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Syria Today – Russian-Syria Military Drills; Foreign Investments in Damascus Airport; UN Calls for Cross-Border Aid Extension

Your daily-brief of the English-speaking press on Syria.
Syria Today – Russian-Syria Military Drills; Foreign Investments in Damascus Airport; UN Calls for Cross-Border Aid Extension

Starting on July 5th, joint air force and air defense exercises will commence in Syria, involving the collaborative efforts of Russian and Syrian forces. These exercises are scheduled to span six days. Concurrently, according to an official at Damascus International Airport, three companies from Russia, Qatar, and the United Arab Emirates have been contracted for investment purposes in the airport. Additionally, the Secretary-General of the United Nations is expressing hope that the Security Council will hold a vote later this month. The objective is to extend the opening of a crucial border crossing between Turkey and Syria’s rebel-held northwest for one year, enabling the uninterrupted delivery of essential aid, as opposed to the current period of six months.

Russia, Syria to hold six-day military drills

Joint Russian-Syrian air force and air defence exercises will begin in Syria on July 5th and last six days, Rear Admiral Oleg Gurinov, head of the Russian Reconciliation Centre for Syria, was quoted as telling Russian news agencies on Tuesday.

“In the course of training it is planned to work out the issues of joint actions of aviation, air defense and electronic warfare forces in the repulsion of air strikes,” Gurinov said.

Sources say Russian, Qatari, Emirati companies invest Damascus Airport

An official in the Damascus International Airport told North Press on Wednesday that three Russian, Qatari, and Emirati companies were contracted to invest in Damascus International Airport.

The source said, “The contraction took place months before the al-Baʽath newspaper publicized the news.”

Days ago, the pro-government al-Ba’ath newspaper revealed an investment deal for the Damascus Airport accounting for about 49 percent.

The source noted that the investing companies are the Russian Larus, the Qatari Middle East Investment Co., and the Emirati AirAsia Travel.

They went further adding that “the three Russian, Qatari, and Emirati companies’ focus is concentrated on improving commercial facilities within the airport, more precisely, the role of these companies is a supplement for an investment much greater by Iran.”

A source from SyrianAir told North Press that “an agreement was reached in the field of aviation standards, training, repair, and service centers following the recent visit by Iranian President  Ebrahim Raisi to Damascus.”

The source added, “The Islamic Republic of Iran and the Syrian government agreed to cooperate in the field of reconstructing and modernizing all Syrian airports, including the Damascus Airport.”

It noted that Iran will plan and manage the work of improving and erecting equipment while Syria will implement the work.

UN urges Security Council to extend Turkey border crossing into northwest Syria

The UN secretary-general is hoping that the Security Council will vote later this month to keep a key border crossing from Turkiye to Syria’s rebel-held northwest open for critical aid deliveries for a period of one year instead of six months, a UN official said Tuesday.

Syria’s northwestern province of Idleb is home to some 4 million people, many of whom were earlier displaced during the 12-year civil war, which has killed nearly half a million people. Hundreds of thousands live in tent settlements and rely on aid that comes through the Bab Al-Hawa border crossing.

The Security Council is expected to vote in the coming days, as the current six-month opening period expires on July 10.

The situation got worse after the Feb. 6 earthquake that hit southern Turkiye and northern Syria, killing tens of thousands of people and leaving many more homeless and in need of aid.

In the past, Russia, the main backer of Syrian President Bashar Assad, abstained on or vetoed resolutions on cross-border aid deliveries. It has sought to replace aid crossing the Turkish border to Idleb province with convoys from government-held areas in Syria. Since the early years of the war in Syria, Turkiye has sided with and supported the rebels.

“The UN. Secretary-General has been very clear that he would like the Security Council to renew the cross-border resolution which expires on July 10 for 12 months,” said David Carden, the UN’s Deputy Regional Humanitarian Coordinator for the Syria crisis. He spoke to journalists during a visit to Idleb.

He said a 12-month renewal was needed in order for the UN to implement early recovery projects such as durable shelters. “What we want is to get people from tents into durable shelter,” he said adding that such shelters are cooler in summer and warmer in winter, in addition to the privacy they give to families.

