Syria joins BRI as West continues to criticize Beijing for its debt trap tactics

Damascus [Syria] (ANI): Amid rising accusations against China for trapping countries in massive debts with larger infrastructure plans, Syria has joined Beijing’s Belt and Road Initiative which Beijing says will open broad horizons of cooperation for the Middle-East country.
The ceremony of Syria’s admission into the initiative took place at the Planning and International Cooperation Commission in the capital Damascus and was attended by Fadi Khalil, the head of the commission, and Feng Biao, China’s ambassador to Syria, during which both sides signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on Syria joining the BRI, reported Xinhua. The admission of Syria into the initiative revives the old role of Syria on the ancient Silk Road, said Khalil, adding it will help in boosting bilateral cooperation with China and multilateral cooperation with other countries, which are desirous of cooperating with Syria.
He also said that Syria had been one of the main countries on the ancient Silk Road particularly the cities of Aleppo and Palmyra.
With regard to the BRI, Chinese envoy Feng said that the cooperation between Beijing-Syria provides the greatest contribution to the economic reconstruction and social development in Syria and it also enhances the harmonization between the BRI and the eastward strategy proposed by Syria.
China proposed BRI in 2013, which comprises the Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road. Beijing said that it aims to build a trade, investment, and infrastructure network connecting Asia with other parts of the world along the ancient Silk Road trade routes and beyond.
Meanwhile, several countries have criticised the BRI project as they said that the project has become synonymous with wasteful spending, ecological destruction and massive debt burdens and aims to make profits for the participating country’s leaders and Chinese companies at the cost of the nation’s natural resources or people, said the InsideOver in a report earlier.
In 2018, a study found that 270 out of 1,814 BRI-related projects had problems related to debt sustainability, labour and environmental standards, national security, transparency, and corruption. A McKinsey survey in 2017 revealed that 60 per cent to 80 per cent of the Chinese companies in Africa admitted to paying bribes for bagging contracts. Further, Chinese firms scored second to last in one of the latest Transparency International Bribe Payers Index in the Continent, added the InsideOver. (Image source: Unsplash)

UN disarmament chief urges Syria to come clean on chemical weapons

Damascus [Syria]: Syria’s declaration of its chemical weapons programme cannot be considered accurate due to gaps, inconsistencies and discrepancies, the High Representative for Disarmament Affairs told the Security Council on Wednesday.
Izumi Nakamitsu also urged the country to cooperate with international body, the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), adding that “full cooperation” is “essential to closing these outstanding issues.” The UN disarmament chief was presenting an update on the implementation of Security Council resolution 2118 (2013) regarding the elimination of Syria’s chemical weapons programme.
According to Nakamitsu, Syria has submitted 17 amendments and several supplements to its initial declaration. So far, 20 of the 24 outstanding issues remain unresolved.

She told Council Members that these outstanding points are “of concern” and involve undeclared research, production, and the arming of unknown quantities of chemical weapons.
There are also “significant quantities” of chemical warfare agents or precursors, and chemical munitions, whose fate has not yet been fully verified.
Nakamitsu listed for ambassadors all the information OPCW has not yet received, such as a declaration on all undeclared types and quantities of nerve agents produced at a former production facility, details of damage caused during an attack on 8 June 2021, or the unauthorised movement and remains of two destroyed cylinders.
Once the Syrian National Authority provides sufficient information and explanations, Nakamitsu assured, a team from OPCW will assist, if needed, in amending the initial declaration.
The High Representative also informed that OPCW has not been able to schedule the 25th round of consultations in Damascus because of the “continued refusal” by the Syrian Arab Republic to issue an entry visa for one member of the team.
Efforts to convene a limited meeting with Syrian experts at the OPCW’s Headquarters, in The Hague, were also unsuccessful.
The disarmament chief also noted that the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted the OPCW’s ability to deploy to the country, but it remains ready to do it.
Nakamitsu concluded by reiterating her full support for the integrity, professionalism, impartiality, objectivity and independence of the work of the OPCW.

