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Monday, 17 June 2019 17:14

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Afrasianet - Russia criticized the US initiative to hold the Bahrain Peace for Prosperity Workshop, accusing Washington of trying to impose alternative ways to settle the Israeli-Palestinian conflict away from the two-state solution.

"According to the information received, Washington intends to organize in Bahrain on June 25 and 26 a workshop entitled Peace for Prosperity, during which the economic aspect of what is known as the Century Deal of Settlement The Middle East issue.

The United States apparently plans to mobilize large sums of money, including through voluntary contributions, for large-scale investment projects purported to improve the living conditions of Palestinians living in Palestine itself, as well as in Jordan, Egypt, Lebanon and Syria. "

The statement added that the Palestinian leadership refused to participate in this project, pointing out that the PLO did not grant any party its exceptional rights in making crucial decisions about achieving Palestinian national aspirations.

"It is clear that, especially after the failed conference in Warsaw, it is clear that a new US attempt to change the priorities of the regional agenda and impose an so-called alternative vision for the settlement of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict."

Russia said in its statement that "the relentless pursuit of changing the task of achieving a comprehensive political solution with a package of economic rewards and diluting the principle of two states for two peoples raises deep concern."

"Russia maintains its principled approach, which rejects the deviation from the international legal rule on a settlement in the Middle East, including the relevant resolutions of the Security Council and the General Assembly of the United Nations, and the principle of peace in exchange for the territories ratified at the Madrid Conference In 1991, and the Arab peace initiative announced in 2002 ".

"At this difficult stage there is a vital need, more than ever before, for genuine joint efforts aimed at establishing direct and sustainable Palestinian-Israeli negotiations instead of imposing unilateral unilateral deals from abroad," the Russian Foreign Ministry concluded.







Interview: UN’s deputy Libya chief tells The Independent that allegations of arms shipments are under investigation

Afrasianet-The United Nations is probing allegations that the United Arab Emirates shipped weapons to support a Libyan warlord’s factions, in violation of an international arms embargo, a key official told The Independent.

The UN has been investigating numerous allegations of arms shipments to either of the two sides in the years-long Libyan conflict.

But coming under particular scrutiny by international officials and Libya experts are allegations that the UAE, an ally of the UK, US, and France, shipped weapons to Libyan warlord Khalifa Haftar even after the self-styled field marshal declared the head of the UN-backed authority in Tripoli, Fayez al-Sarraj, a “terrorist” and issued a warrant for his arrest and other civilian officials.

“We’re tracking reports of all kinds of weapons or systems coming in. We have seen multiple reports of weapons flowing in,” Stephanie Williams, the deputy head of the UN mission to Libya, said in an interview from Tripoli on Monday. “We are extremely concerned about this. This is not the kind of escalation we need. We need to minimise this.”

The vast oil-rich north African nation has been crippled by violent civil strife since the 2011 Nato-backed downfall of Muammar Gaddafi’s long-time dictatorship. Two loose alliances dominate the country: a collection of eastern militias led by Mr Haftar under the umbrella of the Libyan National Army, and a UN-backed Government of National Accord anchored in Tripoli.

Mr Haftar launched a surprise attack on Tripoli on 4 April after making quick gains against militias ruling the country’s lawless south. But his offensive on the capital has united powerful rival militias across western Libya, and gains have been minimal.

Ms Williams, a former US diplomat, said a UN panel of experts is investigating claims that the UAE shipped a planeload of weapons to support Mr Haftar’s forces in eastern Libya on Friday, as well as other claims of weapons being sent to western Libyan forces that are fighting to defend the capital against his 12-day offensive.

A source in eastern Libya denied any arrival of fresh weapons. The UAE has not commented on the allegations. In the past, Mr Haftar’s forces have flaunted the arrival of newly refurbished fighter jets and military vehicles, posting videos and pictures on Facebook.

