New Syria peace talks in Sochi ‘a trick to deceive the world’

UN Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura (2nd R) and other attendees take part in the session of Syria peace talks in Astana on Friday. (AFP)
Updated 23 December 2017

New Syria peace talks in Sochi ‘a trick to deceive the world’

JEDDAH/ASTANA: New Syrian peace talks planned for the end of next month are a trick intended to deceive the Syrian people and the international community, opposition leaders told Arab News on Friday.
They spoke after Russia, Turkey and Iran agreed at their latest meeting in Astana, Kazakhstan, to hold the talks in Russia’s Black Sea resort of Sochi on Jan. 29 and 30.
The UN special envoy Staffan de Mistura said the Sochi plan should be judged on its ability to contribute to the UN-led negotiations in Geneva, which he urged the three countries to support.
Opposition leaders also backed the Geneva talks. “We told the Russians that Sochi will not be an alternative to Geneva, and we want to end the misery of the Syrian people and let humanitarian aid in,” said Ahmed Tohme, head of the opposition delegation in Astana.
And opposition spokesman Yahia Al-Aridi told Arab News: “There will be no Syrian peace talks in Sochi.” He described the plan as an attempt to “trick the world and Syrians that Russia brought a peace settlement to Syria.
“When Russia decides that bringing peace to Syria is a strategic option, they can easily pressure the regime to come to the talks, especially when they are its guarantors and protectors.”
The Russian Foreign Ministry said earlier that the opposition was sabotaging the Geneva peace talks in a attempt to ruin Russian preparations for national dialogue in Syria, but Al-Aridi told Arab News: “This is upside-down logic. If Geneva succeeds, Sochi could be a contributor to the success of Geneva. But now, as the regime sabotaged or tried to sabotage Geneva, it is the regime that sabotaged Sochi.
“We are looking for a peaceful solution. We want an end to the Syrian nightmare.”
The opposition delegation said its focus was on making progress on the issues of detainees and forcibly disappeared people, which the Astana trio has been discussing since April without reaching agreement.
On Friday, they set up a working group on detainees, which de Mistura said was “commendable as a first step toward reaching a comprehensive arrangement between the conflicting parties.”
Bahia Madini, another Syrian opposition figure, urged Mistura on Friday to strengthen his role as a mediator and demand stronger and firmer action by the UN and the Security Council.
“Securing the release and fair treatment of detainees is a very important objective and so we must all continue to monitor this and ensure that progress is made on this issue sooner rather than later,” Madini, a journalist and human rights activist in the UK who fled regime persecution, told Arab News.
In Syria, meanwhile, the Assad regime and Russian forces killed dozens of civilians in new airstrikes on Eastern Ghouta, a suburb about 15km from the center of Damascus, Human Rights Watch said.
“The world is silently looking on as Russia and Syria tighten the noose around the suffering population of Eastern Ghouta with unlawful strikes, widely banned weapons, and a devastating siege,” said Lama Fakih, the group’s deputy Middle East director.


Gaza gets vital medical aid as hospitals struggle with rising infections

Updated 29 November 2020

Gaza gets vital medical aid as hospitals struggle with rising infections

GAZA: The World Health Organization delivered 15 ventilators to Gaza hospitals on Sunday amid a spike in COVID-19 infections that has tested the Palestinian territory’s under-developed health system.
The donation of the intensive care devices, funded by Kuwait, came a week after local and international public health advisers said hospitals in the enclave could soon become overwhelmed.
“These devices will help medical teams provide better service to patients, but it is not enough,” said Abdullatif AlHajj of Gaza’s health ministry.
AlHajj said hospitals had suffered acute shortages in oxygen essential in the treatment of COVID-19 patients.
Gaza has logged nearly 20,000 coronavirus cases and 97 deaths, mostly since August, amid concern of a wider outbreak in the densely populated enclave of 2 million people, many of whom live in poverty.
The Gaza Health Ministry said 342 COVID-19 patients, of whom 108 are in critical condition, are being treated in the territory’s hospitals, which have been able to expand their intensive care units to 150 beds over the past week.
It said more than half of the territory’s 150 ventilators are in use.
“The health system right now can hold on for a few weeks after the expansion of beds,” said Abdelnaser Soboh, emergency health lead in the World Health Organization’s Gaza sub-office.
Soboh said Gaza is also experiencing severe shortages of medications and disposable equipment needed to treat COVID-19 patients.
Palestinians in Hamas Islamist-run Gaza say 13 years of economic sanctions by Israel and its border blockade have crippled their economy and undermined the development of medical facilities, weakening their ability to tackle a pandemic.
Israel, which cites security concerns for the border restrictions it imposes along with neighboring Egypt, says it has not limited the transfer of medical supplies to Gaza to fight the pandemic.