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  • #AceNewsGroup 20:24 on February 4, 2014 Permalink
    Tags: , , , , , Prisoner exchange, , , ,   

    `Government and Opposition in Syria Has Failed to Agree List’s for Exchange of Prisoner’s’ 


    #AceNewsServices says `Lists for Exchange of Syria prisoners not agreed upon yet’

    Unrest in DamascusThe government and the opposition in Syria had failed to agree on the lists for the exchange of prisoners, Gatilov said.

    “The opposition has handed the list of persons detained by the government. But the government has also requested the opposition to produce a list of persons who are detained by them. So far, the opposition has not presented such a list. But we believe that this issue could be resolved with the good will of both parties,” the senior diplomat said.

    Exchange of prisoners between the government and opposition forces is considered as one of the stages at the negotiations of the parties. This issue was discussed at the first round of the inter-Syrian discussions in the framework of the Geneva-2 conference. Russia, the USA and the UN took part in this work, too.

    Voice of Russia, RIA

     

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  • #AceNewsGroup 16:23 on February 2, 2014 Permalink
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    #Syria : ” Kerry Apologises or there will be `No Direct Talks’ with Opposition” 


    #AceNewsServices says ‘No direct US Syria talks unless Kerry apologizes’according to Syrian FM.

    Published time: February 02, 2014 11:36

     
    Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem (AFP Photo / SANA)Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem (AFP Photo / SANA)
    The Syrian FM claims to have rejected a US offer of direct talks without the involvement of the opposition “tools” during the Geneva conference over John Kerry’s refusal to apologize for his biased speech. US officials denied seeking such a meeting.

    On his way back to Syria, the country’s foreign minister Walid Muallem was asked why hadn’t the Damascus delegation spoken directly with the US without intermediaries from the opposition delegation. 

    “Frankly, the Americans have asked for that in Montruex and I refused unless Kerry apologizes for the speech he made in the conference,”
     Walid Muallem told Syrian state media on board a plane bound for Damascus. 

    Syria’s foreign minister was apparently referring to the opening remarks of US Secretary of State John Kerry’s speech made in Montreux, Switzerland on January 22, who said that President Bashar Assad lost all legitimacy and cannot be a part of any transitional government. 

    “There is no way, not possible in the imagination, that the man who has led the brutal response to his own people could regain legitimacy to govern,” Kerry said in that speech. Walid Muallem rebuffed him at the time, saying no outside force had the right to “withdraw legitimacy” from the president or government except for the people of the country.

    The US officials were quick to deny claims by Syria’s foreign minister that US diplomats were seeking direct negotiation with the Syrian delegation. 

    “At no point did the United States offer to negotiate directly with the Syrian regime,” State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said, though clarifying that the US indeed offered to connect with Syrian officials “on a staff level” through the United Nations and Joint Special Representative Lakhdar Brahimi.

    Psaki added that the State Department will never apologize for the views expressed by the top US diplomat. “At no point will Secretary Kerry ever apologize for speaking the truth about the brutality the Assad regime has inflicted on the people of Syria,” she said.

    US Secretary of State John Kerry (AFP Photo / Fabrice Coffrini)US Secretary of State John Kerry (AFP Photo / Fabrice Coffrini)

    The peace talks that ended in Geneva on Friday producing no concrete results and no official commitment from Damascus delegation to return to the negotiation table on February 10. The government and opposition were unable to bridge their differences on cease fires, humanitarian corridors or the question of a transitional governing body. 

    In a security conference in Munich, the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said that he urged Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and US Secretary of State John Kerry “to use their influence to ensure the talks proceed as scheduled on February 10.”

    Lavrov insisted that “Russia can do nothing alone” as he asked the US to apply their influence on the Syrian opposition

    Muallem, meanwhile, warned the opposition will eventually suffer a “reality shock” unless they abandon their “illusions” and drop unrealistic demands. 

    The Assad delegation has sought to focus the discussions on brutal acts of terrorism, and Muallem accused the opposition delegation for refusing to sign a declaration condemning such activity in Syria. 

    “This rejection is a smirch on the forehead of the coalition’s delegation, and as I said yesterday that any person in the world who suffered from terrorism would adopt this draft statement,”
     Muallem said, adding that the foreign-based coalition who “live in 5-star hotels” knowing nothing about the Syrian reality.

    The Syrian foreign minister also lashed out against the “unjust” international community that impose sanctions on a war-torn country. 

    “It is an ‘international community’ that adopts double standards policy and mostly dominated by the US… they dominate the UN Security Council and the UN,” Muallem said. 

    “When they say ‘international community’ we laugh as they do not represent the international community, for if we consider the population of Russia, China, India and the BRICS countries, we find that they are the international community.” 

    Muallem questioned how could the West want to be involved Geneva dialogue and at the same time “impose sanctions on the Syrian people and children?”He asked European Union’s foreign policy chief, Catherine Ashton to explain how can the West can sanction a ban on food products yet at the same time discuss the issue of humanitarian aid shipments.

    The foreign minister concluded by saying that in the negation process, Syria will refuse anything that contradicts the constitution. 

    “This constitution was reached by a referendum and no one can reach or even think that the presidency is a topic of discussion.”

