EU states condemn Syrian regime for using chemical weapons against civilians

Manso said the US has destroyed 98 percent of its own stockpiles of chemical weapons and is on track to destroy the remainder in the next year. (Reuters/File Photo)
Manso said the US has destroyed 98 percent of its own stockpiles of chemical weapons and is on track to destroy the remainder in the next year. (Reuters/File Photo)
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Updated 02 December 2022

EU states condemn Syrian regime for using chemical weapons against civilians

EU states condemn Syrian regime for using chemical weapons against civilians
  • Speaking on behalf of fellow EU members, France demanded the Assad regime comply with international treaties and destroy its stockpiles of the weapons
  • Joseph Manso, the US envoy to the OPCW, said his country has destroyed 98 percent of its chemical weapons and is on track to destroy the rest next year

WASHINGTON: EU member states condemned the Syrian government for using chemical weapons against its own citizens during the 11-year civil war in the country, and demanded that the regime of President Bashar Assad complies with international conventions on such weapons of mass destruction.

France delivered a statement on behalf of its fellow EU members during the four-day 27th Session of the Conference of the States Parties of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, which concluded at the World Forum the Hague in the Netherlands on Friday.

The CSP oversees the implementation of the Chemical Weapons Convention, promotes its objectives and reviews compliance with the treaty.

The EU statement called on the Syrian regime to destroy its chemical weapon stockpiles. It also reaffirmed the bloc’s commitment to preventing the use of such weapons anywhere in the world, citing several examples in recent decades.

“We condemn the use of all chemical weapons by state and non-state actors during the last 25 years, including in Iraq, Malaysia, the Russian Federation, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and, on multiple occasions, in the Syrian Arab Republic,” it said.

The OPCW, of which 193 states are members, oversees the global objective to permanently rid the world of chemical weapons. According to the CSP, tens of thousands of these weapons, amounting to about 99 percent of declared global stockpiles, have already been verifiably destroyed.

OPCW investigations have concluded that the Syrian regime used deadly chemical weapons against its own citizens on several occasions during the civil war, killing and injuring thousands of innocent civilians.

Syrian representatives responded to the statement by France by describing it as “false accusations” and said the EU was using the OPCW as a “tool for political manipulation”.

“It is natural for France to lead this campaign along with some Western countries, particularly those that launched repeated aggressions on Syrian territory in 2017 and 2018 under the pretext of the Syrian government’s use of chemical weapons, even before those incidents were investigated,” the Syrian delegation said.

Ambassador Joseph Manso, the US permanent representative to OPCW noted during a press briefing attended by Arab News that Syria, which is a member of the organization, was stripped of its voting rights and other privileges in 2021.

He said that efforts continue to get the Syrian government to comply with its obligations under the Chemical Weapons Convention, and to hold accountable those responsible for the use of chemical weapons in Syria.

Manso said the US has destroyed 98 percent of its own stockpiles of chemical weapons and is on track to destroy the remainder in the next year.

Applauding the global consensus on the elimination of chemical weapons, he said: “The good news here is that this has been a highly effective treaty that has gone a long way toward eliminating an entire category of weapons of mass destruction, and the vast majority of the world’s states support this.”

Manso criticized Russia for its continuing support for the Assad regime in Syria.

He also said the US government is working with the OPCW to provide the Ukrainian government with training and equipment to help it detect chemical weapon attacks and protect civilians.

“What we’re working to do is to ensure that the Ukrainians have the necessary defensive equipment to promptly detect such an attack, to protect themselves and civilian populations (and) to have trained first responders to respond in the case of such an attack,” he said.

“We want to make sure that Ukraine is prepared in the eventuality that the Russians were to use chemical weapons.”


Iranian prosecutors covered up rapes by Revolutionary Guards, official document shows

Iranian prosecutors covered up rapes by Revolutionary Guards, official document shows
Updated 16 sec ago

Iranian prosecutors covered up rapes by Revolutionary Guards, official document shows

Iranian prosecutors covered up rapes by Revolutionary Guards, official document shows
  • Two members of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps sexually abused two women who were arrested in September during the public protests in the country
  • The author wrote that ‘considering the problematic nature of the case’ and the risk of social media leaks ‘it is recommended the necessary order (is) issued for it to be filed top secret’

DUBAI: Iranian state prosecutors stand accused of covering up rapes by two members of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.