Médecins Sans Frontières 

Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) also called on the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) to renew the cross-border resolution (UNSCR 2672) for the delivery of humanitarian aid into northwest Syria. 

Ensuring increased, expanded, and sustainable humanitarian access through all possible means and crossing points is crucial, to secure the uninterrupted provision of lifesaving aid for people in northwest Syria.

“The upcoming vote on 10 July represents a critical moment for northwest Syria. It is disheartening to see that people’s crucial access to humanitarian aid has become entangled in political negotiations,” says Sebastien Gay, MSF head of mission for Syria. 

“Failure to ensure a regular, sustainable means of aid delivery puts the lives and health of people at risk.”

Human Rights Council Hears Call on Grave Crimes Are Still Being Committed in Syria

During the Human Rights Council meeting, the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic highlighted the ongoing grave crimes being committed in Syria. These crimes include arbitrary arrests, torture, enforced disappearances, and deaths in detention carried out by various parties, including the state, terrorist groups, opposition forces, and the Syrian Democratic Forces. 

The commission welcomed the initiation of proceedings at the International Court of Justice to hold the Syrian state accountable for its violations under the United Nations Convention against Torture. The establishment of an international institution for missing persons in Syria was also acknowledged as a positive step.

The Syrian government, speaking as a country concerned, criticized the commission, claiming bias and interference. They accused the commission of ignoring or justifying the illegal and immoral policies of countries that occupied parts of Syrian territory, launched military attacks, supported terrorist groups, and imposed unilateral coercive measures. The government considered the commission a tool assisting in the crimes committed against Syria.

In the discussions, several countries firmly condemned the widespread violations and abuses of human rights in Syria, particularly by the Syrian regime and its allies. Concerns were raised about the use of arbitrary arrests, torture, and repression against political prisoners, journalists, and ethnic and religious minorities. 

The need for accountability, respect for international law, and the protection of human rights defenders were emphasized. The international community was urged to remain vigilant and support the commission’s efforts to address impunity in Syria.

Overall, the discussions highlighted the grave human rights situation in Syria, with calls for accountability and measures to ensure the safety and well-being of the Syrian people.

Complications mount in the return way of deported families from Turkey

The return of deported families from Turkey to Syria is facing complications and challenges, Syrian opposition website Enab Baladi reported. Families are being separated as the heads of households are deported to northern Syria while their wives and children remain in Turkey. The legal requirements for returning to Syria, including the need for identification papers and temporary protection cards, are causing further difficulties for families seeking reunification.

In one case, Tariq Rajab’s family attempted to reunite by initiating voluntary return procedures at the Turkish Cilvegözü crossing. However, their child was not allowed to return to Syria due to a lack of identification papers, except for a birth certificate, and the absence of a temporary protection card. The authorities demanded that the child be registered with the Turkish Civil Registry Department, which required the presence of both parents and the possession of identification cards. As a result, the family is left with the option of securing a sum of money to pay smugglers, adding to their financial burdens.

Another family, led by Youssef, faced legal difficulties when attempting to return to Syria through the Kassab border crossing. The Turkish authorities required a guardianship document for the child of Youssef’s second wife, despite the presence of the mother and the absence of identification cards. After several months of communication and obtaining the necessary paperwork, they were finally allowed to return.

The Syrian-Turkish joint committee has been contacted to find solutions for these families, but the situation remains uncertain as they await decisions from the new minister. Issues arise when families apply for voluntary return and have children, particularly regarding the requirement for identification documents such as Kimlik. Some civil servants mistakenly refuse to issue birth documents if the father is absent or the child does not possess Kimlik.

The living conditions of Syrians deported from Turkey to northern Syria have deteriorated compared to their time in Turkey. They face challenges in finding employment opportunities that can support their families remaining in Turkey. As of June, there are approximately 3,351,582 Syrian refugees residing in Turkey under temporary protection documents.

With ongoing updates to laws regarding Syrian refugees in Turkey and limited geographical scope for residence, it has become crucial for Syrian families to obtain legal documents from the Turkish state to navigate the complex process of return.

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