     

     

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  • #AceNewsGroup 20:12 on January 10, 2014 Permalink
    Tags: , , , Bandar, Bandar bin Sultan, , , , , , , , ,   

    Sochi Winter Olympics: “Russia’s Hidden Agenda” 


    #AceWorldNews says following Monday’s terrorist bombings only 400 miles away from the site of the Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, have a geopolitical back story involving implied threats from Saudi Arabia’s intelligence chief Prince Bandar bin Sultan to Russian President Vladimir Putin last summer when Bandar was pressing Putin to withdraw his backing for the #Syrian government.

    Bandar bin Sultan, Secretary-General of the Na...

    Bandar bin Sultan, Secretary-General of the National Security Council of Saudi Arabia (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

    According to a diplomatic leak detailing the Bandar-Putin meeting in Moscow on July 31, Bandar suggested that Putin’s agreement to abandon the #Syrian regime of Bashar al-Assad would lead Saudi Arabia to restrain its Chechen terrorist clients who have attacked Russia targets for years. Putin reportedly grew furious, interpreting Bandar’s offer as a warning that the Sochi games would be threatened by terrorism if Putin didn’t comply.

    At the time, I was even told that Putin warned Saudi Arabia of potentially severe consequences – suggesting military retaliation – if Bandar’s implied warning was followed up by actual terrorist attacks like the ones in Volvograd on Monday, killing more than 30 people.

    Of course, it is always hard to trace specific terrorist acts back to their origins and many terrorist cells operate with much autonomy. But Putin has staked much of his prestige on a successful Olympics in Sochi, and he also would risk losing face if it were perceived that Bandar had executed a terrorist plan to disrupt the Winter Olympics and that Putin was powerless to stop it.

    According to the leaked diplomatic account of last summer’s meeting, Bandar sought Russia’s cooperation on several Mideast concerns, including Syria, and told Putin, “I can give you a guarantee to protect the Winter Olympics in the city of Sochi on the Black Sea next year. The Chechen groups that threaten the security of the games are controlled by us.”

    English: RIYADH. Before the beginning of the R...

    English: RIYADH. Before the beginning of the Russian-Saudi talks. Русский: ЭР-РИЯД. Перед началом российско-саудовских переговоров. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

    Putin reportedly responded, “We know that you have supported the Chechen terrorist groups for a decade. And that support, which you have frankly talked about just now, is completely incompatible with the common objectives of fighting global terrorism that you mentioned. We are interested in developing friendly relations according to clear and strong principles.”

    Besides safety for the Sochi Olympics, Bandar raised the potential of Saudi cooperation with Russia on oil and other investment matters, saying, “Let us examine how to put together a unified Russian-Saudi strategy on the subject of oil. The aim is to agree on the price of oil and production quantities that keep the price stable in global oil markets,” according to the diplomatic account.

    I was told by a source close to the Russian government that this mix of overt inducements and implied threats infuriated Putin who barely kept his anger in check through the end of the meeting with Bandar. Putin viewed Bandar’s offer to protect the Sochi Olympics as something akin to a Mafia don shaking down a shopkeeper for protection money by saying, “nice little business you got here, I’d hate to see anything happen to it.”

    Putin then redoubled his support for the Syrian government in response to Bandar’s blend of bribes and warnings. The source said Russia also issued its own thinly veiled threats against the Saudis. The Saudis may have substantial “soft power” – with their oil and money – but Russia has its own formidable “hard power,” including a huge military, the source said.

    Osama bin Laden compound

    Osama bin Laden compound (Photo credit: Sajjad Ali Qureshi)

    Bandar and Terrorism:

    Over the years, Bandar has often treated the issue of “terrorism” as a situational ethic, an ambivalence well-honed since the days when Saudi Arabia and the Reagan administration teamed up to pour billions of dollars into the Afghan mujahedeen and their Arab jihadist allies fighting Soviet troops in the 1980s.

    The anti-Soviet effort in Afghanistan brought to prominence Saudi national Osama bin Laden and the terrorists who later consolidated themselves under the global brand, al-Qaeda. In the 1980’s, these roving jihadists’ were hailed as brave defenders of Islam and even “freedom fighters,” but – in the 1990’s – they began targeting the United States with terrorist attacks, leading up to 9/11 in 2001.

    At the time of the 9/11 attacks on New York and Washington, Bandar was the Saudi ambassador to the United States and was so close to the Bush family that he was nicknamed “Bandar Bush.” Bandar was also very close to the bin Laden family. After the attacks, Bandar even acknowledged having met Osama bin Laden in the context of bin Laden thanking Bandar for his help financing the Afghan jihad project.

    “I was not impressed, to be honest with you,” Bandar told CNN’s Larry King about bin Laden. “I thought he was simple and very quiet guy.”

    President Obama confirms death of Osama bin Laden

    However, immediately after 9/11, Bandar undermined the FBI’s opportunity to learn more about the connections between Osama bin Laden’s relatives and the perpetrators of 9/11 when Bandar arranged for members of the bin Laden family to flee the United States on some of the first planes allowed back into the air – after only cursory interviews with FBI investigators. The only segment of the 9/11 Commission’s report to be blacked out was the part dealing with alleged Saudi financing for al-Qaeda.