According to an internal judicial document, the IRGC members allegedly raped two women, ages 18 and 23, in a van in Tehran last September, The Guardian newspaper reported on Wednesday. They had been detained during the protests that began that month following the death of Mahsa Amini after she was arrested by Iran’s “morality police.” The women were accused of acting suspiciously and their phones were examined for any evidence that they had taken part in the protests.

The judicial document was reportedly initially leaked to news channel Iran International by hacktivist group Edalat-e Ali (Ali’s Justice). It is the first internal document to surface and expose a specific case of this kind, although activists have long suspected that some female detainees were sexually abused by security officials during the protests.

Dated Oct. 13, 2022, the document was written by Mohammad Shahriari, the deputy prosecutor and head of the prosecutor’s office in Tehran, and addressed to Ali Salehi, the general and revolution prosecutor. A report on a collection of witness statements, it states that two named women were assaulted by two named male security officials.

The case came to the attention of prosecutors after one of the IRGC officers called one of the victims after the assault. She recorded the conversation and filed a complaint. The officer initially denied the charges but later changed his story to claim the women had consented to sex. He reportedly was detained, with his father, at their home in Tehran. The other accused officer was arrested separately and taken to a police intelligence unit prison.

The report details how the two men eventually admitted having intercourse with the women, which the document describes as rape. The first officer said they had detained the two women near a gas station while deployed on Sattarkhan Street in western Tehran. The officers initially took them to the Revolutionary Guard’s headquarters but left when they were told it was not possible to process the accused women there.

The document continues: “Considering the problematic nature of the case, the possibility of the leaking of this information into social media and its misrepresentation by enemy groups, it is recommended that the necessary order (is) issued for it to be filed top secret.

“Since no complaint has been registered and the defendants have been dismissed, the accused should be dismissed without mentioning their names.”

It added the case should be closed without any reference to the military institution involved.


Saudi Arabia’s KSrelief raises millions with earthquake appeal for Turkiye and Syria

Saudi Arabia’s KSrelief raises millions with earthquake appeal for Turkiye and Syria
Updated 25 sec ago

Saudi Arabia’s KSrelief raises millions with earthquake appeal for Turkiye and Syria

Saudi Arabia’s KSrelief raises millions with earthquake appeal for Turkiye and Syria
  • A magnitude 7.8 quake struck in the early hours of Monday, sparking an international humanitarian response 
  • King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman directed KSrelief to establish aid delivery flights 

RIYADH/QAMISHLI: Saudi Arabia’s King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Center, also known as KSrelief, has launched a fundraising campaign through the “Sahem” platform to help those affected by the massive earthquake in Syria and Turkiye, the center announced on Wednesday.

Even before KSrelief announced its official fundraiser, Saudi donations to the aid effort had already exceeded SR13 million ($3.5 million), Abdullah bin Abdulaziz Al-Rabeeah, KSrelief’s supervisor general, told Arab News.

KSrelief chief Dr. Abdullah Al-Rabeeah (R) and Sheikh Saad Al-Shathri, a member of the Saudi Council of Senior Scholars, leading the launch of the Kingdom's aid campaign for victims of the Turkiye-Syria earthquake. (Twitter: @KSrelief)

As of Wednesday night, hundreds of thousands of donors had contributed approximately SR65.9 million.

The magnitude 7.8 earthquake struck parts of southeastern Turkiye, northwestern Syria and neighboring areas in the early hours of Monday, followed by a magnitude 7.5 quake hours later. More than 11,000 people are known to have died and tens of thousands have been injured.

In the two days since the catastrophe, aid workers have struggled to reach remote parts of both countries. In many areas, rescuers have been digging through rubble with their bare hands in the fading hope of finding more survivors.

“Until now, not one gram of aid has arrived here,” Roj Mousa, a journalist from northern Syrian city of Afrin, told Arab News.

According to the International Rescue Committee, Turkiye’s Bab Al-Hawa, the only border crossing through which UN humanitarian aid is allowed into northern Syria, has been closed as a result of damage sustained in the earthquake. As the bulk of the aid entering Syria must pass through Damascus, which strictly controls its distribution to governorates, the closure of Bab Al-Hawa has made it even harder to deliver adequate and timely aid to the hardest-hit areas.

Earthquake victims are rushed to the emergency ward of the Bab al-Hawa hospital in Syria's Idlib province on the border with Turkey early on Feb. 6, 2023. (AFP)

“We are trying to buy some food, water, blankets, tents and other aid and send it to (the people in Afrin),” said Mousa. “They are all sleeping outside, not inside buildings. The main problem now is that after a week, when the rubble is cleared, they must rebuild. In Jinderis, the second-largest city in the Afrin region, 90 percent of people are sleeping in the bush.”

