The United Nations, the Syrian government and other actors are responsible for delays in getting emergency aid to Syrians after the devastating earthquakes last month, an UN-appointed commission of inquiry says.
The allegations shared on Monday add to a growing chorus of criticism of the global body for its role in the immediate aftermath of last month’s earthquakes that killed some 6,000 people in Syria, mostly in the rebel-held northwest near the Turkish border.
The actors failed to secure an immediate pause in hostilities or to facilitate life-saving aid through any available route, including for rescue teams in the crucial first week, the independent three-member panel set up to investigate and record all violations of international law since March 2011 in the country, said.
“Though there were many acts of heroism amid the suffering, we also witnessed a wholesale failure by the Government and the international community, including the United Nations, to rapidly direct life-saving support to Syrians in the direst need,” said Paulo Pinheiro, chair of the commission, in a statement.
The statement added that the identified actors had failed to agree on a pause in hostilities and to allow life-saving aid through any available route, leaving Syrians feeling “abandoned and neglected by those supposed to protect them, in the most desperate of times.”
“Many voices are rightly calling for an investigation and accountability.”
President Bashar al-Assad’s government took a week to consent to cross-border aid access, said the commission.
The UN estimates that five million people need basic shelter and non-food assistance in the quake-hit part of Syria.
“Syrians now need a comprehensive ceasefire that is fully respected for civilians – including aid workers – to be safe. Incomprehensibly, due to the cruelty and cynicism of parties to the conflict, we are now investigating fresh attacks even in the very areas devastated by the earthquakes,” he added.
The Syrian conflict started in 2011. Since then, nearly half a million people have been killed, and about half of Syria’s pre-war population has been forced from their homes.
Quadrilateral meeting on Syria to be held in Moscow on 15-16 March
A meeting on Syria at the level of deputy foreign ministers between Turkiye, Russia, Iran and Syria will be held in Russia’s capital on 15-16 March, Turkish diplomatic sources said on Monday, Anadolu News Agency reports.
The meeting will be attended by Turkish Deputy Foreign Minister Burak Akcapar, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov, their Syrian counterpart Ayman Susan and Ali Asghar Khaji, a senior adviser to Iran’s Foreign Minister.
Last week, Turkish Foreign Minister, Mevlut Cavusoglu, announced that a Turkish delegation will visit Moscow for technical talks ahead of a planned Turkish, Russian, Iranian and Syrian foreign ministers’ meeting.
“The Iranian side will also attend this meeting. At this meeting, preparations for the foreign ministers’ meeting will be made,” Cavusoglu said at a joint news conference with his Iranian counterpart, Hossein Amir Abdollahian, in the capital, Ankara.
American calls for withdrawing troops from Syria are on the rise
Republican Representative Anna Luna published an op-ed in Newsweek in which she advocates for such a step:
Recently, my colleague Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) introduced a resolution to remove the United States Armed Forces from Syria, which I immediately supported. It is but one of many necessary steps to redirect our nation’s foreign policy away from a failed internationalist foreign policy consensus—on both sides of the aisle—that for a quarter century has wasted our resources and carelessly spilled the blood of our soldiers across the globe.
Let’s get some facts straight. A few hundred troops will not change anything on the ground. The argument that keeping Americans overseas is necessary for stopping terrorist attacks is absurd. Frankly, I’m tired of hearing, “if we don’t fight them there, they’ll come here.” By that logic, the entire planet demands an American forward presence.
Syria is a prime example of America’s flawed foreign policy status quo, kept alive by warmongers on both the Right and Left. President Barack Obama’s naive campaign for regime change in the Middle East fundamentally misunderstood the region at large and was a futile experiment.
Obama’s half-hearted slogan, “Assad must go,” raised false hopes among a certain section of Syrians that only extended the civil war and pushed Russia to defend its warm water port in the Mediterranean and get involved militarily. Worse, it resulted in a civil war which directly resulted in the rise of ISIS. Decades later, Americans are still policing a land that presents no direct strategic interest to the homeland of the United States.
Local terrorism in distant countries is not an existential threat to America and can be effectively managed by long-distance capabilities and prudent alliance strategies. Local allies and their armies, local tribal militias and proxies, intelligence, and offshore naval presence are capable of managing the dual threat of rising terrorist movements and potential local hegemons, neither of which currently exist in Syria nor the greater Middle East. The threat of ISIS is currently minimal and if it rises again as a functioning state, it will not take us much time to return and crush it. In short, nothing in the region demands constant troop deployment and endless war.