The UN panel last year cited evidence suggesting both the UAE and Turkey were providing weapons and military equipment to rival sides in Libya. Both Egypt, a security partner of the west despite human rights abuses, and the UAE, have been aggressively supporting Mr Haftar because they perceive the rival government in Tripoli as a front for the Muslim Brotherhood organisation, which they have vowed to crush.

“They are going for it right now, so they’re going to put all their effort into it,” said Theodore Karasik, a researcher at Gulf State Analytics, a Washington consultancy. “The question is whether or not they’re going into overstretch.”

Qatar called on Tuesday for the arms embargo against Mr Haftar to be properly enforced.

In an interview with Italian daily la Repubblica, foreign minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman al-Thani said the conflict could be stopped “by rendering effective the embargo against Haftar and preventing those countries that have supplied him with munitions and state-of-the-art weapons from continuing to do so”.

He later specifically referred to Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Egypt – three countries which severed ties with Qatar in 2017 in a regional dispute.

One analyst said Mr Haftar and his Arab allies may have chosen to launch the attack after spotting what was described as suspicious plane traffic from Turkey to western Libya, and hoped to take advantage of possible aviation disruption during the planned 6 April switch of operations from Istanbul’s old Ataturk airport to a major new airport.

“The Turks were moving a lot of personnel and other stuff between Tripoli and Istanbul,” said one analyst briefed by an Emirati official. “The Emiratis took advantage of the closure of the airport. As a military strategist, you want to take advantage of this kind of situation – even if it’s 10 hours.”

Both the US and UK have been somewhat wary of Mr Haftar. US Middle East envoy David Satterfield told reporters on Monday that Washington wants a “political arrangement” between the conflicting sides. “We are concerned at the mounting civilian casualties. We are concerned at damage to vital civilian infrastructure,” he said.

A UK-drafted resolution demanding an end to the fighting was circulated among UN security council members on Tuesday.
The resolution, obtained by the Associated Press, also calls on all parties to immediately recommit to attending the UN-facilitated political dialogue “and work toward a comprehensive political solution to the crisis in Libya”.

But the security council is divided over the conflict.  

Mr Haftar has been backed for years by the UAE, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Russia and France, which see in him a potential strongman to bring order to the country even as they have also publicly backed the UN peace process and other international initiatives to stitch the country back together.

Ms Williams warned that Mr Haftar’s attack has halted several long-term peace efforts, including attempts to roll back the influence and presence of militias in the capital, dialogue between Mr Haftar and Mr Serraj, and a UN peace conference which was scheduled for this week in Ghadames.

“That was a process that was over a year’s worth of work to bring Libyans together from all different parts of the country,” she said. “We had a tremendous response. This was going to mark a real turning page.”

An African Union effort to draw Libyans together for a summit this summer also appears to have collapsed.

Fighting continues on the outskirts of Libya’s capital

The conflict has already displaced 18,000 people and left at least 147 people dead, including civilians. Mr Serraj told the Italian paper Corriere della Sera that the conflict in Tripoli could create hundreds of thousands of refugees. Amnesty International has warned that more than 700 refugees and migrants were reportedly trapped in a detention centre near the fighting, where they lack access to food and water.

Ms Williams described shortages of food and medicine in the capital, where the UN has urged a humanitarian ceasefire. She said the battered dinar had lost further value, damaging the purchasing power of ordinary Libyans.

“There are thousands caught in the conflict zone who have asked to come out,” said Ms Williams. “We need for the fighting to stop so that the ambulances can get in and treat the wounded.”

Mr Haftar’s forces have described the fight for Tripoli as an effort to root out “terrorist” militias. LNA spokesperson Ahmed al-Mismari vowed to take the war to the centre of Tripoli.

Critics of the government in Tripoli have noted that several controversial extremist figures have joined the fight against Mr Haftar, even though the Serraj government has disavowed them.

But Ms Williams warned that Mr Haftar’s offensive has empowered Tripoli militias that the UN and its partners have spent the past year trying to stifle.

