron
Updated 19 January 2022

Algeria closes schools for ten days over omicron

Algeria closes schools for ten days over omicron

ALGIERS: Algeria has decided to close its schools for ten days after it registered a rise in omicron cases, an official statement said on Wednesday.
Algeria encouraged citizens to get vaccinated to counter the pandemic.


UN launches $1.6bn appeal to support Palestinian refugees in Lebanon

UN launches $1.6bn appeal to support Palestinian refugees in Lebanon
Updated 19 January 2022

UN launches $1.6bn appeal to support Palestinian refugees in Lebanon

UN launches $1.6bn appeal to support Palestinian refugees in Lebanon
  • The number of Palestinian refugees displaced from Syria to Lebanon had decreased from more than 40,000 to 18,000, according to a census by the Palestine Liberation Organization

BEIRUT: The UN on Wednesday launched a special international appeal for $1.6 billion to help improve living conditions for Palestinian refugees in crisis-hit Lebanon.

Philippe Lazzarini, commissioner general of the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees in the Near East, made the donations plea for “vital humanitarian assistance” as part of the agency’s focus on this year’s “funding requirements and priorities.”

Addressing a press conference at the UN’s Beirut office, he said: “UNRWA is seeking to obtain $1.6 billion from the international community in 2022 to support Palestinian refugees.

“This funding will enable UNRWA to cover the needs of millions of Palestine refugees and provide them with vital lifesaving services and programs, which include education, health, and food aid, as well as additional emergency funding to meet the humanitarian needs arising from crises in Gaza, the West Bank, Jerusalem, Syria, and Lebanon,” he added.

The appeal came in the wake of an open sit-in carried out by dozens of Palestinian refugees in front of the UNRWA headquarters in the Lebanese capital. The demonstrators have been protesting the agency’s decision to cancel a rental allowance for Palestinians displaced from Syria to Lebanon during the Syrian war.

They set up a tent dubbed Tent 194, in reference to the international resolution that stipulates the return of Palestinian refugees to their homes.

The number of Palestinian refugees displaced from Syria to Lebanon had decreased from more than 40,000 to 18,000, according to a census by the Palestine Liberation Organization.

Some had returned to Syria, while others had legally migrated from Lebanon to Europe, specifically in the context of family reunification, and a number had drowned off the Lebanese coast while trying to escape by boat.

Lazzarini said: “UNRWA is facing a chronic funding shortfall that undermines its efforts to provide humanitarian support to some of the most vulnerable refugees in the world, whose needs are constantly increasing, while the COVID-19 pandemic continues to pose serious health risks and exacerbate economic difficulties across the region.

“An estimated 2.3 million Palestinian refugees are now believed to live in poverty. Anguish and despair prevail among the Palestinian refugees, and many in Gaza, Syria, and Lebanon have expressed their willingness to use any means to try to emigrate outside the region,” he added.

Palestinian refugees in Lebanon, similar to Lebanese citizens, are having to contend with the fallout from the country’s economic collapse.

Hisham Debsi, director of the independent Palestinian center Tatweer for Strategic Studies and Human Development, told Arab News: “There is no food crisis in the Palestinian refugee camps because more than 16,000 Palestinians receive their salaries from the PLO in US dollars, and employees of UNRWA and Islamic organizations in the camps receive high salaries in US dollars.

“A large number of refugees receive social benefits in US dollars, and those who are not paid by the Palestinian factions, are provided financial assistance by the active Palestinian civil society organizations.

“Refugees struggle with health and educational services. The beds allocated to UNRWA in hospitals in various Lebanese areas are limited, and the Palestinian health insurance is limited to Red Crescent hospitals, whose health services the refugees find questionable, and the UNRWA budget, as it claims, does not allow it to increase health coverage.

“The greatest harm is in the education sector because UNRWA services do not cover all tuition fees, so schools are being merged, which leads to overcrowding, thus resulting in a decline in the educational services,” he said.

The biggest issue being faced by the latest generation of Palestinians has been a lack of job opportunities. Debsi noted that a Tatweer study had found that most young Palestinians were looking to immigrate to a third country to obtain another nationality that would secure them a better life, while many no longer had plans to return to Palestine.

