Pope calls for respect of humanitarian law in Syria’s Idlib amid escalation

Pope Francis led a crowd in a special spontaneous prayer “for this beloved and martyred Syria.” (File/AFP)
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Updated 09 February 2020

Pope calls for respect of humanitarian law in Syria’s Idlib amid escalation

  • He said the reports from Idlib were “painful ... particularly regarding the conditions of women and children, of people forced to flee from a military escalation”
  • Turkey has reinforced its military presence in the area, saying the advances by Russian-backed Syrian troops and their allies threaten a fresh humanitarian disaster

VATICAN CITY: Pope Francis called on Sunday for respect of humanitarian law in Syria’s Idlib province, amid an escalation of a Syrian government offensive that has displaced more than half a million in two months.
He told tens of thousands of people in St. Peter’s square that the reports from Idlib were “painful ... particularly regarding the conditions of women and children, of people forced to flee from a military escalation.”
Turkey has reinforced its military presence in the area, saying the advances by Russian-backed Syrian troops and their allies threaten a fresh humanitarian disaster.
The crisis risks driving another wave of potential refugees to Turkey’s southern border, and Ankara has threatened to act unless there is a pull back.
“I renew my heartfelt appeal to the international community and all parties involved to use diplomatic means, dialogue and negotiations, in respect of international humanitarian law, to safeguard the lives and fate of civilians,” Pope Francis said.
He then led the crowd in a special spontaneous prayer “for this beloved and martyred Syria.”
Turkey and Russia support opposing sides in Syria’s nearly nine-year civil war, but have forged a series of agreements since 2017 aimed at containing the bloodshed.
Turkey already hosts 3.6 million Syrian refugees and President Tayyip Erdogan threatened this week to repel the Russian-backed Syrian forces unless they withdraw from the region.


Egypt, UAE resume first Qatar flights since 2017

Updated 18 January 2021

Egypt, UAE resume first Qatar flights since 2017

  • An EgyptAir flight took off from Doha to Cairo, making it the first commercial flight in three and a half years between both countries
  • It was followed shortly after by the arrival of an Air Arabia flight from Sharjah in the UAE

DOHA: The first direct flights since 2017 between Qatar and its former rivals Egypt and the UAE took to the skies on Monday, following the end of a regional crisis.
Egypt and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) joined Saudi Arabia and Bahrain in cutting ties with Qatar in June 2017, accusing it of being too close to Iran and of backing Islamic extremists, charges Doha denies.
The quartet agreed to heal the rift at a Gulf summit on January 5 in Saudi Arabia, after a flurry of diplomatic activity by outgoing US President Donald Trump’s administration.
The first commercial flight from Qatar to Egypt in three and a half years, an EgyptAir service to Cairo, took off from windswept Doha airport.
It was followed shortly after by the arrival of an Air Arabia flight from Sharjah in the UAE.
The resumption of flights from Doha to Cairo will simplify travel for the large contingent of Egyptians living in Qatar.
As many as 300,000 Egyptians call Qatar home, according to official statistics, but many were unable to travel home during the crisis.
In May 2020, frustrated Egyptians protested outside the compound housing Egypt’s then-empty embassy.
Following the demonstration, 18 repatriation flights operated via neutral Oman to comply with Cairo’s ban on direct air traffic.
A Qatar Airways plane was due to also make the trip to Cairo later Monday.
Flights between Doha and Saudi Arabia, which has also opened its land border to Qatar, resumed on January 11.
The row complicated regional travel, divided families and raised costs faced by Qatari businesses.
Mustafa Ahmed, 38, an Egyptian technical engineer, said he was “very happy.”
“With direct flights, life will be easier, especially for families and children, avoiding the torment of changing airports and planes and waiting for hours for transit flights,” he told AFP.
Egyptians in Qatar work in a number of sectors including education, health care and engineering.
Thousands of Qatar’s majority-expatriate workforce, however, have lost their jobs as a result of a downturn caused by the coronavirus epidemic.