UK urged to push for aid deliveries to northern Syria

At least 4 million people in northern Syria rely on aid brought through the country’s official border crossings. (File/AFP)
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Updated 02 May 2020

UK urged to push for aid deliveries to northern Syria

  • At least 4 million people in northern Syria rely on aid brought through the country’s official border crossings, according to the UN
  • The WHO recently said fewer than two-thirds of Syria’s hospitals were operational

LONDON: The UK government has been warned that “unimaginable” and “catastrophic” damage could be caused if cross-border aid is not delivered to people in northern Syria as coronavirus is set to sweep the region.
Labour’s spokesperson for international development, Anna McMorrin MP, urged Downing Street to apply pressure on the UN Security Council to guarantee the delivery of aid, after the council voted in December to close half the official entry points to Syria.
In a letter to UK Secretary of State for International Development Anne-Marie Trevelyan MP, McMorrin wrote: “The omission of UN Security Council support for the renewal of two crossings at Al-Yarubiyah and Al-Ramtha, bordering Iraq and Jordan respectively, in north east Syria is already significantly (hindering) the ability of the UN, partners and humanitarian agencies to continue to provide aid to populations in need.”
She added: “Currently the only way the international community can take action to prepare, prevent and respond to COVID-19 is through cross-border aid ... Global leaders cannot allow the incubation of the virus, which threatens the lives of the most vulnerable and may also jeopardize the health of citizens at home if a second wave stemming from low-income and fragile nations is the result of our inaction.”
At least 4 million people in northern Syria rely on aid brought through the country’s official border crossings, according to the UN.
The World Health Organization recently said fewer than two-thirds of Syria’s hospitals were operational, and around 70 percent of all Syrian medical staff had fled the country, due to the civil war that has ravaged it for the past nine years.
Social distancing for internally displaced Syrians living in camps is all but impossible, while testing for COVID-19 is a hugely challenging enterprise, according to the Red Cross.
Medical and personal protection equipment destined for the embattled north, meanwhile, is regularly held up by the Syrian regime.


UK summons Iran envoy as Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe faces return to jail

Updated 30 October 2020

UK summons Iran envoy as Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe faces return to jail

  • Husband Richard Ratcliffe: Iran has ordered Nazanin to report to court for a new trial on Monday and then back to jail
  • Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab: Britain has made it clear to Iran “that is entirely unjustified and totally unacceptable and must not happen”

LONDON: Britain on Friday warned Iran against throwing detained woman Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe back in jail, after hauling in Tehran’s envoy for a dressing-down over her emotive case.
The Foreign Office summoned Ambassador Hamid Baeidinejad on Thursday to hear renewed demands from a senior official for an end to the British-Iranian captive’s “arbitrary detention.”
Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab told BBC radio Zaghari-Ratcliffe was in a “horrific position,” after her husband said Iran has ordered her to report to court for a new trial on Monday and then back to jail.
Britain has made it clear to Iran “that is entirely unjustified and totally unacceptable and must not happen,” Raab said.
Zaghari-Ratcliffe, who will turn 42 on Boxing Day, has been on temporary release from Tehran’s Evin prison and under house arrest since earlier this year because of the coronavirus pandemic.
She has spent more than four years in jail, or under house arrest, since being detained in the Iranian capital in April 2016 while visiting relatives with her young daughter.
Zaghari-Ratcliffe, who worked for the Thomson Reuters Foundation — the media organization’s philanthropic arm — denied charges of sedition but was convicted and jailed for five years.

Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe has spent more than four years in jail, or under house arrest, since being detained in the Iranian capital in April 2016. (AFP)

Her husband Richard Ratcliffe said this week that the Foreign Office’s handling of the case “seems disastrous,” and that “the UK is dancing to Iran’s tune.”
Raab told the BBC: “We’ve made it very clear we want to try to put the relationship between the UK and Iran on a better footing.
“If Nazanin is returned to prison, that will of course put our discussions and the basis of those discussions in a totally different place. It is entirely unacceptable.”
Richard Ratcliffe linked the latest development to the postponement of a hearing that was due to take place on Tuesday in London to address Iran’s longstanding demand for the repayment by Britain of hundreds of millions from an old military equipment order.
“As Nazanin’s husband, I do think that if she’s not home for Christmas, there’s every chance this could run for years,” he said, accusing Iran of “hostage diplomacy.”