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Syria Today – Conflict Approaches 13th Anniversary with No Solution in Sight

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Syria Today – Conflict Approaches 13th Anniversary with No Solution in Sight

On Saturday, the UN Secretary-General underscored the pressing necessity for a negotiated political resolution in Syria, stressing the importance of safeguarding civilians and addressing the severe humanitarian crisis. As March commences, it marks the thirteenth year since the onset of the Syrian conflict, characterized by systematic atrocities and immense civilian suffering.

UN chief urges ‘genuine, credible’ political solution in Syria, as conflict approaches thirteenth anniversary 

The UN Secretary-General on Saturday highlighted the urgent need for a negotiated political solution in Syria, emphasizing the protection of civilians and the dire humanitarian situation.

March marks the thirteenth anniversary of the conflict in Syria, with systematic atrocities and untold suffering of civilians.

According to UN estimates, 16.7 million people, equivalent to 70 per cent of the total population, will require humanitarian assistance in 2024. Roughly half the pre-war population remains displaced inside or outside Syria.

Compounding the crisis, a series of earthquakes struck the country’s north in February last year, claiming nearly 5,900 lives, severely damaging infrastructure, and exacerbating the vulnerability of millions already struggling to meet their basic needs.

Entire communities are struggling to survive, as humanitarian funding has dropped to an all-time low. In 2023, for instance, only $2.02 billion or 37.4 per cent – was received against the $5.41 billion required for UN-led humanitarian efforts.

In a statement, Secretary-General António Guterres urged all stakeholders to “do all that is necessary to reach a genuine and credible political solution”.

A solution that meets the legitimate aspirations of the Syrian people, restores the country’s sovereignty, unity, independence, and territorial integrity, in accordance with Security Council resolution 2254 (2015) and create the conditions necessary for the voluntary return of refugees in safety and dignity, he said.

“We need civilians and civilian infrastructure to be protected,” the UN chief emphasized.

“It is long past time for key parties to step up and meet these needs. An entire generation of Syrians has already paid too high a price,” he added.

Alarm Raised In Iran As Exports To Syria Shrink By 50%

Despite tens of billions of dollars Iran spent in Syria to save Bashar al-Assad’s regime from being overrun by rebels, its exports to the Arab country have dwindled to negligible levels, Iran International reported.

Abdolamir Rabihavi, Director General of Iran’s Trade Promotion Organization for Western Asia, said Iran’s exports to Syria have plummeted by 50 percent to just $120 million annually.

Iran’s exports to Syria were $244 million in the previous Iranian calendar year (March 2022 to March 2023) but the figure has decreased to $120 million this year, reported Rabihavi in a video released by Navad-e Eqtesadi Telegram channel on Saturday.

This is far below the expected level of economic cooperation between the two allied countries, he stressed.

His remarks came a week after Hassan Shah Hosseini, head of the Syria Desk at Iran’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, warned that Tehran’s 100-million-dollar exports to Damascus is “very insignificant.” He urged Iranian merchants “to find their own ways to trade with Syria.”

Referring to the shrinking trade volume, Hossein-Ali Haji-Deligani, a former high-ranking Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) officer and hardline lawmaker, said in a critical tone in September 2023: “Despite our support for the Syrian government, we have little to contribute to the reconstruction of Syria today.”

“The countries that were the main causes of the war in Syria are now leading its reconstruction,” he claimed, probably referring to Turkey.

This is while Iranian officials have repeatedly emphasized that Tehran’s expenditures in Syria since 2011 should be compensated via bilateral economic cooperation. Iran entered the Syrian civil war more than a decade ago dispatching thousands of fighters and even its own Revolutionary Guard forces to fight anti-Assad insurgents.

Trying to justify the high cost of involvement in the Syrian war, the IRGC, in particular, has been arguing over the past years that trade and investment in Syria will pay off and compensate for the billions of dollars Tehran has spent to support Bashar al-Assad.