    Now, as chief of Saudi intelligence, Bandar appears to be back in the game of coercive geopolitics, arranging weapons for some of the most brutal Syrian rebels and Arab mercenaries operating inside Syria, while offering carrots-and-sticks to foreign leaders who are seen are malleable toward Saudi regional interests. The technique may have failed with Putin but had greater success in lining up the French behind Saudi opposition to a negotiated agreement with Iran on its nuclear program.

    As a repressive monarchy that preaches the ultra-conservative Wahhabi version of Sunni Islam, Saudi Arabia is bitterly opposed to the democratic reforms of the Arab Spring and the growing influence of Shiite Islam, which now stretches from Iran through Iraq and Syria to the Hezbollah enclaves of Lebanon.

    President Mohammed Morsi

    Saudi Arabia backed the military coup in Egypt that ousted the elected Muslim Brotherhood government of Mohamed Morsi. The Saudis also have stepped up assistance to Sunni-dominated rebels in Syria seeking to overthrow the Assad dynasty that is based in the Alawite religion, a branch of Shiite Islam.

    The commonality of interests between Saudi Arabia and Israel has given rise to a de facto alliance between the Saudi monarchy and the Jewish government of Israel. Though historically enemies, Israel and Saudi Arabia are now on the same page in backing Egypt’s military regime, in viewing Iran as their principal adversary, and in wanting a rebel victory in Syria.

    The shifting sands of Middle East interests also have pushed the United States and Russia closer together, with the former Cold War rivals sharing an interest in tamping down disorder across the region. President Putin and President Barack Obama cooperated in reaching a tentative nuclear deal with Iran and in convincing Syria’s Assad to surrender his chemical weapons. Putin and Obama are pressing for Syrian peace talks, too.

    Now, however, a new complication has been introduced: Islamist terrorist attacks aimed at undermining the Sochi Olympics. If Putin concludes that the Saudis are behind these bombings – that the attacks are the equivalent of a Mafia don having a store torched after the owner rebuffed an offer of “protection” – then the issue of Russian retaliation could suddenly be on the table.

    Courtesy of and by Robert Parry

    This article has originally appeared on Consortium News 

    [NOTE: Alawites are not a Shiite branch. In fact, the two Islamic sects are different in form and content. Alawites' are as much different from Shiites as they are from the Sunnis and this can even be observed in the form of daily prayers.]

    #AceRelatedNews: Rivers of Hope 

     

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  • #AceNewsGroup 19:40 on January 10, 2014 Permalink
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    Ex-ISIL detainees tell horror stories of captivity in Aleppo 


    #AceNewsGroup:

    #AceNewsServices says #Syria “Horror Stories of Captivity in Aleppo” #Peace

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    Originally posted on Friends of Syria:

    Horror stories have begun to emerge in the wake of the freeing of several hundred captives of the Al-Qaeda-linked Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) in Aleppo.

    Militants gesture next to the bodies of handcuffed and blindfolded dead men laying on the ground of the Aleppo headquarters of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) after they were allegedly executed by the al-Qaeda-linked group, in the northern city of Aleppo, on January 8, 2014

    Militants gesture next to the bodies of handcuffed and blindfolded dead men laying on the ground of the Aleppo headquarters of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) after they were allegedly executed by the al-Qaeda-linked group, in the northern city of Aleppo, on January 8, 2014

    Other terrorist groups from the so-called Free Syrian Army, the extremist Islamic Front, and several independent groups have been locked in a campaign against the hardline Al-Qaeda militants of ISIL over the past week.

    Wednesday’s rebel capture of a central detention facility used by ISIL in Aleppo – a children’s eye hospital in the neighborhood of Qadi Askar – led to freedom for several hundred people, who have begun to tell their…

    View original 537 more words

     
  • #AceNewsGroup 21:44 on January 9, 2014 Permalink
    Tags: , , Materials, , ,   

    #Syria’s First Chemical Arms Materials are Taken Outside Country for Destruction #Peace 


    #AceWorldNews

    says The process of removing #Syria’s most critical chemical weapons material outside of the country for destruction began on the 7th January 2014, the head of the Joint Mission of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) and the United Nations confirmed.

    “A first quantity of priority chemical materials was moved from two sites to the port of Latakia for verification and was then loaded onto a Danish commercial vessel today,” OPCW-UN Special Coordinator Sigrid Kaag said in a <"http://www.un.org/sg/offthecuff/index.asp?nid=3233">statement from the Joint Mission.

    Accompanied by naval escorts from Denmark, Norway and Syria, the ship has now sailed for international waters where it will remain “awaiting the arrival of additional priority chemical materials at the port”, Ms. Kaag added.

    “This movement initiates the process of transfer of chemical materials from the #Syrian Arab Republic to locations outside its territory for destruction,” she said in the statement.

    Maritime security is being provided by naval escorts from China, Denmark, Norway and Russia.

    OPCW-UN encourages Syria “to continue its efforts to complete the removal of chemical materials as soon as possible in a safe and timely manner”, said Ms. Kaag, who is due to report tomorrow to the UN Security Council in New York. The OPCW Executive Council is due to meet at The Hague that same day.

    The removal of the chemical agents out of the country involves transporting them from Latakia onto commercial vessels provided by some Member States. They will then be loaded onto a United States ship and destroyed at sea using hydrolysis.

    In accordance with the decisions of the Security Council and OPCW Executive Council, #Syria’s chemical weapons will be transported outside its territory to ensure their destruction in the “safest and soonest manner,” and no later than 30 June 2014.