Decade-old conflict, foreign interference affected sovereignty, integrity of Syria: India in UNSC

New York [US]: Underlining that the humanitarian crisis in Syria has not seen significant improvement in the recent months, India has called for a nationwide comprehensive ceasefire, saying doing so will help to expand crossline humanitarian aid operations in the country.
At a United Nations Security Council briefing on Syria on Monday, Pratik Mathur, Counsellor in India’s Permanent Mission to UNGA, said decade-long conflict and involvement of external players has adversely affected the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Syria. He added that it is for the Syrians to determine and decide what is best for Syria and their own future.
“India has been reiterating since the beginning of the conflict that imposing external solutions cannot help in the resolution of the conflict,” he said.
On the security front, he said India remains concerned with the overall situation in Syria, including the increasing incidents of ceasefire violations in North-West Syria.
Mathur noted that the ongoing cross-border operations will continue to negatively impact the sovereignty of the Syrian State.
“The humanitarian crisis in Syria has not seen significant improvement in the recent months. We believe that a nationwide comprehensive ceasefire is paramount to the interest of the Syrian people; it will also help to expand crossline humanitarian aid operations. In this context, we note that progress has been made to expand the overall humanitarian response and facilitate crossline access. In the northwest, we believe there is considerable scope for expanding crossline operations,” he said.
Mathur called on all sides involved in the Syrian conflict to desist from any actions, including military provocations like missile strikes that may lead to violence and disturbance in Syria.
“Further, the growing influence of terrorist groups in IDP camps like Al-Rukban and Al-Hol needs to be urgently addressed and the issue of repatriation of foreign citizens from these campsites needs to be dealt with, on priority,” he said.
He also said that the global fight against terrorism cannot and should not be compromised for narrow political gains.
“UN-designated terrorist groups such as ISIL and Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, as mentioned in Secretary General’s recent reports, have continued to gain in strength in Syria. Da’esh, has also continued to launch attacks in areas across Dayr al-Zawr, Hasakah, and eastern rural Homs,” he said.
Taking into consideration the difficult economic and social situation in Syria, which has been further compounded by the global Covid-19 pandemic and the onset of winter, Mathur said that there is a need to scale up humanitarian assistance.
On its part, India has continued to extend developmental assistance and human resource development support to Syria through grants and lines of credits for developmental projects, supply of medicine and food, artificial limb fitment camps and capacity building training programs, he pointed out.
“Since the beginning of the conflict, India has always stood by the Syrian people. Let me conclude by reaffirming India’s commitment to a Syrian-led and Syrian-owned UN-facilitated political process in line with UN Security Council Resolution 2254,” he noted.

Pro-Iranian forces targeted US base in Syria

Washington [US] : Pro-Iranian forces have carried out a drone attack on a US base in Syria in response to Israeli airstrikes on the Arab Republic, US media reported.
In late October, the US base of At Tanf came under a drone attack. The White House believes that the recent attack on its military base in Syria was “deliberate and coordinated” and the United States reserves the right to respond. According to The New York Times newspaper, the base was attacked by five “suicide drones” but only two of them exploded. Most of the US soldiers were evacuated from the base after receiving a warning from Israeli intelligence.
US officials told The New York Times that the attack had been directed by Iran that supplied the proxy forces with the needed equipment.
Both US and Israeli officials said that the attack was a retaliation for several Israeli airstrikes on Syria.

Russia’s Lavrov urges western States to stop ‘sabotaging’ return of Syrian refugees

Moscow [Russia]: Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov called on the Western countries on Tuesday to cease undermining the return of Syrian refugees to their home country by flouting the UN mandate to create the conditions for repatriation.
“All must respect all provisions of this resolution [2254]… It concerns the need for the West to stop sabotaging the requirement to create conditions for the return of refugees to the Syrian Arab Republic,” Lavrov said after the meeting with Vatican’s secretary for relations with states, Archbishop Paul Richard Gallagher in Moscow. The Russian minister went on to chide the Western states for not engaging in restoring Syria’s infrastructure.
“The West, unfortunately, only collects money to keep these refugees in the countries where they left in the early years of the conflict, especially Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey, and unwilling to do anything to rebuild the basic infrastructure for the refugees’ return,” Lavrov added.
The minister also called for ending “illegal unilateral sanctions that the West continuously imposes on the Syrian Arab Republic,” especially in the face of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
The Syrian Civil War has been ongoing since 2011, with President Bashar Assad’s forces fighting against different insurgent groups. The ongoing conflict made millions of the country’s nationals flee to other places, mostly Europe, to save their lives. This created various humanitarian issues in different countries, including those related to the refugees’ subsequent repatriation as the situation in Syria becomes more stable.

Syrian soldiers injured in Israeli attack on Damascus suburb

Beirut [lebanon]: Two Syrian soldiers were injured in an Israeli attack on a suburb of Damascus, directed from the Golan Heights area, the Syrian Armed Forces said Saturday.
Earlier in the day, Syrian state-run media reported that the country’s air defence systems were repelling an attack from the general area of the Golan Heights. “At approximately 11:17 [08:17 GMT] this morning, Israel carried out attacks, using surface-to-surface missiles,” the military said, adding that the attacks targeted a suburb of the Syrian capital.
“Our air defence systems repelled the attacks and downed several missiles. As a result of the attack, two soldiers were injured and some material damage was incurred,” the military said.