“A prolonged siege or street-to-street fighting in Tripoli is going to be crippling and will frankly affect the national security of not only the immediate neighbours of Libya but frankly of southern Europe and more broadly. It will become a self-fulfilling prophecy by creating an environment where extremism will flourish.”

Tuesday 16 April 2019








An anonymous source said that the Egyptians fear increased tensions with Iran, and assess that President Trump will not be elected to a second term in office.

Egypt withdrew from efforts to form an "Arab NATO" intended to work against Iran.

Sources said that the Egyptians were also absent from a meeting in Riyadh at the beginning of last week, at which the alliance was discussed.
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The development is a difficult setback for President Donald Trump, who along with Saudi Arabia had advanced the establishment of a coalition of Arab nations to counter Iranian expansion throughout the Middle East.

An anonymous source from one of the Arab nations involved said that the Egyptians have already announced to the Americans and to the Saudis that they will not take part a military, political or economic coalition with Sunni Arab states, due to fears of increased tensions with Iran, and an assessment that President Trump will not be elected to a second term in office.

"We all want Egypt to be a part of an Arab NATO," said the source, "especially as it has the largest army of any Arab nation, and because it carries importance."

Iran commented that it was verifying the information, but that "if it is true that Egypt retreated from efforts to form an Arab NATO, we welcome this."

According to the White House, the coalition was founded by Saudi Arabia with the additional purpose of limiting Chinese and Russian presence in the Middle East.

April 13, 2019






AMMAN: The photos are scarce. In one, a dozen or so women, young children and elderly men bite down on sandwiches as they crowd the inside of a bus. One of the passengers wears a red vest bearing the logo of the Syrian government’s Red Crescent organization, also known as SARC.

Another photo shows at least four green buses lined up on an otherwise empty stretch of desert highway.

According to Syrian state news agency SANA, which published the pictures on April 7, the buses carried hundreds of displaced people who had recently left in unprecedented numbers from the desolate Rukban camp.

The apparent end goal: reaching their hometowns back in rural Homs province, areas seized by pro-government forces in the years since residents originally fled the advances of the Islamic State (IS).

In Rukban, the intervening years have seen devastating hunger, bitterly cold winters and the spread of disease as what was once simply an isolated border crossing point with Jordan morphed into a sprawling settlement of mud homes holding tens of thousands of displaced Syrians.

The displacement camp came under increased international spotlight in recent months after the closure of a smuggling route last fall that once brought in vital supplies, including food and medicine. As winter set in, so did hunger and sickness, and two aid deliveries coordinated by the UN and SARC brought in supplies and vaccinations.

But the conversation has now shifted rapidly from planning aid deliveries—Russian and Syrian officials now talk in terms of evacuating Rukban’s roughly 40,000 displaced residents elsewhere, and dismantling the camp altogether.

In February, Russia’s Ministry of Defense announced that it would oversee “humanitarian corridors” to allow transfer of Rukban residents to their hometowns.

According to the announcement, checkpoints on the outskirts of Rukban would open on “meet, receive, distribute and provide necessary assistance to internally displaced persons” who wish to leave the camp.

Now, after an especially brutal winter, Rukban residents, most of whom have endured years of harsh desert conditions in the camp, are beginning to leave in unprecedented numbers.

In the past week alone, several hundred Rukban residents are estimated to have voluntarily boarded vehicles out of the camp and made the crossing out of US- and opposition-run territory.

Though people have been sporadically leaving the camp on an individual basis for years, the convoys this month are the largest such returns from Rukban to date.

From there, they board the government’s green “evacuation” buses and head into government-controlled Homs province, a Rukban-based aid worker and a local journalist told Syria Direct earlier this week.

The green buses have for several years held a sharp symbolism among Syrians in opposition-held areas of the country, as the government has used them to ferry hundreds of thousands of people out of surrendered rebel pockets as it seized pocket after pocket of territory since 2016.

But Rukban is different. There is no bombardment campaign in this corner of desert—residents instead complain of growing hunger and despondency as they remain stranded in the midst of a complex geopolitical standoff.