    That deadline set will not be met owing to technical difficulties, the Joint Mission announced late last month. It stressed, however, that it would continue to assist Syria as specified under Security Council resolution 2118 and the decisions of the OPCW.

    The Joint Mission continues to coordinate with #Syria and the other Member States, Ms. Kaag said, to mobilize resources and undertake all the necessary steps towards the complete removal and elimination of the chemical weapons programme. #Peace

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  • #AceNewsGroup 21:26 on January 9, 2014 Permalink
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    #Syria Crisis is Tragic Says WFP Chief and it is More Than just Numbers #Peace 


    #AceWorldNews says with the humanitarian situation in war-torn #Syria “getting more difficult every day”, the head of the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) is urging the international community to continue supporting the wide-scale relief effort under-way, and calling for increased access so aid workers can deliver basic supplies to families trapped in areas of heavy fighting.

    Ertharin Cousin, WFP Executive Director, wrapped up a <"http://www.wfp.org/news/news-release/world-food-programme-executive-director-meets-displaced-families-syria">visit to #Syria today after high-level talks with Government officials. She said that as the three-year conflict grinds on, the humanitarian situation is worsening by the day, “as almost half the Syrian people are now food insecure.”

    “This month, we scaled up our food assistance to reach 4.25 million people inside #Syria. The challenge is gaining access to the hot spots and besieged areas,” she said, emphasizing that without access, WFP cannot reach the increasing number of families trapped by the fighting and in desperate need of food assistance.

    During her one-day visit, Ms. Cousin stopped at a food distribution centre in Damascus where she talked to women and children who were receiving their monthly food rations.

    One of the women told her that she lives in an apartment with 32 members of her extended family. She and her family took refuge in Damascus after fleeing different parts of Syria when their homes were destroyed. None have been able to find jobs and they depend on WFP food assistance to put food on the table for the children.

    “The #Syrian crisis is more than numbers. Every family that I spoke to shared a sad story of tragedy and loss,” Ms. Cousin said. “I am overwhelmingly moved by the resilience and the spirit of the #Syrian people. It is essential that the international community continues to support the provision of basic humanitarian needs.”

    As fighting in Syria continues, WFP is appealing for close to $2 billion to assist more than 7 million #Syrians in urgent need of food assistance in 2014. These include 4.25 million people inside Syria and over 2.9 million refugees in neighbouring countries in need of food, making this WFP’s most challenging, complex and largest emergency. #Peace

    This transmission is intended for the named addressee(s) only and may contain sensitive or protectively marked material up to RESTRICTED and should be handled accordingly. Unless you are the named addressee (or authorised to receive it for the addressee) you may not copy or use it, or disclose it to anyone else. If you have received this transmission in error please notify the sender immediately.

     
  • #AceNewsGroup 20:13 on January 9, 2014 Permalink
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    Germany to Help Destroy Syria’s Chemical Weapons 


    #AceNewsGroup:

    #AceWorldNews says Germany agreed on Thursday to aid international effort’s to destroy #Syria’s stockpile of Chemical Weapons #Peace

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    Originally posted on World:

    Germany on Thursday agreed to aid international efforts to destroy Syria’s stockpile of chemical weapons.

    The government’s announcement that it’s “willing and able” to make a “substantial contribution” in the elimination of Syria’s chemical weapons, believed to include more than 1,000 tons of toxic agents like sarin and VX, comes days after the first shipment left Syria on a Danish ship, AFP reports. The request for help came from the United Nations and the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, which are coordinating their destruction.

    GEKA, the state-owned company based in northern Munster, will burn the remnants—much like industrial waste—created after the weapons were irreversibly destroyed earlier in the process. Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said it’s stepping in to help “could be the first, decisive step in defusing the Syria conflict” and that the international community “has a duty to ensure their disposal.”

    The move comes five months after rockets…

    View original 60 more words

     
  • #AceNewsGroup 21:42 on January 3, 2014 Permalink
    Tags: , #ReporterwithoutBorders, ,   

    5 Doctors Without Borders Staffers Seized in Syria 


    #AceWorldNews says ” Five staffers of the international aid organization Doctors Without Borders have been taken in for questioning in northern Syria, the group said Friday” #ReporterswithoutBorders

     
  • #AceNewsGroup 13:34 on January 1, 2014 Permalink
    Tags: , , , , , , , , December 31, , , , ,   

    #Syria Misses Chemical Weapons Deadline #Peace 


    150 px

    150 px (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

    #AceWorldNews says with the start of the #Geneva2Convention just around the corner on January 22, this is not what we want to hear………………………………………………………..

    EuroNews reports as and according to Damascus had agreed to hand over some of its most deadly toxins from the Syrian port of Latakia on December 31, but failed to show.

    Officials from the ‘Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons’ had expected the deadline to be missed.

    “We understand that a number of factors have added up which have made the Syrian authorities unable to meet this December 31 deadline – the poor weather in certain parts of Syria is one of these factors and, of course, the volatility of the security situation,” explained OPCWspokesman Christian Chartier.

    The December date was supposed to have been the first milestone of a deal brokered by the US and Russia to rid Syria of its chemical weapons arsenal by June 2014.

    In a separate development, an anti-President Bashar al-Assad monitoring group based in Britain estimates that at least 130,000 people have been killed in the conflict since it began in March 2011.