EU calls on Syria to abolish death penalty

Brussels [Belgium]: The European Union on Saturday condemned the practice of death penalty in Syria and called on Damascus to abolish the punishment.
“The European Union condemns the recent execution of 24 people sentenced on charges of terrorism for starting wildfires in coastal regions of Syria in September and October 2020,” the statement read. The EU also expressed concern that minors received verdicts of 10 to 12 years imprisonment on the same charges.
The bloc stressed that it strongly opposes the death penalty at all times and in all circumstances as it is a “cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment” and pledged to continue the efforts to achieve its universal abolition. The EU further urged Syria to join the “worldwide trend to abolish the capital punishment.”
In fall 2020, Syria was hit by massive forest fires in the provinces of Latakia, Tartus, Homs and Hama. Those responsible were identified by the Syrian law enforcement agencies later in the year. The Syrian Interior Ministry reported that the number of fires at the time reached 187, they affected around 280 villages and settlements, three people died.

Turkish Defence Minister notes stabilisation in Syria’s Idlib after Putin-Erdogan meeting

Ankara [Turkey]: The situation in Syria’s Idlib de-escalation zone has stabilized after the meeting of Russian President Vladimir Putin and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan last month, Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar said on Saturday.
The two leaders met in the Russian resort city of Sochi in late September. The talks focused on cooperation in a number of fields, including space, as well as regional issues, such as the situation in conflict-torn Syria. “From time to time, some violations occur [in Idlib]. In general, in the framework of the measures taken, ceasefire and stability persist. The situation has become calmer after the meeting of our president with Putin in Sochi,” Akar said, as cited by the Turkish defence ministry.
Idlib remains the only Syrian region outside the control of Damascus. Turkey has deployed its forces to the region to counter the Kurdish units in the area and back some militant groups. Damascus views the Turkish military presence in Idlib as a violation of its sovereignty.

Syria accuses Israel of killing Head of Cabinet’s Golan Affairs Office

Damascus [Syria]: The Syrian government has accused the Israeli military of shooting dead Midhat Saleh al-Saleh, the Head of the office of the occupied Syrian Golan affairs at the Syrian cabinet, the state-run SANA news agency reported.
“The cabinet offers its deepest and sincerest condolences to the Syrian people and to the family and relatives of the martyr,” SANA quoted the cabinet as saying on Saturday. According to the state-run news agency, Saleh was shot dead on Saturday in Quneitra near the occupied city of Majdal Shams, by an Israeli soldier.
Saleh had spent 12 years in jail in Israel until his release in 1997. He then fled to Syria where he served as a member of the Syrian parliament.

Terrorists entering in Afghanistan from Syria, Iraq : Putin

Acknowledging that the situation is not easy in Afghanistan, Russian esident Vladimir Putin on Wednesday said that battle-hardened terrorists were entering the strife-torn country from Syria and Iraq

Moscow [Russia], October 14 : He made the remarks in a virtual conference of the security service chiefs of the ex-soviet states, reported Khaama Press. Putin was referring to Islamic State (ISIS) terrorists who have not been taken seriously by the Taliban.
The former is believed not to be a big threat to the de-facto government in Afghanistan because the group-ISIS-K- does not have international or regional support, reported Khaama Press.
Last Friday, the deadly blast ripped through Sayed Abad Mosque in northern Afghanistan’s Kunduz as local residents attended the mosque for Friday prayer.
More than 100 people were killed in the attack while several were injured.
Islamic State Khorasan, also known as ISIS-K had claimed responsibility for the deadly attack on the Shia mosque. It was the group’s deadliest strike since the suicide bombing at the international airport in Kabul on August 26 that killed about 170 civilians and 13 US troops
As per Putin they might destabilise the situation in the neighbouring countries and might even seek direct expansion, reported Khaama Press.
In the meantime, the Taliban has repeatedly said that there will not be any threat posed from their soil to any country.
The statements of the Russian president come as Moscow is preparing to host an international conference and the Taliban will also be invited. The international talks are due to take place on October 20, reported Khaama Press.

Biden renews US National Emergency executive order on Syria

Washington [US]: US President Joe Biden has renewed the American government’s declaration of national emergency powers in dealing with Syria, the White House announced on Thursday (local time).
“The situation in and in relation to Syria, and in particular the actions by the Government of Turkey to conduct a military offensive into northeast Syria, undermines the campaign to defeat the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria,” Biden said in a statement. The ongoing crisis continues to endanger civilians and further threatens to undermine the peace, security and stability in the region while still posing an unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States, the statement read.
“For this reason, the national emergency declared in Executive Order 13894 of October 14, 2019, must continue in effect beyond October 14, 2021. Therefore … I am continuing for one year the national emergency declared in Executive Order 13894 with respect to the situation in and in relation to Syria,” Biden said.
On October 14, 2019, by Executive Order 13894, President Donald Trump declared a national emergency pursuant to the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (50 U.S.C. 1701 et seq.) to deal with the unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States constituted by the situation in and in relation to Syria, Biden further noted in the statement.