Mousa estimates that between 800 and 900 people lost their lives in Jinderis alone. To the south, in rebel-held Idlib, the situation is not much better.

“There are many people still trapped under buildings. We are in need of all types of aid,” Mohammed Yazji, a journalist from Idlib, told Arab News.

According to Syria Civil Defense, also known as the White Helmets, more than 1,500 people were killed and at least 4,200 injured in Idlib, and the toll is expected to rise.

Syrian rescuers (White Helmets) search for casualties in the rubble of a building destroyed by an earthquake in Syria's Idlib province on the border with Turkey early on February 6, 2023. (AFP)

“We have been displaced to Iwaa Camp,” said Yazji. “Only local NGOs (nongovernmental organizations) have provided aid so far. No international aid organizations have helped us.

“We wish international rescue teams would come because the situation here is very difficult and we are working properly but the load is more than we can handle.”

The World Health Organization said rescuers face a race against time not only to save lives but to ensure the injured survive in dire circumstances.

Robert Holden, the WHO’s earthquake-response incident manager, said the immediate focus was on saving lives but it is also “imperative to make sure that those who survived the initial disaster … continue to survive.”

Speaking during a press conference in Geneva, he said: “We’ve got a lot of people who have survived now out in the open, in worsening and horrific conditions,” adding that access to clean water, fuel, electricity and communications has been disrupted.

People warm up with fire in front of destroyed buildings in Antakya, southern Turkey, on Feb. 8, 2023. (AP)

“We are in real danger of seeing a secondary disaster which may cause harm to more people than the initial disaster if we don’t move with the same pace and intensity as we are doing on the search and rescue,” he warned. “This is no easy task … The scale of the operation is massive.”

Several countries have pledged aid to Turkiye and Syria. Croatia, Poland, Switzerland, India, the UK and Greece have sent rescue teams, search dogs, and firefighters to Turkiye to aid the rescue efforts.

The US is sending assistance to Turkiye and working with humanitarian agencies to deliver aid to Syria. Even Lebanon, which is grappling with its own protracted economic crisis, has sent soldiers and first responders to Turkiye. Jordan is sending aid to both Turkiye and Syria, while New Zealand and China’s Red Cross are providing the Syrian Arab Red Crescent with humanitarian and financial assistance.

A woman sits on the rubble as emergency rescue teams search for people under the remains of destroyed buildings in Nurdagi town on the outskirts of Osmaniye city southern Turkey, on Feb. 7, 2023. (AP)

Saudi Arabia has also stepped up to fill aid gaps and deliver life-saving humanitarian assistance to both countries.

Al-Rabeeah, KSrelief’s general supervisor, told Arab News: “We launched the national donation campaign and we appeal to donors, male and female, businessmen and individuals, to contribute effectively to alleviating the suffering of those affected by the earthquake in Syria and Turkiye.

“I say to every donor, every riyal that is donated will have an impact on alleviating (the suffering of) an injured person, either a wounded or a broken person, or a person (in need of) rescue.

 

 

“We are counting on this aid and this support and donations to implement very important programs that will save the lives of hundreds or thousands of people and, God willing, it will return with goodness, blessing and reward for everyone who contributes and donates.”

Donations can be made through the Sahem platform or through the various channels offered on the KSrelief website. Donations through Sahem are exclusively accepted as monetary funds, and KSrelief deducts no administrative fees, so 100 percent of donations go to beneficiaries.

KSrelief has already started to secure food parcels to send to those in need. On Tuesday, King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman directed the organization to establish an aid corridor to deliver health, shelter, food and logistical supplies to Syria and Turkiye.

KSrelief has also teams of medics with vast experience serving refugees from Syria and Yemen over the past few years. (SPA file photo)

King Salman also ordered the deployment of rapid intervention teams and emergency medical aid, as well as a Saudi volunteer delegation.

“We cannot help but thank the teams that contributed to this noble work, especially the field teams, whether from the General Directorate of Civil Defense in the Ministry of Interior, or from the Saudi Red Crescent Authority, or the experienced cadres of KSrelief, or the volunteers who took the initiative to register with the center to provide urgent medical and health services,” Al-Rabeeah told Arab News.

Saad bin Nasser Al-Shathri, an advisor to the Royal Court and a member of the Council of Senior Scholars and the permanent committee of Ifta, praised the Sahem campaign for its efforts to help meet the massive humanitarian needs in Syria and Turkiye, and reiterated that previous Saudi fundraisers helped many peoples and countries in crisis.