    Copyright © 2014 euronews

     

     
  • #AceNewsGroup 18:14 on December 30, 2013 Permalink
    Tags: , , , , Press TV, , , , , , , ,   

    #Syrian War Still Going on for the People As the West Does Not Want it To End #Peace 


    A 2003 satellite image of the region, with the...

    A 2003 satellite image of the region, with the boundaries between modern-day nation-states shown in light gray (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

    #AceWorldNews says #Syria war does not seem to end for the people, as the pain goes on and on everyday, and the children find themselves with out either a mother or father.

    And according to PressTV the West does not want Syrian crisis to end: 
    The West has no intention of helping to resolve the Syrian crisis as the dilemma has been created by Western states to protect Israel, a political analyst tells Press TV.

    “I think they (the West) are just giving a whole lot of lip service to wanting to resolve the situation in Syria. I also believe they have [taken] Syria exactly where they wanted,” said Soraya Sepahpour-Ulrich in a Saturday interview.

    She noted that Syria’s military might, which has long been considered as a strong force capable of standing against Israel, is being engaged with terrorists and thugs in the country.

    “Instead of Syria being able to protect itself from outside dangers, danger has been sent inside Syria, chaos has been created to basically weaken the Syrian military and the United Sates and the Western countries are fully, 100 percent behind this,” Sepahpour pointed out.

    Syria has been gripped by deadly unrest since March 2011. According to reports, the Western powers and their regional allies — especially Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and Turkey — are supporting the militants operating inside Syria.

    According to the United Nations, more than 100,000 people have been killed and a total of 7.8 million of others displaced due to the violence.

    Download Video

    Coele-Syria, site of the Syrian Wars.

    Coele-Syria, site of the Syrian Wars. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

    ASH/HGH

     

     
  • #AceNewsGroup 12:31 on December 19, 2013 Permalink
    Tags: , , , , Deir ez-Zor, , , , , ,   

    #Syria has been urged by News Outlets to Halt Abductions of Journalists #Peace 


     

     

    Image representing Associated Press as depicte...

    Image via CrunchBase

     

    #AceWorldNews says according to BEIRUT (AP) — Major international news organizations sent a letter to the leadership of the armed opposition in Syria Wednesday, calling for urgent action against rebel groups increasingly targeting journalists for kidnappings.

     

    The letter, signed by 13 news organizations including The Associated Press, is in response to a sharp rise in the kidnapping of journalists while on assignment in opposition-held areas in northern Syria.

     

    The widespread seizure of journalists is unprecedented and has so far been largely under-reported by news organizations in the hope that keeping the kidnappings out of public view may help with negotiating the captives’ release. The scale of the abductions — more than 30 are believed to be currently held — and the lack of response to individual mediation efforts have encouraged some families and employers to speak out.

     

    Most kidnappings since the summer have taken place in rebel-held territories, particularly in chaotic northern and eastern Syria, where militant al-Qaida-linked groups hold influence. Among the most dangerous places are the northeastern city of Raqqa, which was taken over by al-Qaida militants shortly after it became the first city to fall entirely into rebel hands; the eastern Deir el-Zour province; the border town of Azaz; and the corridor leading to Aleppo, once a main route for journalists going into Syria.

     

    “As long as kidnappings are permitted to continue unabated, journalists will not be willing to undertake assignments inside Syria, and they will no longer be able to serve as witnesses to the events taking place within Syria’s borders,” the letter said.

     

    Signatories to the letter are the AP, Agence France Presse, Reuters, BBC, The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, Atlantic Media, The Economist, Getty Images, The Guardian, the Los Angeles Times and The Telegraph.

     

    Colonel Riyad al-Asad and others announcing th...

    Colonel Riyad al-Asad and others announcing the FSA’s formation in an online video statement (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

     

    The open letter is being sent to the leadership of the Western-backed mainstream Free Syrian Army and to individual armed groups including the Islamic Front, an umbrella organization of six of the most powerful brigades in Syria.

     

    Syria’s rebels are a disparate group of brigades and battalions, increasingly dominated by Islamic extremists, including al-Qaida-linked groups such as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant and Jabhat al-Nusra.

     

    The closest thing to a central command is the Supreme Military Council of the Free Syrian Army, headed by Gen. Salim Idris, a secular-minded moderate. But he holds limited sway over the myriad groups inside Syria, some of which have broken away from the Free Syrian Army, announcing that the group did not represent them. Infighting between the extremists and moderates is on the rise, undermining their fight against President Bashar Assad.

     

    While jihadi groups are believed responsible for most kidnappings since the summer, government-backed militias, criminal gangs and rebels affiliated with the Free Syrian Army also have been involved. Their motives have ranged from ransom to prisoner exchanges.

     

    The Syrian National Coalition, Syria’s main opposition group in exile considered to be the political arm of the Free Syrian Army, condemned the kidnapping of journalists in a statement issued Wednesday.

     

    “The Syrian Coalition and the General Staff of the Free Syrian Army reiterate their commitment to exerting all efforts necessary to secure the release of all kidnapped persons and provide protection to journalists and human rights activists operating in Syria,” the statement said.

     

    The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists says approximately 30 foreign and Syrian journalists are missing and 55 have been killed since Syria’s civil war began in early 2011. CPJ also has documented at least 26 other journalists who disappeared this year but are now safe.

