Logo Wide

Syria Today – Bin Farhane in Damascus; FBI Builds Case Against Officials; MSF Sends Relief

Your daily brief of the English-speaking press on Syria.
Syria Today – Bin Farhane in Damascus; FBI Builds Case Against Officials; MSF Sends Relief

Relief assistance arrived on Tuesday in Damascus, as a donation to the Syrian Arab Red Crescent (SARC) aims to help people affected by the Feb.6 earthquake, North Press reported.

A Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) delegation and a cargo plane arrived in Damascus, Syria’s capital.

The cargo contains 30,000 units of baby milk, 234 family tents and three surgical kits. This is the second MSF donation to Syria since the earthquake and aims to help quake-affected people in areas where the MSF does not currently have teams.

“A few days after the earthquake hit Syria and Turkey, in addition to our emergency operations in northwest Syria, we offered our support to relief efforts in areas where we do not have teams,” said Ahmad Abdurrahman, MSF director of operations.

“As an independent and impartial medical organization, we remain committed to providing humanitarian and medical assistance to the people in Syria, wherever access is granted, and the humanitarian principles are respected to ensure that aid reaches the people who need it most,” he added.

The MSF said in a report that since the earthquake, they have scaled up their response in the quake-affected areas in Syria.

At dawn on Feb. 6, a 7.8-magnitude earthquake hit different areas in Syria killing more than 7,000 Syrians, including 2,153 Children and 1,524 Women. 

Saudi foreign minister meets Syria’s Assad in Damascus

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has met with Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud in the most significant step yet towards ending Syria’s decade-long regional isolation.

Prince Faisal landed in Damascus on Tuesday, Syrian state media reported, a week after his Syrian counterpart visited Saudi Arabia.

The visit is the first by a Saudi official to Syria’s capital since the start of the country’s civil war in 2011.

The Saudi foreign ministry said in an online statement that the visit showed the kingdom’s desire to find a political solution to Syria’s conflict that would preserve the country’s “Arab identity, and return it to its Arab surroundings”.

SANA reports that Assad discussed with bin Farhan bilateral ties and other political international and regional files.

The Saudi minister conveyed to President al-Assad the greeting of the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, and ‏His Highness Prince Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz. Crown Prince, Prime Minister along with their wishes for further security, stability and progress.

Assad, in turn, sent his greetings to the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, His Highness the Crown Prince and the brotherly Saudi people, stressing that the brotherhood that unites the Arabs remains the deepest of the bonds binding the Arab countries and that the sound relations between Syria and the Kingdom are the natural state that should be, and these relations do not only constitute an interest for the two countries but also reflect an Arab and regional interest.

President Assad attached great importance to the role of brotherly Arabs for several reasons, among which supporting the Syrian people, liberating all the Syrian territories, stabilizing the situation, and overcoming the consequences of the war on Syria.

Assad considered changing dynamics in the world entail the cooperation among Arab countries in this phase to invest in such changes for the interest of people in all Arab countries.

The Saudi minister voiced his country’s confidence in the ability of Syria and its people to overcome all the war impacts and to achieve sustainable development, stressing that the Kingdom stands by Syria and supports it to preserve its territorial integrity and restore stability and security, along with creating an environment conducive to the return of refugees and displaced persons.

The upcoming stage necessitates the return of sound relations between Syria and the Arab States, in addition to the Arab and regional role of Syria to be better than before, bin Farhan noted.

FBI Builds War Crimes Case Against Top Syrian Officials

For five years, the US Department of Justice has been quietly investigating the brutal killing of American aid worker Layla Shweikani in Syria, according to insiders, The New York Times exclusively reported

Now the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) is building a case against top Syrian officials thought to be behind the detention, torture and execution of Shweikani, which human rights groups and politicians have called a war crime. 

The FBI has been collecting evidence and interviewing witnesses across the Middle East and Europe. The officials in question are Jamil Hassan, former head of the Air Force Intelligence Directorate when Shweikani disappeared, and Ali Mamlouk, the former head of Syria’s National Security Bureau intelligence service. The men may not be apprehended, but a conviction would mark the first time top Syrian officials had been charged with the human rights abuses that President Bashar al-Assad denies using. 

As well as prompting questions about the low profile of Shweikani’s case in comparison with that of other Americans captured abroad, including Austin Tice, a journalist covering the war in Syria who was abducted in 2012, and Jason Rezaian, a Washington Post correspondent who was imprisoned in Iran in 2016, the investigation has sparked interest in how the US deals with al-Assad. 

The Syrian leader, who has been accused of overseeing a ruthless system of detention and torture, has attracted the attention of some Arab countries and criticism from human rights groups. A possible indictment of Syrian officials would make it clear that the US will not do business with him or his regime, according to former Ambassador James F Jeffrey, the Trump administration’s special representative for Syria engagement.

Syria, Tunisia reestablish diplomatic relations

Syria’s chief diplomat is on a three-day official visit to Tunisia meant to restore diplomatic relations that have been cut off since 2012 during the civil war that followed President Bashar Assad’s brutal crackdown on mass protests against his rule, AP reported.

Syrian Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad had a meeting with Tunisian counterpart Nabil Ammar shortly after his arrival on Monday evening. No details were disclosed about the talks and Mekdad’s schedule for Tuesday or Wednesday.

The visit is meant to help restore bilateral relations, the Tunisian Department of Foreign Affairs said in a statement.

The move is a glaring example of how things have changed in the region over the past decade: Tunisia was the birthplace of the Arab Spring pro-democracy movements that spread as far as Syria in 2011 and was long among Assad’s strongest critics. But today, Tunisia’s leadership is swinging back toward authoritarianism and is allying anew with Assad’s Syria.

Earlier this month, Tunisian President Kais Saied ordered the appointment of an ambassador to the Syrian capital, Damascus. It followed the decision of the Syrian government to reopen its embassy in Tunis and appoint an ambassador.

In February, Saied announced his decision to raise the level of Tunisian diplomatic representation in Damascus, while stressing that the crisis facing Assad’s government was “an internal matter that concerns only the Syrian people.” The move was made at the same time Tunisia was sending urgent humanitarian aid to Syria following the earthquake that killed tens of thousands in the country and neighbouring Turkey.

Mekdad’s visit to Tunisia is the second leg of a trip that began in Algeria, one of the few Arab countries that maintained diplomatic relations during Syria’s civil war.

It comes as influential Tunisian Islamist leader Rached Ghannouchi was detained after a police search, according to his lawyer, in a move denounced by his supporters as a stepped-up effort by the president to quash Tunisia’s opposition. Ghannouchi, head of the Ennahdha party, is the most prominent critic of Saied.

Helpful keywords