What Happened Over the Weekend

Turkish and Russian defense ministers secure a truce in Idleb, the Syrian Arab Red Crescent and the ICRC sign a cooperation agreement, and the UN urges the UK to rethink Syria aid cuts. Catch up on everything that happened over the weekend. 

Four Syrian refugees — two women and two children — were found frozen to death Friday in a mountainous area of eastern Lebanon, local officials said. Their bodies were found in the Ainata-Oyoun Orghosh area of the Mount Lebanon range, three days after they went missing, a civil defense source told AFP. They had been headed for Syria, he added. Bashir Khodr, the local governor, said on Twitter that the four had “died of freezing cold,” despite a search operation by security forces. A Lebanese man who had been with them is to be questioned to determine whether he was a people smuggler, Khodr said.

Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar said that he had held a phone conversation with his Russian counterpart Sergey Shoigu during which they agreed to take measures to secure the truce in Idleb, Al-Masdar reported. Speaking at the Turkish parliament, Akar said that “the talks with Sergey Shoigu were very constructive. We agreed to take measures against violating the ceasefire in Idleb. Our goal is to ensure a permanent ceasefire.” This conversation between the two countries came after opposition activists accused the Russian military of bombing civilian sites near the Bab al-Hawa crossing.

The Syrian Arab Red Crescent (SARC) signed on Friday a cooperation agreement for 2021-2023 with the International Committee of Red Cross (ICRC). The Red Crescent Organization posted on its official page on Facebook that the agreement was signed during a meeting between the President of the SARC, Khaled Hboubati, and the President of the ICRC, Peter Maurer. The Red Crescent noted that the agreement affirms support of the SARC in its humanitarian response in Syria to meet the increasing requirements, particularly in light of the coronavirus pandemic.

The UN has urged the UK not to go ahead with expected cuts in aid to Syria next week, warning that the move could further destabilize the war-torn country and backfire on Britons, The Guardian reported. The warning from the UN’s chief humanitarian coordinator, Mark Lowcock, comes before a high-profile donor conference on Syria at which the organizers are looking for 10 billion dollars, the largest ever appeal for Syria. In a last-minute plea to the UK, Lowcock said: “This is absolutely not the moment for donors to downgrade Syria in their priorities. Millions of Syrians are resorting to desperate measures to survive. To cut aid now would be massively destabilizing. It would be a grave step in the wrong direction.”

Opposition groups in northern Syria have voiced their rejection of the opening of a crossing point between Aleppo and Idleb. Two senior Turkish sources told Al-Araby Al-Jadeed that no agreement had been reached between Moscow and Ankara regarding the opening of three crossing points between the different northern provinces. A military source confirmed that an offer had been made by Russia. However, no agreement has been reached and negotiations are ongoing. Following news of the offer, protests erupted in the city of Afrin and Azaz with demonstrators raising banners that said: “Opening the crossings is a betrayal of the blood of the martyrs.”

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