     

    Many of the abduction cases go unreported at the request of the families or employers. News organizations on a case-by-case basis are inclined to respect such requests, regardless of the identity of the person abducted, if they are convinced that publication would increase the danger for the victim.

     

    On Tuesday, the families of two Spanish journalists abducted nearly three months ago appealed publicly for their release, after failing to make contact with the captors via intermediaries. Javier Espinosa, Middle East bureau chief of El Mundo newspaper, and Ricardo Garcia Vilanova, a freelance photographer who was traveling with him, were taken captive Sept. 16 by members of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant at a checkpoint in the northeastern Raqqa province, the families said.

     

    In the letter, the 13 news organizations said it was “imperative” for the leadership of the armed opposition to commit itself to assuring that journalists can work within Syria, secure from the threat of kidnapping.

     

    “Among other things, we ask the leadership to assist in identifying those groups currently holding journalists and take the steps necessary to bring about their release,” the statement said.

     

     

     

     
  • #AceNewsGroup 19:59 on December 17, 2013 Permalink
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    Tony Cartalucci: UN’s Syria “Aid” Appeal is Bid to Relieve Trapped Terrorists 


    #AceWorldNews says rebel leaders hope to starve Colonel Gaddafi’s home town of Sirte into submission, laying siege to his last remaining stronghold in an attempt to avoid mass bloodshed, according to the man spearheading efforts for a peaceful takeover. #Syria

    UN’s Syria “Aid” Appeal is Bid to Relieve Trapped Terrorists

    By Tony Cartalucci
    Global Research, December 16, 2013
    Url of this article:
    http://www.globalresearch.ca/uns-syria-aid-appeal-is-bid-to-relieve-trapped-terrorists/5361767
    Copyright © 2013 Global Research

    In August 2011, the Telegraph reported in an article titled, “Libya crisis: Rebel leaders hoping to starve Gaddafi stronghold of Sirte into submission,” that:

    Rebel leaders hope to starve Colonel Gaddafi’s home town of Sirte into submission, laying siege to his last remaining stronghold in an attempt to avoid mass bloodshed, according to the man spearheading efforts for a peaceful takeover.

    Assisting them in the starvation of the 100,000 civilians who populated the coastal city of Sirte was NATO who rained bombs down upon the besieged city relentlessly while terrorists on the ground cut off electricity, water, gas, food, and other essential supplies.

    AP would also report on the starvation of Sirte in its article, “U.N. Warns Libya Is Short of Water, Fuel, Medicine:”

    Rebel commanders have been negotiating with tribal leaders in Qaddafi’s hometown of Sirte, hoping to avoid further bloodshed. They announced Thursday that they had extended the negotiations’ deadline for another week, from this coming Saturday.

    “We want to save our fighters and not lose a single one in battles with Qaddafi’s forces,” said Mohammed al-Rajali, a spokesman for the rebel leadership in the eastern city of Benghazi.

    “In the end, we will get Sirte, even if we have to cut water and electricity” and let NATO pound it with airstrikes, he said.

    And despite the title of the report, the UN made no mention of the tactics of the terrorists and their NATO backers. Instead, the UN was more concerned with aiding areas of the nation already taken by NATO’s proxy army.

    In 2011, the general consensus appeared to be that cutting off an entire city surrounded on all sides by desert and sea, constituted a “humane” and “peaceful” means of taking the remaining strongholds of the overthrown Libyan government. How times and the sensibilities of the West have changed…

    The Syrian Arab Army Surrounds Al Qaeda

    It is now the end of 2013, with the conflict in Syria having dragged on for three years. The Syrian government has decisively turned the tide against waves of NATO-backed foreign terrorists and their extremist collaborators within the country, having restored order in many parts of the country and having surrounded the terrorist proxies in a dwindling number of districts across the Syria.

    Image: “Humanitarian aid – Qatari Red Crescent-style.” As the UN prepares to flood the Syrian conflict with another 6.5 billion dollars, tales of how “aid money” is ending up facilitating the activities of terrorists inside and along Syria’s borders suggest the UN is not trying to provide mercy for the Syrian people, but perpetuate the tragedy further still. Were it truly interested in relieving Syrians, it would expose the true genesis of the conflictto the world and hold those responsible accountable.

    ….

    In some areas, the terrorists have been completely surrounded, cut off from reinforcements and supplies. Just as in Libya, the Syrian Arab Army is waiting for the terrorists to be starved out rather than attempt a bloody assault – the difference being that civilians – women and children – most certainly are allowed (at least by the Syrian government) to leave the besieged areas, leaving the terrorists alone.

    Reuters attempts to frame the Syrian government as obstructing aid and intentionally leaving women and children to starve and freeze to death. In its article titled, “Syria uses red tape, threats to control UN aid agencies,” it states:

    Syrian government is accused of using hunger as a weapon of war against its people and preventing U.N. aid staff in delivering food and medicines to rebel-held suburbs.

    Reuters continues (emphasis added):

    As the United Nations launched an annual appeal on Monday to help 16 million people affected Syria’s civil war, divisions among world powers that have crippled peacemaking are also denying UN staff the power to defy President Bashar al-Assad’s officials and push into neighbourhoods now under siege.