Syrian foreign minister calls for Israel to return Golan Heights

Syria’s Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad discusses the Syrian regime’s current policy in the region in an interview with Al-Ain News. It came on the sidelines of a meeting of Arab Foreign Ministers that recently took place in Cairo and is the 161st session of this confab. Much of this comes amid the ongoing war in Gaza, thus placing a spotlight on other issues that otherwise might be less intense.

According to the report by Al-Ain media, Mekdad discussed several issues, such as the importance of Syria’s ties to the Gulf. He also discussed “some of the developments that concern Syria, including the recent Israeli strikes and other regional developments that were not devoid of renewing the firm position on the Palestinian issue.”

Damascus wants to improve ties with the UAE, for instance. In such a development, Syria recently returned to the Arab League last year. Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states have done outreach to Syria to try to reconcile and bring it back into the Arab fold after a decade of distance due to the civil war in Syria.

Syria avoids regional cold shoulder despite Captagon drug trade

Despite its deep involvement in the multibillion-dollar Captagon amphetamine trade, Syria has managed to avoid complete regional isolation. The trade, which experts say significantly benefits the Syrian government led by President Bashar al-Assad, has positioned Syria at the heart of the Captagon market, a drug that gained international notoriety in the 2010s as a favorite among ISIL (ISIS) fighters. Originally developed in the 1960s, Captagon has found a diverse user base in the Middle East, ranging from partygoers to overworked taxi drivers seeking to endure long shifts.

According to a long report by Al-Jazeera, Syria’s turn to Captagon production and exportation comes as a response to international sanctions and the loss of conventional revenue streams due to the ongoing conflict and economic devastation. This illicit trade has become a major source of foreign currency for the country, with the Syrian government and associates allegedly orchestrating the manufacture and distribution of the drug. Western governments and experts have pointed out the involvement of high-ranking Syrian officials and military units in the trade, leading to sanctions against individuals connected to the Assad regime.

The Captagon trade extends beyond Syria’s borders, with military units and allied groups like Hezbollah, despite their denials, implicated in smuggling operations to neighbouring countries and beyond. The trade’s proceeds, estimated to be in the billions of dollars, purportedly support the regime’s survival and its capacity to continue its repressive policies against civilians. 

Despite the international community’s concerns and sanctions, regional dynamics suggest a nuanced approach to dealing with Syria’s government. The country’s readmission into the Arab League and strategic shifts influenced by broader regional conflicts indicate that concerns over Captagon may be taking a backseat to political and security considerations among Middle Eastern nations. This pragmatism underscores the complex interplay between drug trafficking, regional politics, and the quest for stability in a volatile area.

Student, volunteer, shopowner: NW Syria’s Shaima defies limitations

In Azaz, Syria, Shaima Hilal exemplifies resilience and empowerment despite her physical disability. Born without a right thigh bone, she learned to walk with a crutch at three and has since defied the limitations of her disability, becoming a beacon of hope and determination in her community. Arriving in Azaz four years ago, Shaima quickly became a cherished figure, known for her humanitarian efforts, including psychological support, case management, and sponsoring orphans, alongside managing to be a student, a volunteer, and a shop owner.

According to a report by Al-Jazeera, at 33, Shaima navigates life’s challenges with grace, pursuing a degree in special education at the University of Aleppo after a 13-year hiatus due to the Syrian war. She is determined to help others living with disabilities, a mission inspired by her own experiences and the increasing number of disabled individuals in Syria due to the conflict. Shaima’s work with the Violet organisation, providing support to children affected by war, and her entrepreneurial venture, a hijab shop named Bilbaqlik (“This Suits You”), underscore her belief in the potential for growth and success regardless of circumstances.

Shaima’s story is not just about overcoming a physical challenge; it’s a testament to her unwavering spirit and the support from her family, particularly her late father, who continues to inspire her. She embodies the idea that limitations are surmountable with determination, support, and a relentless pursuit of one’s dreams, making her an inspiring figure not just in northwest Syria, but for anyone facing adversity.


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