In the latest of the three semi-organized convoys that have taken place, unknown hundreds of people reached a Syrian government-controlled checkpoint on the outskirts of this desert “de-confliction zone” on Wednesday, and registered into a murky reconciliation process meant to resolve their status with Syrian authorities.

It is a process that involves riding privately owned trucks out of the camp and towards the first checkpoint demarcating government territory, then paying roughly $20 per person to get through, according to conversations with multiple Syrians still inside Rukban. 

Once through, returnees are taken to a “shelter center” in Homs province, where they remain for roughly two weeks, according to Ahmad Zgheira, a member of one of Rukban’s local administrative councils. Several other camp residents spoke of similar reception centers.

Little is actually known about the procedures for those who have crossed, as communication is difficult from government-held territory.

But there are hints of what the beginning of that journey is like for those who decide to cross.

In one video posted early Wednesday afternoon by pro-opposition news outlet Step News Agency, a handful of trucks are lined up on what appears to be the outskirts of Rukban, still within the 55-kilometer zone of US- and opposition-controlled desert. Some of the trucks are piled high with wooden furniture, mattresses, blankets.

Others are packed with residents awaiting their departure from the camp. An unseen child yells out: “Bye!”

‘A lot of pressure on people’

Displaced Syrians began settling in the Rukban camp following IS’ takeover of much of the eastern Syrian desert after 2013. At Rukban, they hoped they could eventually cross into Jordan via a now shuttered border point.

Those hopes were largely dashed in 2016, when an IS-claimed car bomb killed several Jordanian soldiers at a nearby border outpost, prompting Amman to close the border completely and declare the area a military zone.

Rukban’s location, within a no man’s land along the Syrian-Jordanian border known as the “berm,” all but traps the tens of thousands of displaced people there. Crossing into Jordan is only an option for those in need of specialized medical care at a nearby UN clinic just across the border.

The desert immediately surrounding the camp is part of a 55km “deconfliction zone” set up by US forces. That area is nominally controlled by a US-backed opposition group operating out of the al-Tanf military base, which both the US and rebel fighters have claimed is a key part of their fight against IS.

Displaced Syrians living in Rukban who wish to go back to their hometowns grapple with a difficult decision. If they return, they fear they could face arrest or military conscription, which is required of Syrian men in areas of the country under Damascus’ authority.

But staying means facing endless food shortages, and questions over the future of this contested part of Syria.

For the majority of camp residents who have—thus far—remained inside Rukban, there is little in this remote stretch of desert to sustain them for much longer. Medicine, and even basic food items, are in desperate short supply, residents told Syria Direct.

“There is almost no food or fuel in the camp right now,” one local camp official said. “Even vegetables, it’s the same [shortage].” He was among those who attended a meeting last month with government and Russian officials, as well as UN and SARC representatives, to discuss the fate of Rukban.

It is unclear just what that fate might be. The few supplies are still available in the camp’s cinder block market stalls are sold at vastly inflated prices that are unaffordable to many residents, the camp official said.

“People are now resorting to pre-made food, because they are unable to cook [without fuel],” he told Syria Direct.

“There is a lot of pressure on people in the camp.”
April 10, 2019







In this file photo taken on July 17, 2017, heavy smoke billows following an airstrike on the western frontline in Raqqa, during an offensive by the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces to retake the city from Islamic State (ISIS) group fighters. File photo: Bulent Kilic/AFP

BEIRUT - Intensive US-led coalition bombardment on the Syrian city of Raqqa killed more than 1,600 civilians over four months in 2017, according to a report released on Thursday.

The findings were compiled after months of field research and extensive data analysis, including via a project that saw 3,000 digital activists scan satellite imagery online.

In mid-2017, Raqqa had been the de facto Syria capital of the Islamic State group's cross-border "caliphate" for three years and the US-led coalition launched a military campaign to crush the jihadists in their main remaining hub.