    “In government-controlled parts of Syria, what, where and to whom to distribute aid, and even staff recruitment, have to be negotiated and are sometimes dictated,” said Ben Parker, who ran the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) in Syria for a year until last February.

    “According to the Syrian government’s official position, humanitarian agencies and supplies are allowed to go anywhere, even across any frontline,” he wrote last month in the journal Humanitarian Exchange. “But every action requires time-consuming permissions, which effectively provide multiple veto opportunities.” Fighting and rebel groups are also obstacles.

    The United Nations appealed for $6.5 billion on Monday to help 16 million people affected by the Syrian civil war, including millions made hungry and homeless by the conflict soon entering its fourth year. The world body estimates about a quarter of a million Syrians are living under siege as winter bites, most of them encircled by government forces, but also including 45,000 in two towns in the north that are besieged by anti-Assad rebels.

    A binding Security Council resolution could formally oblige the authorities to let aid agencies into areas like the Damascus suburbs and the old city of Homs, where local doctors say children are dying of malnutrition. But divisions between Western powers, backing the rebels, and Russia, have paralysed the world body over Syria since the conflict began in 2011.

    Of course, Reuters excuses itself once again from having to qualify any of its claims – particularly those regarding the intentional starving and freezing of women and children. It does so by stating:

    Lack of access for independent agencies makes it hard to verify food and medical supplies in many areas. But opposition activists have posted video of the bodies of several skeletal children who local doctors say died of malnutrition.

    Once again, accusations of the Syrian government’s “crimes against humanity” are solely based on the “activists say” school of journalism, where “rebel” propagandists renowned as serial liars, have posted videos of unverified footage then reported as fact by their Western collaborators – with disclaimers later buried deep within reports.

    What the West is Using the UN for this Time

    The gambit is two-fold. First, to portray the Syrian government as guilty of yet more “crimes against humanity,” which then justifies the second – passing a binding UN Security Council resolution that would give the West direct access to their terrorist proxies inside of Syria under the guise of providing “humanitarian aid.”

    This is being done in conjunction with plans to drop the pretense of “moderate rebels,” and fully back Al Qaeda and other extremist fronts through a network of proxies including Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Turkey, and Jordan.

    In a recent e-mail leak released by the Syrian Electronic Army (SEA), correspondences between US contractor Matthew Van Dyke and Western journalists revealed that in addition to intentionally deceiving the public regarding the nature of the conflict, aid shipments were being used to smuggle in equipment, fighters, and weapons.


    Van Dyke being an armed militant himself, along with those in his company, riding freely back and forth between Libya and Syria on aid ships should raise suspicions at the very least regarding “aid” the UN plans to provide entrapped terrorists.

    Stories like Alakhbar English’s “Qatar Red Crescent Funds Syrian Rebel Arms,” also raises immense concern about so-called aid flowing into Syria specifically to help those fighting the government. The article reports:

    Sources in the investigation team said that Mahmoud confessed to receiving around $2.2 million from Khaled Diab, a Qatar Red Crescent official. He was then to hand the money over to a Lebanese cleric identified as O.O., born in 1983 and affiliated with Muslims Without Borders, in the Bekaa village of Bar Elias.

    “Through the cleric, Mahmoud was able to acquire 30 RPG launchers for $900,000 and 300 shells for $300,000, which were then transferred to Syria by a smuggler known as Anwar or his nom de guerre Abu Salah.” The smuggler then handed over the weapons to the Syrian national known as Abu Abdullah in the Damascus countryside.

    Mahmoud also bought 100 Kalashnikovs and an ammunitions cache for $40,000 from the Ain al-Hilweh Palestinian refugee camp in southern Lebanon. The source added that Mahmoud entered the refugee camp with the Syrian national Mohammad Abdullah, known as Abu Hamza, under the guise of distributing humanitarian aid to refugees from Syria.

    One can only imagine what will be bought and done with the $6.5 billion the UN has called for to assist those in terrorist-held territory. It will most likely be fed directly into the terror networks the NATO and its regional allies have been preparing to expand.

    Should the UN decide to truly care about ending the ongoing catastrophe that is the proxy invasion of Syria by foreign-backed terrorists, it could always point out the true nature of the conflict and hold those responsible for it, NATO and its regional axis, fully accountable. Anything less is but a criminal rouse meant to intentionally perpetuate the conflict and give the West yet another chance to end it on terms they find favorable.

    Copyright © 2013 Global Research

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  • #AceNewsGroup 16:50 on November 25, 2013 Permalink
    Tags: , , , , , , ,   

    #Syria Geneva Two Conference Will Convene On 22 January 2014 #Peace 


    Coat of arms of Syria -- the "Hawk of Qur...

    Coat of arms of Syria — the “Hawk of Qureish” with shield of vertical tricolor of the national flag, holding a scroll with the words الجمهورية العربية السورية (Al-Jumhuriyah al-`Arabiyah as-Suriyah “The Syrian Arab Republic”). (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

    #AceWorldNews says that Foreign Secretary, William Hague, said:

    I welcome the announcement by the United Nations that the “Geneva II” peace conference on Syria will begin on 22nd January. A negotiated political transition in Syria is the only way to end the conflict and alleviate Syria’s humanitarian crisis. I am determined to ensure that the political process includes a direct role for women’s groups, and we will work closely with the UN and the international community to make this a reality.

