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Thursday , August 6 2020

Backing Syrians top Kuwait priority – Gulf rebukes Assad over violence in Aleppo

A wounded boy sits inside an ambulance as Syrian civilians and their families gather at the rebel-held al-Amiriyah neighbourhood as they wait to be evacuated to the government-controlled area of Ramoussa on the southern outskirts of the city on Dec 15. (AFP)

CAIRO, Dec 15, (Agencies): Supporting the Syrian people and alleviating their suffering come on top of the State of Kuwait priorities, affirmed the country’s permanent delegate at the Arab League on Thursday. Kuwait will continue to back up the Syrian people who have been suffering from relocation, killing and tragedies while the international community has proven unable to take speedy action to end the plights, said Ambassador Ahmad Abdulrahman Al-Bakr, addressing a special meeting for the Arab League member states delegates, held to manifest solidarity with the war-battered people of Aleppo.

Standing firmly on the Syrians’ side, Kuwait had hosted three international conventions, pledging financial and relief support for the Syrian people. Kuwait alone had contributed with $1.6 billion.

The conferees have condemned the attacks on the people on Aleppo and have called on the Security Council to take action and relieve the civilians there from the mayhem. The State of Kuwait on Thursday renewed the call upon the United Nations Security Council to intervene and halt the “blood spilling” in the Syrian city of Aleppo.

The renewed Kuwaiti official stance was expressed by the Permanent Delegate at the Arab League, Ambassador Al- Bakr, during an emergency meeting of the Arab League Council at the level of permanent delegates to discuss the tragic conditions in Aleppo. Ambassador Al-Bakr also called on the international community to respond to efforts exerted by Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Qatar and Turkey to hold an extraordinary session for the UN Genaral Assembly and backed calls for prosecuting “perpetrators of genocides against the Syrian people.” He confirmed that Kuwait had called for emergency meetings at the Arab and Islamic levels to discuss the tragic situation in Aleppo. Gulf Arab countries condemned the Syrian government’s handling of a ceasefire and evacuation in Aleppo and called on Thursday for civilians trying to flee the war-torn city to be protected. An emergency meeting of Arab League representatives convened at Qatar’s request discussed the situation in Aleppo, where an evacuation of the rebel-held eastern part of the city has come under fire from fighters loyal to the Syrian government.

“The Syrian regime and its allies have not only been content with destroying these cities one after the other, they persistently continue to brutally murder our Syrian brothers and sisters without any religious guidance or humanitarian ethics,” Saudi Arabian delegate Ahmed Kattan told the meeting in Cairo. The evacuation of Aleppo’s last rebel enclave would end years of fighting for the city and mark a major victory for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Arab League foreign ministers are expected to meet on Monday to discuss the situation further.

Elsewhere, European leaders on Thursday called on Syria and Russia to ensure the safety of civilians being evacuated from Aleppo amid charges that the West had failed to protect them. At a summit in Brussels marked by one of the most turbulent years in EU history, the bloc’s 28 leaders are also grappling with Brexit, the migration crisis and sanctions against Moscow over the war in Ukraine.

The leaders opened their meeting by hearing from the mayor of eastern Aleppo, who warned of thousands more casualties if Europe failed to press for the protection of civilians. “The 50,000 citizens of eastern Aleppo are only waiting for their deaths after the failure of the international community,” Brita Hagi Hassan said. French President Francois Hollande accused Russia of “making commitments that it is not keeping” urged Moscow and Tehran to “take the responsibility for this extremely serious situation.” But Francois Fillon, the favourite to succeed Hollande in next year’s elections, said the fall of Aleppo marked the failure of Western foreign policy. Fillon — in Brussels for meetings on the sidelines of the summit — also hinted at talks with Assad, saying the West should be ready to deal with all parties in Syria, “even those today committing crimes.”

British Prime Minister Theresa May meanwhile said the bloc “must also do all we can to ensure a ceasefire is secured so that the United Nations can help bring to safety the innocent people of Aleppo.” The 28-nation summit is drafting a statement condemning Syria and Russia, amid debate on whether to officially call on them to give the UN access to civilians in eastern Aleppo, European officials said. But they will stop short of warning of sanctions against Russia, opting as they did at the last summit in October to say that “the EU is considering all available options,” according to a draft seen by AFP. Sanctions against Russia imposed in 2014 over the conflict in eastern Ukraine are however due to be extended, in another crisis that sees the West at loggerheads with Moscow, officials said.

In Syria, an operation to evacuate thousands of civilians and fighters from the last rebel bastion in Aleppo began on Thursday, part of a ceasefire deal that would end years of fighting for the city and mark a major victory for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. A convoy of ambulances and buses with nearly 1,000 people aboard drove out of the devastated rebel-held area of Aleppo, which was besieged and bombarded for months by Syrian government forces, a Reuters reporter on the scene said. A Syrian official source told Reuters that a second convoy was likely to bring people out on Thursday.

Women cried out in celebration as the buses passed through a government- held area, and some waved the Syrian flag. An elderly woman, who had gathered with others in a government area to watch the convoy set off, raised her hands to the sky, saying: “God save us from this crisis, and from the (militants). They brought us only destruction.” Wissam Zarqa, an English teacher in the rebel zone, said most people were happy to be leaving safely. But he said: “Some of them are angry they are leaving their city. I saw some of them crying. This is almost my feeling in a way.”

Earlier, ambulances trying to evacuate people came under fire from fighters loyal to the Syrian government, who injured three people, a rescue service spokesman said. “Thousands of people are in need of evacuation, but the first and most urgent thing is wounded, sick and children, including orphans,” said Jan Egeland, the UN humanitarian adviser for Syria. Turkey is considering establishing a camp in Syria for civilians being evacuated from Aleppo and the number of people brought out of the city could reach 100,000, Deputy Prime Minister Veysi Kaynak said. In Aleppo’s rebel-held area, columns of black smoke could be seen as residents hoping to depart burned personal belongings they do not want to leave for government forces to loot. A senior Russian general, Viktor Poznikhir, said the Syrian army had almost finished its operations in Aleppo. Since August, around 3,000 rebels had left and 108,000 civilians had been moved to safe parts of the city, he said. Rebels and their families would be taken towards Idlib, a city in northwestern Syria which is outside government control, the Russian defence ministry said. Idlib province, mostly controlled by hardline Islamist groups, is not a popular destination for fighters and civilians from east Aleppo, where nationalist rebel groups predominated. A senior European diplomat said last week that the fighters had a choice between surviving for a few weeks in Idlib or dying now in Aleppo. “For the Russians it’s simple. Place them all in Idlib and then they have all their rotten eggs in one basket.” Idlib is already a target for Syrian and Russian air strikes but it is unclear if the government will push for a ground assault or simply seek to contain rebels there for now. The International Rescue Committee said: “Escaping Aleppo doesn’t mean escaping the war. “After witnessing the ferocity of attacks on civilians in Aleppo, we are very concerned that the sieges and barrel bombs will follow the thousands who arrive in Idlib.”

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