Saudi Arabia’s foreign minister said increased engagement with Syria might pave the way for its return to the Arab League as ties thaw after more than a decade of isolation. Still, it was currently too early to discuss such a step.
Prince Faisal bin Farhan al-Saud reiterated that consensus was building in the Arab world that isolating Syria was not working and that dialogue with Damascus was needed, especially to address the humanitarian situation there.
“An engagement to address these concerns is necessary. And that may well lead eventually to Syria returning to the Arab League, et cetera. But for now, I think it’s too early to discuss,” he told reporters in London.
Meanwhile, the UN special envoy for Syria called on the warring sides there and the international community to revive efforts to find a political solution to a conflict that devastated the country over a decade.
Speaking to reporters in Geneva, Geir Pedersen called for the adopting a step-for-step approach that would allow all sides to present what they are prepared to concede to reach a possible settlement.
“There needs to be a genuine Syrian-led and owned political process facilitated by the United Nations,” he said. “There needs to be a coordinated international effort in support of this…
“Status quo cannot be acceptable. We need to move forward.”
Pedersen stressed that the warring sides and international players should approach peace efforts in the same way as they made concessions in response to the earthquakes.
Suspected drone strike in Syria kills at least 3
According to reports, an explosion in eastern Syria on Wednesday killed at least three people. A war monitoring group said the blast was likely caused by a drone strike that targeted Iran-backed militiamen, the Associated Press reported.
No group claimed responsibility for an attack in the area, and reports about what had happened were sketchy. A Britain-based opposition war monitor, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, said four people died when the strike hit a building housing Iran-backed militiamen in the province of Deir el-Zour. It said eight people were wounded.
A local activist collective, Deir Ezzor 24, reported that the building was used as a base for Iran’s paramilitary Revolutionary Guard, a key ally of Syrian President Bashar Assad.
Syrian state media, however, claimed that a mine “left by terrorists” — a term often used by the government for opposition forces battling Assad’s side in the war — detonated in the area, killing three people and wounding seven. The state media reports showed photographs of a building with several floors collapsed and reduced to rubble and a destroyed truck.
UN too close to the Syrian government – FT investigation
UN agencies in Syria harbour too close ties with the Syrian government, neglecting human rights obligations, an investigation by the British Financial Times newspaper said.
In one example, a daughter of Hussam Louka, head of Syria’s general intelligence directorate which has been sanctioned by the US, EU and UK over human rights violations, has been working in the UN CERF office in Damascus, according to four people with knowledge of the situation. UN CERF is an emergency fund that responds quickly to natural disasters and armed conflicts.
The Financial Times also found that the UN paid the Four Seasons Hotel in Damascus $11.5 million to house its staff in 2022; since 2014, it has forked up $81.6 million. The hotel and its majority owner have been sanctioned by the US over their financial ties to the Syrian government. Millions more are syphoned off by the government by imposing an unfavourable dollar-to-pound exchange rate on NGOs.
The UN’s main partner in Syria is the Syrian Arab Red Crescent (SARC). It is run by an associate of the Syrian government. The SARC has also been linked to corruption, stealing aid going to the Kurdish-inhabited Shahba Region and the Kurdish-majority Sheikh Maqsoud and Ashrafiya neighbourhoods of Aleppo. By neglecting to provide these Kurdish-dominated regions with aid, the SARC may violate the 1949 Geneva Conventions.
On the Syrian Side
The pro-government media celebrates the new trend among Arab nations and Turkey toward the Syrian government.
Pro-Assad media outlets were excited to quote Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu, who announced Wednesday that the deputy foreign ministers of Russia, Turkey, Syria and Iran are meeting in Moscow next week.
Cavusoglu said his Iranian counterpart Hossein Amirabdollahian wanted to join the talks between Turkey, Syria and Russia, and Turkey happily agreed.
The United Nations
Meanwhile, UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi, accompanied by the Governor of Lattakia, Amer Hilal, inspected the conditions of those affected by the earthquake in the shelter center of the martyr Saleh Mahmoud in Jableh, SANA reported.
Grandi and his accompanying delegation listened to the demands of the families residing in the center, who called for lifting the unjust siege imposed on Syria.
Grandi expressed his deep condolences to the earthquake victims, pointing out that the Organization continues to provide aid, noting that a new cash assistance program has been approved to help the neediest families.
He referred to the UNHCR’s readiness to provide its expertise and assistance in dealing with this disaster due to the experiences it gained from dealing with similar circumstances.
In the same vein, Minister of Education Dr. Darem Tabbaa discussed cooperation in the educational field on Wednesday with Mike Robson, Representative of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.
Tabbaa pointed out the importance of supporting rural schools, introducing and activating school gardens for secondary schools, caring for the environment and projects that serve sustainability, and the need to benefit from production and enhancing professional tendencies from the 2nd to the 9th grade.