The unprecedented investigation, carried out by Amnesty International and the Airwars monitoring group, urged top coalition members to show more transparency and accountability.

"Many of the air bombardments were inaccurate and tens of thousands of artillery strikes were indiscriminate," said Donatella Rovera, crisis response advisor at Amnesty.

The civilian death toll from the coalition's Raqqa campaign, which supported Kurdish-led ground forces in their successful advance against ISIS, stands at more than 1,600, according to the report.

The coalition has admitted to around 10 percent of those deaths, it said.

"Coalition forces razed Raqqa, but they cannot erase the truth," Rovera said.

"Amnesty International and Airwars call upon the Coalition forces to end their denial about the shocking scale of civilian deaths and destruction caused by their offensive in Raqqa."

Rovera said a number of reasons explained the high casualty toll among civilians, including failing intelligence and surveillance, and the use of inappropriate weaponry.

- Digital activists -

In many cases, buildings in Raqqa were targeted following insufficient remote surveillance, Rovera said, killing entire families that were still living or sheltering in them.

"If there had been adequate surveillance of these buildings... a civilian pattern of life would have been very detectable," she told AFP.

Rovera, who spent months going to strike sites in Raqqa since it was captured by the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces in October 2017, also said the coalition's choice of weapons was a problem.

"It may have to do with money," Rovera said.

"There are, more expensive, smaller impact-radius missiles, but the coalition often used... old MK-type bombs that take out entire buildings. Those are much cheaper," she said.

Amnesty also criticised the extensive use of artillery in the battle for Raqqa, which one US military official boasted was the US's highest since the Vietnam war.

"With a margin of error of more than 100 metres, unguided artillery is notoriously imprecise and its use in populated areas constitutes indiscriminate attacks," the London-based rights group said.

The investigation into the civilian deaths resulted in an interactive, immersive website that includes pictures and videos of destroyed homes, the names of the families killed and links to data gathered from a variety of sources.

One of them was a project called Strike Trackers, which employed digital volunteers from 124 countries to identify each one of the 11,000 destroyed buildings in Raqqa by analysing more than two million frames of satellite imagery.

- Humanitarian law -

Civilians have started returning to the city but basic infrastructure remains almost non-existent. Raqqa was described as 80 percent destroyed after the offensive.

"Many of the cases documented by Amnesty International likely amount to violations of international humanitarian law and warrant further investigation," Amnesty said.

It urged coalition members, especially the United States, Britain and France, to put in place an independent investigation mechanism and create a fund to compensate civilian victims.

The coalition responded by saying it investigated reports submitted to it by various sources, including Amnesty, and complied with international humanitarian law.

"The Coalition takes all reasonable measures to minimise civilian casualties. We conduct precision strikes after in-depth monitoring," coalition spokesman Scott Rawlinson said.

The coalition said in a statement Thursday that it conducted a total of 34,464 strikes in Iraq and Syria since it was created in August 2014, unintentionally killing at least 1,291 civilians, according to its latest statement.

Parts of Syria such as Eastern Ghouta, near the capital Damascus, also came under intense bombardment from Syrian and Russian forces but the same rights groups are not able to carry out investigations there.

AFP 25/4/2019






Afrasianet - Adam Garrie - For all intents and purposes, Libya has ceased to function as a normal state ever since NATO intervened to overthrow the internationally recognised government in 2011. Since then, Libya has failed to produce a government that is capable of unifying the nation but instead has been home to rival regimes, multiple terrorist organisations, slave traders and gangs of both local and foreign bandits who are all wrestling for control over the country's natural resources.

At present, the wider region surrounding Tripoli is the location of a pitched battle between the Western-backed Government of National Accord (GNA) and the Libyan National Army led by Khalifa Haftar, a field marshal who is backed by a Libyan government based in the eastern city of Tobruk. Earlier this week, Haftar ordered to advance on the GNA-held Tripoli. UN Secretary General António Guterres was in the city during the fighting with the mission to rally support for a national reconciliation conference but was unable to bring about a ceasefire. The battle continues to rage.

