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Syria Today – Kazakhstan Could Still Host Astana Process; Russia’s Dangerous Game in Syria; Migrant Flows Intensify

Your daily brief of the English-speaking press on Syria.
Syria Today – Kazakhstan Could Still Host Astana Process; Russia’s Dangerous Game in Syria; Migrant Flows Intensify

The Minister of Foreign Affairs of Kazakhstan commented on the outcomes of the 20th International High-Level Meeting on Syria held in the Astana format, saying it might resume hosting these meetings after its surprising decision to suspend them. Simultaneously, a think tank said the ongoing conflict between Russia and Ukraine is having significant implications for American forces stationed in the Middle East, specifically in Syria. Recent instances of hostile actions by Russian pilots towards American aircraft in Syria may be seen as an effort to alleviate Russian frustrations stemming from the situation in Ukraine. Additionally, it was reported that another boat, carrying approximately 40 migrants escaping the war-torn region of Syria, was discovered in the sea vicinity near Cape Greco in Ayia Napa.

Kazakhstan ready to consider possibility of resuming Syrian peace process

The Kazakh Ministry of Foreign Affairs made a commentary on the results of the 20th International High-Level Meeting on Syria in the Astana format, Kazinform cites the press service of the Ministry.

The announcement by the Republic of Kazakhstan of the 20th International High-Level Meeting on Syria in the Astana format as the final stage of the negotiation process on its territory is based on the following:

It is known that this format was created as a supplementary negotiating platform to the Geneva process and was intended to solve specific practical tasks to end the conflict.

At present, its initial goals of creating de-escalation zones, stopping bloodshed between the conflicting sides and preventing a large-scale humanitarian crisis have been achieved.

Today, the political situation in the Middle East region is changing dramatically. There is a desire to restore relations between the Arab states and Damascus. Syria’s membership in the Arab League has been renewed.

The Brotherly Republic of Turkiye intends to normalize relations with friendly Syria.

In this regard, the gradual withdrawal of Syria from isolation in the region can be regarded with firm confidence as a successful result of the efforts of the so-called Astana Process on Syria.

At the same time, if the participants of the International Meetings on Syria in the Astana format express a collective request to continue negotiations in Astana, Kazakhstan is ready to consider the possibility of resuming the process as a gesture of goodwill, taking into account the progress of negotiations at other platforms and the situation in Syria in general.

Russian Air Force ‘Compensating’ for Ukraine with Dangerous Flights in Syria

Air and Space Forces Website reported that Russia’s war in Ukraine is leading to far-reaching consequences for American forces in the Middle East, particularly in Syria, where recent aggressive behaviour by Russian pilots towards American aircraft may be an attempt to compensate for Russian frustrations in Ukraine. 

This behaviour poses risks of miscalculation and unintended incidents, hampers the fight against ISIS, and distracts US forces from their core mission. Additionally, Russia’s acquisition of drones from Iran and their growing relationship could further embolden Iran in supporting militias in the Middle East.

The Website quoted the top U.S. Air Force commander for the Middle East, Lt. Gen. Alexus G. Grynkewich, as stating that Russia’s war in Ukraine is having significant consequences for American forces in the region. He believes that recent aggressive behavior by Russian pilots in Syria towards American aircraft may be an attempt by Moscow to compensate for its frustrations in Ukraine. Grynkewich also mentioned that Russia’s acquisition of drones from Iran could embolden Iran in its support of militias in the Middle East.

According to Grynkewich, Russian pilots have violated deconfliction protocols that were established to reduce the risk of inadvertent conflict in Syria. There have been instances where Russian aircraft have flown close to U.S. aircraft and overflown U.S. troops. These actions pose a risk of miscalculation and unintended incidents, as both sides are conducting combat missions with live weapons.

The specialized website added that the U.S. has expressed concerns about the dangerous interactions between American and Russian fighters in the region. In response, the U.S. sent F-22 Raptors to demonstrate its military strength. Grynkewich noted that Russia has shown little deterrence and has even decorated pilots involved in incidents, such as a collision between a Russian Su-27 and a U.S. MQ-9 drone over the Black Sea.