Concerned over role of external actors leading to growth of terrorism in Syria: India at UN

New York [US]: India at the United Nations on Tuesday (local time) expressed concern over the role of external actors leading to the growth of terror groups including the Islamic State of Iraq and Levant (ISIL) and Hayat Tahrir al-Sha in Syria and stressed upon the need for long-term security and stability in West Asia.
“The constitutional committee was set up nearly two years back and the process of drafting the Constitution needs to begin. The efforts of the last two years have made it clear that the external influence remains the major impeding factor hampering the progress on the political track, ” said Joint Secretary (UN Economic and Social) Srinivas Gotru at United Nations Security Council during the briefing on Syria. He further “called on all external actors to desist from adversely influencing the parties concerned.”
Gotru said that the ceasefire agreement in Da’raa is a welcome development but highlighted the concerns with the overall situation in Syria.
“On the security front, the ceasefire agreement in Da’raa is a welcome development. However, we remain concerned with the overall situation in Syria, including in the North-East and the North-West. A nation-wide comprehensive ceasefire is paramount to the interests of the Syrian people.,” he said.
Highlighting the involvement of external actors in Syria which led to the growth of terrorism in the country, he said, “We have pointed out the involvement of external actors in Syria and its impact on the growth of terrorism in both Syria and in the region. The designated terrorist groups such as ISIL and Hayat Tahrir al-Sham have continued to gain in strength in Syria.”
He further emphasised that long-term security and stability in West Asia can only be achieved by preserving the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Syria.
“There can be no military solution to the Syrian conflict. We reaffirm our commitment to advancing a Syrian-led and Syrian-owned UN-facilitated political process in line with UN Security Council Resolution 2254,” he said.

Syria: Prevent ‘entire generation from being lost’, urges UN humanitarian chief

Geneva [Switzerland]: Some 13.4 million Syrians throughout the beleaguered country are in need of assistance, the UN humanitarian office said on Saturday, calling for “greater access and expanded funding”, to better help them.
Concluding a seven-day visit to Syria, Lebanon and Turkey – his first official mission in the region since assuming the function of UN Emergency Relief Coordinator – Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Martin Griffiths stressed that “the UN needs to be able to reach people who depend on its aid both from Turkey and from within Syria”. “Humanitarians and donors must keep Syria high on our collective agenda to prevent an entire generation being lost”, he underscored.
During meetings with the Syrian Foreign Minister and his deputy, Griffiths emphasized the need to expand humanitarian access, protect civilians and help Syrians envision a future for themselves.
His visit coincided with the first humanitarian cross-line operation into northwest Syria since 2017, which he welcomed as an important step to reaching more people in need with critical assistance.
Travelling to Damascus via the UN Humanitarian Air Service (UNHAS), Griffiths held constructive meetings with senior government officials and the humanitarian community, including the Syrian Arab Red Crescent and Red Crescent Societies, among others.
And in Beirut, he spoke with donors and discussed with the Deputy Prime Minister and Humanitarian Country Team, the country’s fast-growing needs, including a severe fuel crisis that jeopardizes health care and safe drinking water.
During his visit, the humanitarian chief announced a USD4 million allocation from the Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) to support an increased supply of fuel for the continued operation of essential services.
Meanwhile, the UN and its partners have developed the 2021-2022 Emergency Response Plan for Lebanon to provide life-saving humanitarian support to 1.1 million of the most vulnerable Lebanese people and migrants affected by the ongoing crisis.
The USD 378.5 million humanitarian plan complements the UN’s programmes for Palestinian refugees (UNRWA) and the Lebanon Crisis Response Plan, which also includes Syrian refugees and the communities hosting them.

US military relocated 40 IS terrorists from prisons to base in northeastern Syria

Al-Hasakah [Syria]: US military have transported 40 terrorists of the Islamic State terrorist group from prisons to its base in the northeastern province of Al-Hasakah, Syrian state media reported.
According to the SANA news agency, the terrorists were sent from the prisons of the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) to the US base in the city of Ash Shaddadi. Sources told SANA that the list of the evacuated terrorists included a commander of the IS spying groups and an explosive-making expert. The United States is reportedly going to use the militants for their purposes in the region.
The Syrian authorities have repeatedly stated that the US presence in the country violates the country’s sovereignty and international law, and is aimed at gaining access to the oil fields.

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