“These young people have recently launched movements in search of resettlement in a third country. They succeeded in collecting the files of 10,000 Palestinian youth, and they delegated a group on their behalf to transfer their files from the UNRWA to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees as individuals who want to emigrate and not as Palestinian refugees.

“This action has provoked the Palestinian factions, that tried to suppress these movements,” Debsi added.

Ayham Sahli, an assistant researcher at the Institute for Palestinian Studies in Lebanon and an activist for Palestinian refugees who fled from Syrian to Lebanon, told Arab News: “The reduction in the UNRWA budget allocated to Palestinian refugees who fled from Syria to Lebanon was unjustified. It reduced the aid from $115 per person to $25, citing lack of funding.

“Not all Palestinian refugees in Lebanon receive aid; many suffer under extreme poverty, especially those who are not affiliated with any Palestinian faction and are not in contact with any civil society organization.”


Abu Dhabi crown prince, US defense secretary discuss boosting military cooperation after Houthi attack

Abu Dhabi crown prince, US defense secretary discuss boosting military cooperation after Houthi attack
Updated 19 January 2022

Abu Dhabi crown prince, US defense secretary discuss boosting military cooperation after Houthi attack

Abu Dhabi crown prince, US defense secretary discuss boosting military cooperation after Houthi attack
  • They also discussed the need to take a firm international stance toward the Houthis’ aggressive practices
  • Lloyd Austin reiterated US condemnation of the attacks

RIYADH: Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed held a phone call with US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin to discuss the recent Houthi attacks on the UAE and boosting defense coordination, Emirates News Agency reported on Wednesday.
The Iran-backed militia launched a number of explosive-laden drones and ballistic missiles targeting a key oil facility and an airport in Abu Dhabi on Monday, killing three people and injuring seven.
Sheikh Mohammed and Austin discussed military and security cooperation and coordination in different areas of defense between the two countries following the terrorist attacks.
The two sides also discussed the threat the Houthis pose to regional security and stability, and “the need to take a firm international stance toward such aggressive practices,” the statement said.
During the call, Austin reiterated US condemnation of the attacks and said his country stood by the UAE against threats to its security and territorial integrity.
They also spoke about the strategic bilateral relations, as well as regional and international developments of common concern.


UAE embassy calls on Biden administration to support re-designating Houthis as foreign terrorist organization

UAE embassy calls on Biden administration to support re-designating Houthis as foreign terrorist organization
Updated 19 January 2022

UAE embassy calls on Biden administration to support re-designating Houthis as foreign terrorist organization

UAE embassy calls on Biden administration to support re-designating Houthis as foreign terrorist organization
  • Ambassador will join UAE Director of National Intelligence for meetings with White House, Congress
  • Abu Dhabi Crown Prince and US Defence Secretary discussed urgent steps to tighten air defenses

LONDON: The UAE embassy in the US on Wednesday called on the Biden administration and Congress to support the re-designation of the Houthi militia as a foreign terrorist organization.

Three people were killed and eight wounded after a Houthi missile and drone attack set off an explosion next to oil giant ADNOC's storage facilities and started a fire at Abu Dhabi airport, police said. 

The UAE’s ambassador to the US, Yousef Al-Otaiba, also summarized a phone call between the US Secretary of Defence Lloyd Austin and the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al-Nahyan, the embassy said.

The two officials agreed on unity of action in response to the Houthi terror attack and discussed urgent steps to tighten air defenses against missiles and drones and enhanced maritime security to stop weapons flows, the embassy said.

The ambassador will join the UAE Director of National Intelligence, Ali Al-Shamsi, for meetings with the White House and Congress later on Wednesday in Washington DC, the embassy added.

Later on Wednesday, Al-Otaiba said the Houthis targeted civilian sites in the UAE using a “combination of cruise missiles, ballistic missiles, and drones.”

“Several attacks” were carried out, and some of the projectiles were intercepted while a “few of them” were not, Al-Otaiba said during remarks at a virtual event hosted by the Jewish Institute for National Security of America.