 

 

Since it was founded in 2015, KSrelief has aided struggling communities and nations around the globe, including Syria, Yemen, Pakistan and Afghanistan. The latest fundraising campaign is an extension of its earlier work in support of the Syrian people.

In December last year, KSrelief provided $6 million to Syrian refugees living in camps in Jordan, through the UN’s World Food Program, which helped meet the food needs of more than 50,000 Syrians.

“The Saudi humanitarian efforts are not associated with any political affairs or any political, religious or military agendas, as was made clear by the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques in the center’s opening speech,” said Al-Rabeeah.

“The center has continued to support the people of Syria in alleviating the suffering of Syrian communities, without ties to any specific agendas. Our concern is with the injured, regardless of any political ties.”

Saudi humanitarian aid has long transcended political barriers. In October last year, the Kingdom announced a $400 million humanitarian aid package for Ukraine, while calling for a peaceful resolution to the conflict there, which has been raging since the Russian invasion a year ago.

A Saudia cargo plane unloads food and shelter aid at Sudan's Khartoum airport as part of a humanitarian air bridge from Saudi Arabia for flooding victims in the north African country in August 2022. (SPA file photo)

KSrelief has played a leading role in international aid initiatives during past disasters, most significantly for the people of Lebanon in the wake of the Aug. 4, 2020, Beirut port explosion that killed more than 215 people, injured more than 6,500 and displaced about 300,000. The Kingdom sent two aircraft carrying 120 tons of medical and emergency supplies.

KSrelief also recently sent two flights to Sudan carrying food and shelter aid for those affected by last year’s floods. It also aided India’s COVID-19 response by sending an additional 60 tons of oxygen, adding to an initial 80-ton delivery to the South Asian nation.

In a telephone call on Wednesday with Mevlut Cavusoglu, the Turkish foreign minister, Hussein Ibrahim Taha, the secretary general of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, offered his condolences on behalf of the organization and its member states, and expressed his sympathy for the victims.

Donations for the Turkiye and Syria earthquake relief effort can be made through the Sahem platform using the following link: sahem.ksrelief.org/SYTR, or by direct transfer to the campaign’s bank account.

 


US Congress introduces resolution in support of push for democracy and freedom in Iran

US Congress introduces resolution in support of push for democracy and freedom in Iran
Updated 08 February 2023

US Congress introduces resolution in support of push for democracy and freedom in Iran

US Congress introduces resolution in support of push for democracy and freedom in Iran
  • It backs “the Iranian people’s desire for a democratic, secular and non-nuclear Republic of Iran”
  • The bipartisan resolution is expected to easily pass when it comes up for a final vote

CHICAGO: The US House of Representatives on Wednesday introduced a resolution expressing support for the people of Iran and denouncing the “monarchic dictatorship and religious tyranny” of the governing regime in Tehran.

Although the resolution has no legal authority, it reinforces American support for the Iranian people and condemnation of the ongoing violations of human rights by the country’s government. More than 165 members of Congress, from both main parties, co-sponsored the resolution, which is expected to easily pass when it comes up for a final vote.

“The timing of, and the unprecedented number of cosponsors for, this bipartisan resolution, on the eve of the anniversary of the 1979 anti-monarchic revolution that overthrew a corrupt and ruthless dictator, reflect the forward-looking policy by Congress and its support for a secular, non-nuclear Iranian republic,” said Ramesh Sepehrrad, chairperson of the advisory board for the Organization of Iranian American Communities.

The resolution was introduced by Tom McClintock, a Republican Congressman from California, who said more must to be done to align European and Baltic nations in opposition to the Iranian regime.

“I am pleased to introduce this resolution supporting the Iranian people’s desire for a democratic, secular and non-nuclear Republic of Iran, and condemning violations of human rights and state-sponsored terrorism by the Iranian government,” he said.

It comes as protests against the ruling regime continue in Iran. They began in September last year following the death in custody of 22-year-old Iranian woman Mahsa Amini, who had been arrested by the country’s “morality police” for not covering her hair to their satisfaction, based on strict rules governing how women can dress in public.

More than 600 civilians, including 70 children, have been killed since the protests began and 19,600 people arrested, including 687 students.

Maryam Rajavi, the leader of the People’s Mujahedin of Iran, an Iranian opposition group that advocates the overthrow of the ruling regime and the installation of a democratic government, addressed Wednesday’s briefing through a video link. She thanked Congress for its continuing support but said more must be done to end the regime’s ongoing use of violence to crack down on protesters.

