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Kuwait concerned over Syrian child rights

GENEVA, March 13, (Agencies): The State of Kuwait Tuesday voiced extreme concern over Syrian children’s rights violations. Addressing the 37th session of the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC), held between Nov 26 and March 24, Kuwait’s Permanent Representative to the UN and Other International Organizations in Geneva Ambassador Jamal Al-Ghunaim regretted that Syrian children know nothing about life but death, and, unfortunately, are denied the rights of childhood and future.

Many of them have been killed or wounded in air strikes and military attacks on their houses and schools, and regrettably deprived of basic rights, including medical care, he lamented. He called on the international community to exert more efforts to protect Syrian children, given that six million children inside and outside Syria are in dire need of direct humanitarian aid, especially in the fields of education and medical care. Syrian generations to come are hoped to build their own nation, to restore national unity and to launch sustainable development, he reminded.

Since the outbreak of the Syrian crisis, the State of Kuwait has shouldered its due responsibility towards the Syrian people, and sought from the very beginning to rally up international support for carrying out humanitarian operations and extending aid to host countries, Al-Ghunaim said. It has also hosted and co-chaired several international conferences mainly aiming at support the Syrian people, he said, hoping that the 2nd Brussels conference in April on humanitarian needs in Syria and the region would be successful.

He recalled to memory the call launched by His Highness the Amir Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah during the donors conference in London on a fresh necessary strategy to help Syrian displaced persons and refugees. This strategy is built on the adoption of programs and plans purposed to provide them with chances for learning and determining their own future, the Kuwaiti diplomat pointed out.

However, he regretted the international community’s failure to respond to the humanitarian sufferings and woes of the Syrian people through an effective political solution to the Syrian crisis. The State of Kuwait emphatically condemns all serious violations of human rights in Syria, mentioned in an independent probe committee’s report discussed at the UNHRC, he said. He quoted the report as indicating blatant violations of the international humanitarian law and international human rights law, something which requires international action against surging war crimes committed against Syrians.

The State of Kuwait further deplores repeated attacks on medical and infrastructure facilities in Syria, not to mention indiscriminate use of heavy weapons and air raids, Al-Ghunaim added. Furthermore, the Kuwaiti diplomat renewed Kuwait’s call for giving all humanitarian workers of UN agencies and other aid organizations easy access to all Syrian territories, including eastern Ghouta. Al-Ghunaim reiterated Kuwait’s unwavering commitment to Syria’s sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity, while urging everyone to work with UN Secretary General’s Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura’s efforts to restore peace and security to this war-hit Arab country.

The State of Kuwait backs the UN envoy’s efforts to reach an agreement based on Geneva principles and UN Security Council Resolution 2254, while stressing the necessity of holding up the cessation of hostilities and creating an effective and practical surveillance mechanism meant to provide a congenial atmosphere for the aspired political solution, he concluded.

Meanwhile, Turkey said Tuesday its army and allied rebels had surrounded the Kurdish city of Afrin in northern Syria, raising the prospect of another devastating siege in the country’s long confl ict. Syria’s war enters its eighth year this week with clashes raging on several fronts, including Afrin and the besieged rebel pockets of eastern Ghouta, which saw their first medical evacuations of civilians on Tuesday. While attention in recent weeks has focused on a ferocious regime assault on Ghouta, Turkish forces and allied Syrian rebels have steadily advanced against the northern Kurdish enclave of Afrin.

In a statement Tuesday, the Turkish military said it had completely encircled Afrin city, home to some 350,000 people and defended by a well-armed Syrian Kurdish militia, the People’s Protection Units (YPG). Birusk Hasakeh, a YPG spokesman inside Afrin, denied the city had been totally besieged but said the last route leading out of it was being shelled heavily. “If they do encircle the city, we will be ready for a long fight. We will resist,” he told AFP.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said Turkish forces were within firing range of that route, which leads to a pair of regime-held towns — essentially encircling Afrin and 90 villages to its west. Sealing off Afrin city would be major for Turkey’s “Olive Branch” operation, launched on January 20 and aimed at ousting the YPG, a vital partner for a US-backed coalition against the Islamic State group, but seen by Ankara as “terrorists”.

The assault has worried world powers, who fear it could detract from the fight against IS and was indiscriminately hurting civilians. French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian warned Turkey on Tuesday that the scale of its offensive may be disproportional. “If Turkey’s concerns over the border are legitimate… this absolutely does not justify the action by Turkish troops deep inside the Afrin area,” he told parliament.

It remains unclear what Turkey’s next move will be, but it may lay siege to Afrin while allowing civilians to leave to avoid a high-casualty offensive. Abu Jaafar, a commander in the pro- Ankara forces waging Operation Olive Branch, said rebels were considering leaving an “exit route” for civilians. “We will allow civilians … to leave so they will not be hurt in case (Kurdish) fighters hold out in the villages, neighbourhoods, or buildings inside Afrin,” he told AFP.

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