In fact, if members of Congress genuinely worry about terrorists in America, as they say they do, we need to focus on the two problems our foreign policy pundits have consistently ignored, misread, and downplayed: our nonexistent southern border and the influx of terrorists coming into our own country, and the rise of a peer rival in China.
Terrorists quite literally walk across our southern border, a national security crisis that our current president’s policies deliberately facilitate. Why aren’t the billions of dollars spent in the Middle East being invested in guarding our own border? Why are American forces patrolling distant nations yet not our own, which is under threat? Why was the equipment left behind during our botched withdrawal from Afghanistan not sold or shipped to Taiwan?
Syrian Refugees in Denmark at Risk of Forced Return – Syria Not Safe for Returnees Despite Recent Danish Claims
The Danish Immigration Service has announced that it deems two more areas of government-controlled Syria as “safe” for returns: Tartous and Latakia. In 2019, Damascus and Rif Damascus were also controversially declared “safe”.
According to the Immigration Service, the security situation in the two governorates has improved, which means Syrian refugees from these areas may lose their temporary protection in Denmark and be forced to return home.
On March 17th, two Syrians from Latakia will have their temporary protection revocation appeals heard in front of the Danish Refugee Appeals Board. If the board rules align with the Immigration Service’s decision to revoke protection, it could set a dangerous precedent for many more Syrian refugees currently settled in Denmark.
The addition of Latakia and Tartous to Denmark’s “safe” list comes despite Human Rights Watch and Amnesty reports that returning Syrians face grave human rights abuses and persecution at the hands of the Syrian authorities and affiliated militias, including torture, extrajudicial killings, and kidnappings.
All Danish Immigration Service decisions to revoke temporary protection are subject to an appeal by the Refugee Appeals Board. Since the beginning of 2022, the Board has overturned 77 percent of the cases leading to criticism of the Immigration Service from several Danish politicians, saying that the high reversal rates “indicate that the Immigration Service is interpreting the rules too narrowly”.
The designation of Latakia and Tartous as safe comes just weeks after devastating earthquakes hit Turkey and Syria, killing tens of thousands and causing major damage, including to water networks in already severely poverty-stricken Latakia and Tartous. Many people there are now without running water and have a heightened risk from infectious diseases. This disaster exacerbates the ongoing humanitarian crisis in the country, where more than 90 percent of the population depends on aid to survive.
On the government side
Syria, Oman discuss bilateral relations, latest regional developments
Syria and Oman have discussed ways to enhance bilateral relations between the two brotherly countries and the latest developments in the region.
That came in a phone call between Foreign and Expatriates Minister, Dr. Faisal al-Mekdad and his Omani counterpart, Badr Bin Hamad Al Busaidi.
During the phone call, the two ministers discussed issues related to developing bilateral relations between the two brotherly countries in various fields and the latest developments in the region, the Foreign and Expatriates Ministry stated in a tweet on Monday.
Minister Mekdad expressed Syria’s satisfaction with the existing level of relations between the two brotherly countries, especially after President Bashar al-Assad’s recent visit to the Sultanate of Oman and his talks with His Majesty Sultan Sultan Haitham bin Tariq.
Syria reiterates support for the global security initiative launched by the President of China
Syria reiterated its support for the global security initiative launched by the President of the People’s Republic of China, Xi Jinping, in 2022.
“Syria renews its support for the global security initiative launched by the President of the People’s Republic of China, Xi Jinping, in the year 2022, and asserts that there is an urgent need more than ever before for such constructive initiatives at the global level due to the unprecedented challenges that the world is witnessing today, which increasingly threatens security and stability around the world,” Foreign and Expatriates Ministry said in a statement on Monday.
“Syria has reviewed the conceptual paper recently issued by China on the global security initiative and confirms its readiness to cooperate and coordinate with China in a way that contributes to the implementing the noble goals of this initiative, especially with regard to the region,” the ministry said.”
“Syria has expressed its support for other initiatives presented by the Chinese leadership at the international level, including the “global development” initiative and the “Belt and Road” initiative, particularly since these initiatives are consistent and intersect with the principles that Syria has always emphasized in its foreign policy and in various international and regional forums, ” the Ministry added.