The Russian harassment is not only affecting U.S. forces but also hampering the fight against ISIS, which Russia claims to support. ISIS continues to maintain capabilities and freedom of action, particularly in areas where pressure from the Syrian regime and Russia should be applied. Russia’s reliance on Tehran for supplying drones used in Ukraine could result in Iran receiving fighter jets from Russia, further strengthening their relationship.

Grynkewich expressed concerns about Russia’s posture in the region and highlighted that the Russian actions distract U.S. forces from their core mission of fighting ISIS. He also emphasized that Russia is allowing the ISIS threat to grow under its nose. As a result, Air Forces Central faces the challenge of countering Iran-backed groups and Russia in Syria and the Arabian Gulf with limited resources, while also maintaining focus on the fight against ISIS.

What is the impact of the Dutch-Canadian torture case against the Syrian regime at the top UN tribunal?

Enab Baladi, a respectable Syrian Website, published a long report on the potential of the case the Netherlands and Canada have filed against the Assad regime at the the International Court of Justice (ICJ) over allegations of torture.

The report says that the Netherlands and Canada have taken Syria to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) over allegations of torture, marking the first such case since 2011. 

The case accuses Syria of breaching the UN Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. 

The allegations, according to the report, include mistreatment and disappearance of detainees, sexual violence, and the use of chemical weapons. The Dutch and Canadian governments have called for “emergency measures” to protect those at risk of torture. The outcome of the lawsuit involves two parts. 

The first part seeks immediate temporary measures to halt violations and improve detainee conditions. The second part aims to establish international recognition of the regime’s torture practices, seek compensation, hold perpetrators accountable, and bring the case before the highest international court. 

The report adds that the United States and Britain have expressed support for the legal proceedings. The ICJ’s jurisdiction over the case is based on Syria’s ratification of the Convention against Torture, and doubts about the regime’s agreement to the court’s jurisdiction have been dismissed. 

The International Court of Justice is the main judicial organ of the United Nations and handles legal disputes between states and provides advisory opinions on legal issues. It does not have jurisdiction over individual criminal cases but focuses on violations of state obligations under ratified treaties.

The International Court of Justice (ICJ) addresses criminal matters, including torture, as instances of states violating their obligations under ratified treaties. This forms the basis for legal disputes between states, which extends beyond bilateral relations and encompasses the violating state’s obligations towards all other treaty parties. It is the duty of these states to confront and halt such violations. 

The ICJ consists of 15 judges, elected by the United Nations General Assembly and the Security Council for nine-year terms, with the possibility of re-election. Every three years, one-third of the members are elected, ensuring that no two judges of the same nationality serve concurrently. If a member judge passes away, a replacement judge of the same nationality is elected to fulfill their term.

Migrant flows from Syria intensifies

Another boat carrying nearly 40 migrants from war-torn Syria was found in the sea area off Cape Greco in Ayia Napa, confirming concerns over rising arrivals from the neighbouring country by sea, The Financial Mirror reports.

According to police, a wooden seven-metre boat carrying 37 people, including six women and three children, was located by a coastguard patrol.

Two of the people on board were arrested as they were identified as people smugglers. The two men, aged 33 and 31, were remanded in custody on Thursday for four days.

The rest of those onboard the boat were transferred to the Pournara Reception Centre in Kokkinotrimithia outside Nicosia.

The latest arrivals signal fears over an increase in migrant arrivals by sea.

Earlier this month, authorities said that despite reports that migrant flows through the Turkish-occupied north are decreasing, arrivals by sea are rising.

A 60% increase was recorded in the first five months compared to last year.

According to the Aliens and Immigration Unit, most irregular migrants arriving by sea come on boats from Syria and are usually located off Cape Greco.

Data from the authority, provided to Phileleftheros daily, reveal that since the start of the year, some 396 migrants arrived by boats from Syria, including 41 women and 89 children on 19 boats (nine in May alone).

In the same period last year, 246 migrants from Syria arrived on 14 boats.

Quoting the deputy commander of the immigration unit, Petros Zenios, Phileleftheros said the majority of migrants arrive on small wooden boats.

According to Zenios, all boats depart from areas of the Syrian city of Tartus, with the fare ranging from $2,000 to $6,000 for each migrant.

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