Defying dangers, Idlib residents protest Syria’s Assad

Syrian protesters wave the flag of the opposition as they demonstrate against the regime and its ally Russia, in the rebel-held city of Idlib on September 7, 2018. (File Photo / AFP)
Updated 14 September 2018
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Defying dangers, Idlib residents protest Syria’s Assad

BEIRUT: In cities and towns across Syria’s last opposition-held province, Idlib, residents poured into the streets on Friday to demonstrate against President Bashar Assad’s government in defiance of an expected offensive to retake the territory.
In the provincial capital, Idlib city, and in towns including Kafranbel, Dana, and Al-Bab, demonstrators filled the streets after noon prayers and chanted against Assad, raising the tri-color green, white and black flag that has become the banner of Syria’s 2011 uprising, activists said.
The demonstrations were reported on the activist-run sites Aleppo Media Center, Orient News, and other social media pages.
Fridays have become the customary day for protests throughout the Arab world since the 2011 uprisings that swept through the region.
Assad’s government and its backers, Russia and Iran, say Idlib is ruled by terrorists, and have threatened to seize it by force.
Wissam Zarqa, a university teacher in Idlib, said demonstrators were flying the tri-color flag to rebut the government line that Idlib is dominated by the Al-Qaeda linked Levant Liberation Committee group.
The province, population 3 million, is now the final shelter for close to 1.5 million displaced Syrians that fled fighting in other parts of Syria. Many say they will not return to government-ruled areas.
Government and Russian forces bombed towns and villages in the province earlier this week, killing more than a dozen civilians and damaging two hospitals. But the strikes eased on Wednesday amid talks between the opposition’s main regional sponsor Turkey, and Russia and Turkey.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin are slated to meet Monday, said Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu.
“We will continue our efforts with Iran and with Russia. ... (and) on international platforms as well,” said Cavusoglu in comments carried live on Turkish television.
Turkish media said the two leaders would meet in the Russian city of Sochi.
Turkey has warned strongly against military action, saying it would trigger a humanitarian catastrophe. Its military and defense chiefs visited border areas on Friday to inspect troop reinforcements sent to its Hatay and Gaziantep provinces.
Turkey has 12 military posts inside Idlib province, and activists reported on Thursday that Turkish reinforcements crossed over into Syria to fortify the installations.
The United Nations said that in the first 12 days of September, over 30,000 people have been internally displaced by an intense aerial bombing campaign. Most of the displaced headed toward the border with Turkey, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, packing already overcrowded camps there.
The UN’s World Food Program said it, alongside partners, were already delivering monthly food rations for nearly 600,000 people. It said it was prepared to deliver emergency food assistance for up to 1 million people.


IMF says Egypt’s structural reforms key for sustainable development

Updated 24 September 2018
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IMF says Egypt’s structural reforms key for sustainable development

  • Egypt has implemented tough reforms under a $12 billion loan program agreed in late 2016
  • Egypt’s inflation eased to its lowest level in almost two years in May
CAIRO: IMF managing director Christine Lagarde has praised Egypt’s economy saying it was showing “strong signs of recovery” under a three-year reform plan, and stressed the importance of structural reforms to achieve more sustainable development.
Egypt has implemented tough reforms under a $12 billion loan program agreed in late 2016 that involved deep cuts to energy subsidies, new taxes, and a floated currency in a bid to draw back investors who fled after its 2011 uprising.
Financial markets have been closely watching how the government keeps to the terms of the deal, which has helped Cairo receive loan installments on schedule.
In a statement after she met with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi in New York on Sunday, Lagarde said the IMF remained committed to supporting Egypt.
“Egypt’s economy is showing strong signs of recovery, and its economic growth is among the highest in the Middle East,” Lagarde said in the September 23 statement.
She said she agreed with El-Sisi on the importance of capitalizing on Egypt’s “macroeconomic gains to advance the authorities’ home-grown structural reforms.”
“These reforms will help achieve more sustainable, inclusive and private-sector led growth which will help create jobs for Egypt’s young population, while also ensuring adequate resources are available for social protection,” she added, according to the statement.
Egypt’s inflation, which had soared to a record high of more than 33 percent in July 2017 after the import-dependent country floated the Egyptian pound in November 2016, eased to its lowest level in almost two years in May.
Core inflation in August stood at 8.83 percent while foreign reserves reached $44.419 billion compared with $36.143 billion in the same month last year.
Egypt in June raised fuel and electricity prices as part of the reforms agreed under the IMF plan in measures that had made it harder for ordinary Egyptians to make ends meet. Another fuel price rise is scheduled next year.