“We are at the anniversary of the anti-dictatorial revolution in 1979, when a unified nation swept a dictator, the Shah, out of power but (former Supreme Leader Ayatollah) Khomeini hijacked their revolution and established a religious dictatorship,” Rajavi said.

“However, today, after more than 40 years of repression and resistance, the Iranian nation is ready again to overthrow another form of dictatorship. They want to put an end to one century of dictatorship and establish a democratic, pluralistic and secular republic.

“What you see in Iran today is another revolution in the making. This is the result of 40 years of organized resistance and struggle against the regime, (during which there have been) 120,000 political executions.”

Congress has introduced and adopted dozens of resolutions condemning the regime in Tehran.

Rajavi has developed a 10-point plan for the future of Iran, which calls for: The universal right of citizens to vote in free and fair elections; a market economy; gender, religious and ethnic equality; a foreign policy based on peaceful coexistence; and a non-nuclear Iran.


Panama says Iran warships might be allowed through canal

Panama says Iran warships might be allowed through canal
Updated 08 February 2023

Panama says Iran warships might be allowed through canal

Panama says Iran warships might be allowed through canal
  • An Iranian military presence in the Canal would anger the US, which built the channel linking the Atlantic and Pacific oceans at the beginning of the 20th century

PANAMA CITY: Iranian naval ships will be allowed to sail through the Panama Canal as long as they abide by international norms, Panamanian authorities said Tuesday following reports that Tehran was sending vessels to the strategic waterway.

An Iranian military presence in the Canal would anger the US, which built the channel linking the Atlantic and Pacific oceans at the beginning of the 20th century, and Washington has warned that it is closely monitoring Tehran’s activity in the Western Hemisphere.

Citing an 1977 international treaty, which handed control of the canal to Panama and established its neutral status, the Panama Canal said the waterway must “remain safe and open for the peaceful transit,” provided that ships abide by global safety norms, pay tolls and not commit any hostile acts.

“Based on the aforementioned regulations, the Panama Canal Authority has the obligation to allow the passage of any vessel that meets all these requirements,” the agency said in a statement.

Local media have been reporting on the imminent arrival of Iranian Navy ships.

The newspaper La Estrella de Panama wrote on January 13 that Teheran plans to position its warships in the Panama Canal as it seeks to boost its presence in Latin America.

Former Florida governor Jeb Bush added fuel to the fire when, in a Washington Post column on January 16, he accused Panama of helping Iran evade Western oil sanctions.

“Without Panama’s support, the Iranian regime would face significant hurdles in smuggling its oil and gas around the world,” wrote Bush, who is the brother and son of two American presidents.

Last week, US State Department spokesman Vedant Patel said Washington is keeping a close eye on Teheran’s naval activities in the Western Hemisphere.

“We continue to have a number of tools in our tool belt available to hold the Iranian regime accountable,” Patel told reporters.

The United States completed the canal in 1914 and opened military bases to protect it.

The 1977 treaty paved the way for the handover of the canal to Panama on December 31, 1999.

More than 14,000 vessels went through the 80-kilometer (50 mile) waterway in 2022, according to the Panama Canal Authority. The canal accounts for five percent of world maritime trade.


GCC chief meets with UK ambassador to Saudi Arabia

The GCC’s new Secretary General Jassem Mohamed Albudaiwi meets with the British ambassador to Saudi Arabia Neil Crompton. (GCC)
The GCC’s new Secretary General Jassem Mohamed Albudaiwi meets with the British ambassador to Saudi Arabia Neil Crompton. (GCC)
Updated 08 February 2023

GCC chief meets with UK ambassador to Saudi Arabia

The GCC’s new Secretary General Jassem Mohamed Albudaiwi meets with the British ambassador to Saudi Arabia Neil Crompton. (GCC)
  • Albudaiwi highlighted the importance of the strategic partnership between the GCC and the UK
  • Crompton said the UK is keen to cement its partnership with the GCC

RIYADH: The Gulf Cooperation Council’s new Secretary General Jassem Mohamed Albudaiwi met with the British ambassador to Riyadh Neil Crompton on Wednesday.

During the meeting, the two officials discussed the latest regional and international issues, and Albudaiwi highlighted the importance of the strategic partnership between the GCC and the UK.

The head of the Gulf bloc also pointed out that he was looking forward to the success of the third round of Free Trade Agreement negotiations which will be held in Riyadh in March.

Crompton said the UK is keen to cement its partnership with the GCC which is Britain’s fourth largest trading partner.