Making matters all the more bizarre is the fact that Haftar is, in fact, a U.S. citizen who first moved to America in 1990 after deserting his duties in Libya. Haftar's current Libyan National Army is backed by major U.S. allies in the Arab world including Egypt, the UAE and Saudi Arabia. And yet, Haftar's enemy is a Tripoli-based government that has received diplomatic recognition from Washington and the European Union.

Prior to NATO's war on Libya in 2011, the situation was very different. The country was politically united, it was at peace with its neighbors. It had good relations with sub-Saharan African nations, with most Asian nations and with the major European powers.

After 2003, Libya and the U.S. began a long-awaited rapprochement which saw two declared enemies cooperate against common terrorist threats. But in 2011, an overly zealous NATO decided to change all of this by intervening militarily in a country that would have otherwise been able to combat any and all provocations through lawful internal mechanisms.

As Libya was not threatening any foreign power in 2011, NATO had no business in becoming involved in the country's domestic affairs. And yet, the fanaticism of the U.S., UK and French leaders of the time lead to a military intervention that even Barack Obama later admitted was the biggest mistake of his presidency.

This mistake was one that produced similar results to NATO interventions in many other countries. Iraq remains a much more dangerous, less united and materially poorer place than it was prior to the U.S. led war of 2003. The republics of the former Yugoslavia have likewise had difficulty since the 1990s. Ukraine and Syria remain bitterly divided places that are both materially poorer and far more dangerous than they were before major western nations decided to meddle in their internal affairs.

One can therefore objectively say that every time the major western powers use their military might or the forces of political meddling to change the internal conditions of a foreign country, things uniformly become worse.

Libya remains one of the prime examples of a nation that has been utterly devastated by NATO's interventionism. Now, the new battle between a U.S.-backed government and a U.S. citizen backed by key U.S. allies reveals just how inexplicable the divisions of Libya have become in the aftermath of a totally unnecessary NATO war.  

Editor's Note: Adam Garrie is the director of the UK-based global policy and analysis think tank Eurasia Future and co-host of talk show "The History Boys." The article reflects the author's opinion, and not necessarily the views of CGTN.





Afrasianet - US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said his talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin were very fruitful, saying that "there is talk about relations between Russia and America and how we progress together, not personal matters."

"We talked very well," he told reporters after meeting with the Russian president in Sochi. "Putin (in the full discussion) clearly knows these issues very well and very widely, so we were able to move quickly to specific details in different relationships. "The meeting was very fruitful."

"He is really familiar with all the issues, so we were able to quickly get to concrete details and focus on minutes of different aspects of the relationship," he said on the plane after meeting Putin in Sochi. "It was really a very productive meeting."

Asked whether Putin's opinion had changed after the meeting, since he had already criticized the Russian president, Pompeo said: "This is about the relations between the United States and Russia, how we can move forward together. This was not a personal or "We are ready to defend our interests constantly ... They (Russians) are also doing their best to protect their interests in the same way."

The US Secretary of State visited Russia on Tuesday for the first time since his appointment, and was received by Russian President Vladimir Putin after concluding his talks with Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.

Pompeo had previously met with his Russian counterpart in Rovaniemi, Finland, on May 7, on the sidelines of the meeting of foreign ministers of the Arctic Council countries. His visit to Russia came at the request of the American side.

Source: Interfax







  • Russia: The Bahrain conference is a new American attempt to impose an alternative settlement in...

  • Western allies add fuel to Libya's fire with alleged military shipments to warlord

  • Egypt withdraws from efforts to form 'Arab NATO'

  • Hundreds of Rukban camp residents leaving US-administered desert zone board Syrian government buses

  • Libya’s Movement to Peace condemns Turkey’s “aggressive interference”

  • US-led 2017 blitz on Syria's Raqqa killed 1,600 civilians: report

  • Libya crisis is due to NATO's intervention

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  • Pompeo: Putin knows minutes of things and disagreements with him are not personal

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