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Syria Today – Mekdad Pleads for Arab Support; AANES Meet Italian Delegation

Your daily brief of the English-speaking press on Syria.
Syria Today – Mekdad Pleads for Arab Support; AANES Meet Italian Delegation

During the 161st ordinary session of the Arab League Council at the ministerial level held in Cairo, the focus predominantly revolved around the Gaza situation. Howeverm Syrian Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad utilized the platform to advocate for Arab support across various fronts. Simultaneously, representatives from the Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria (AANES) engaged in discussions with officials from the Italian Parliament’s Foreign Relations Committee in Rome.

Mekdad pleads for Arab support in Gaza meeting

During his participation in the 161st ordinary session of the Arab League Council at the ministerial level in the Egyptian capital, Cairo, which largely centred on the situation in Gaza, Syrian Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad seized the opportunity to call for Arab support on multiple fronts, Enab Baladi reported. 

In his speech, which touched on the situation in the Gaza Strip, Mekdad pointed to what he described as “daily aggressions” on Syrian territory. He considered that the “criminal occupation” government is attempting to escalate the situation in the region, which threatens international peace and security.

Mekdad did not touch on the Israeli targeting of Iranian officers in Syria nor the Iranian military influence as a cause of these strikes according to Israel.

He also mentioned that Syria is facing significant challenges represented by “terrorist groups” on parts of its territory, in addition to the presence of “the American and Turkish occupation forces” in the north and northeast regions of Syria, and the American and European sanctions on the Syrian government.

Mekdad considered the sanctions and the military presence of the US and Turkey the main obstacle on the path to reconstruction efforts and economic recovery projects.

He expressed hope for the support of the “Arab brothers” to break what he called “the Western economic blockade on the Syrian people” and to initiate early recovery projects, contributing to a return to stability and enhancing the ability to combat crime and impose security and peace, and supports the efforts for the return of those displaced by “the terrorist war imposed on Syria.” This stance is in contrast to human rights and international reports confirming that Syria is not safe for the return of refugees due to ongoing security violations by the regime against returnees.

AANES Delegation Engages Italian Parliament on Humanitarian Crisis in Northeast Syria

On March 7, 2024, a delegation from the Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria (AANES) met with officials from the Italian Parliament’s Foreign Relations Committee in Rome, as reported by the Foreign Relations Department of AANES. The discussions revolved around the pressing security and humanitarian issues plaguing northeast Syria, exacerbated by the presence of the Islamic State (ISIS) and ongoing Turkish military operations.

Key points of the conversation, according to North Press, included the dire humanitarian situation, which has been severely impacted by a regional blockade. The meeting highlighted historical efforts to address these challenges, such as the July 2014 United Nations Security Council Resolution 2165. This resolution initially authorized humanitarian aid deliveries to Syria through four designated border crossings, including al-Ramtha (Jordan), Bab al-Salama and Bab al-Hawa (Turkey), and al-Ya’rubiyah/Tel Kocher (Iraq), bypassing Syrian government approval.

However, in January 2020, the scope of this aid was significantly narrowed down by U.N. Resolution 2504, which limited authorized crossings to just Bab al-Salama and Bab al-Hawa for a six-month period, subject to renewal by the UNSC. This reduction has contributed to the constrained humanitarian assistance currently reaching the region.

Is U.S. Military Assistance Subsidizing Turkey’s Occupation of Cyprus, Syria, and Iraq?

Michael Rubin, in an article for the Middle East Forum Observer dated March 6, 2024, criticizes the U.S. military assistance to Turkey, particularly the sale of F-16 jets and avionics upgrades. Rubin argues that this assistance indirectly supports Turkey’s contentious actions in Cyprus, Syria, and Iraq, rather than bolstering NATO’s collective defense. He highlights three main issues with the policy:

  1. The enhancement of Turkey’s air force with F-16s is seen as problematic due to Turkey’s aggressive stance towards Greece and its aspirations to build its own military industry, potentially undermining American industry and regional security.
  2. The sale is viewed as a concession to President Erdogan’s demands, which may encourage further demands from Turkey.
  3. The potential use of these warplanes against ethnic groups in Syria and Iraq, and possibly against Armenians, is a significant concern.

Rubin suggests that Congress has the ability to scrutinize U.S. aid and military transfers to Turkey by demanding reports on Turkey’s defense industry, assessing the financial impact of Turkey’s occupation of Cyprus and its actions in Syria and Iraq, and considering these costs in future assistance to Turkey. He also recommends that Congress should be informed about Erdogan’s personal gains from projects in regions like Nagorno-Karabakh.

The article underscores the complexities of U.S.-Turkey relations, highlighting the tension between diplomatic alliances and the consequences of military assistance, and calls for a reevaluation of U.S. support in light of Turkey’s actions that are seen as destabilizing to regional stability.

Warak Ateek: Where Coffee, Culture, and Inclusivity Blend

Warak Ateek, a unique cultural club and café in Lattakia, Syria, stands as a testament to resilience, inclusivity, and empowerment amidst the backdrop of the country’s prolonged crisis. Founded by Linda Daher, with support from the UNDP’s Idea Challenge project funded by Germany, this social enterprise is more than just a café. It’s a space where culture, art, and the empowerment of women and persons with disabilities (PwDs) intersect, challenging societal norms and promoting change.

Linda, alongside Marcelle, a 37-year-old woman with a developmental disability, and Alia, a 24-year-old woman with Down Syndrome, have created a warm, inviting atmosphere that extends beyond the conventional café experience. Linda’s vision was fueled by her passion for reading, volunteer work with PwDs, and a desire to counteract the negativity experienced during Syria’s war with a sanctuary promoting beauty and culture.

Despite skepticism and challenges, Warak Ateek serves as a cultural hub, offering a venue for young artists, authors, and artisans, particularly those with disabilities or supporting someone with a disability, to display and sell their work without charge. Linda’s initiative extends to offering home-cooked meals to university students who frequent the café, further nurturing a sense of community and home.

The café’s commitment to sustainability is evident in its use of recyclable materials and ban on plastic, underscoring Linda’s hope to inspire similar initiatives across Syria. In the face of adversity, including the economic impact of the devastating earthquake in February 2023, Linda remains determined to maintain this inclusive and empowering space, embodying the spirit of resilience and compassion.

Asma’ Nashawati’s article for UNDP Syria highlights Warak Ateek’s role as a pioneering social enterprise in Syria, demonstrating the profound impact of combining coffee, culture, and inclusivity to spread love and empower marginalized communities.

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