    When I hosted a meeting of the ‘London 11’ Core Group of the Friends of Syria on 22 October, we resolved to put our collective weight behind the Geneva II process, making clear that a political transition would mean that Assad can have no future role in Syria. I greatly welcome the opposition National Coalition’s decision to participate, recognising them as being at the heart and lead of the opposition delegation. Our support for them will be extended and sustained throughout the Geneva II process.

    The Syrian regime is now in the spotlight. They need to take immediate steps to alleviate humanitarian suffering across the country, and stop their brutal tactics which include besieging and attacking civilian areas. In the coming weeks they need to demonstrate that they will go to the Geneva II talks prepared to negotiate a political transition and end the violence.

     
    • Ace News Group 18:16 on November 25, 2013 Permalink | Reply

      #AceWorldNews says Mr. Ban called the upcoming conference, known as “Geneva II”, a “vehicle for a peaceful transition” that fulfills the legitimate aspirations of all the Syrian people for freedom and dignity, and which guarantees safety and protection to all communities in Syria.

      The goal of Geneva II would be to achieve a political solution to the conflict through a comprehensive agreement between the Government and the opposition for the full implementation of the Geneva communiqué, adopted after the first international meeting on the issue on 30 June 2012.

      The communiqué, which has been endorsed by the UN Security Council, lays out key steps in a process to end the violence. Among these, the establishment – based on mutual consent – of a transitional governing body with full executive powers, including over military and security entities.

      “I expect all partners and parties to demonstrate their support for constructive negotiations,” Mr. Ban said. “All must show vision and leadership.”

      He added that it would be “unforgiveable” not to seize this opportunity and reiterated that the conflict remains “the world’s greatest threat to peace and security” which can only be solved through political means.

      The fighting has killed more than 100,000, driven almost nine million from their homes, left countless missing and detained, and terrible violations of human rights, Mr. Ban said.

      In addition, it continues to send tremors through the region and has forced unacceptable burdens on Syria’s neighbors, he stressed.

      Mr. Ban urged all parties to begin working now and take steps to help the conference succeed, “including toward the cessation of violence, humanitarian access, release of detainees and return of Syrian refugees and internally displaced to their homes”.

      The UN chief expressed his “profound gratitude” to the initiating states, the Governments of Russia and the United States, as well as to other Member States and to the Joint Special Representative of the UN and the League of Arab States, Lakhdar Brahimi.

      Mr. Brahimi is due to brief journalists today in Geneva.

      Like

  • #AceNewsGroup 18:17 on November 21, 2013 Permalink
    Tags: , American Civil War, , , Kevin Connor, Martin Dempsey, , , , , , , , ,   

    The Economic Cost of a U.S. Military Strike on Syria 


    Launch of a Tactical Tomahawk cruise missile f...

    Launch of a Tactical Tomahawk cruise missile from the USS Stethem. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

    #AceWorldNews says as federal lawmakers and the American people grapple with the possibility of U.S. military intervention in Syria, NPP brings you  a new interactive tool tracking the Cost of National Security. The site features counters displaying the real-time running cost of U.S. military programs, including theTomahawk Cruise Missile – the weapon to be used in a strike on Syria.

    Courtesy of NPP’s Weekly Roundup

    null
    A snapshot of NPP’s rolling counter showing how much U.S. taxpayers have spent so far in 2013 on Tomahawk Missiles.

     

     
  • #AceNewsGroup 17:52 on November 19, 2013 Permalink
    Tags: , , Child Health Day, , Executive director, Humanitarian access, Lake, , , ,   

    #(UNICEF) is Calling for Greater Efforts to Ensure Humanitarian Access that will Safeguard the Lives of Thousands of Children#Peace 


    Flag of UNICEF

    Flag of UNICEF (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

    As the plight of civilians trapped by the Syria conflict grows more desperate, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) is calling for greater efforts to ensure humanitarian access that will safeguard the lives of thousands of children.

    The agency warned that children continue to be cut off from urgently needed assistance, including vaccinations, safe drinking water, shelter, education and psychological support.

    “As fighting continues, some areas have been under siege for months on end, leaving families struggling to survive,” <“http://www.unicef.org/media/media_70440.html“>said UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake. “Syria’s children have suffered too much, for too long, and will continue to bear the consequences of this crisis for many years to come.

    “We must be able to reach these children, urgently and without restrictions – and the various parties to the conflict can make that happen by immediately allowing humanitarian workers to reach them with life-saving assistance,” he said.

    Over two years into the conflict, which has claimed more than 100,000 lives and forcibly displaced almost one-third of the country’s population, “the needs remain immense,” said Mr. Lake.

    “To get to those we have still not reached, humanitarian workers have to be able to move freely and safely in all parts of the country and essential services must be protected.”

    UNICEF

    UNICEF (Photo credit: UNICEF Ethiopia)

    One practical example of how unimpeded access could save lives, he noted, is the forthcoming Child Health Day vaccination campaign that aims to protect children inside Syria from vaccine-preventable diseases, with a special focus on the 700,000 children that have not been reached through the most recent immunization campaigns.

    UNICEF added that vital services such as health and education also require special protection, stressing that schools and health facilities should not be targeted in fighting, but rather recognized as ‘zones of peace’ where women and children can seek assistance and support.

    The agency and its partners have faced severe difficulties for most of this year in reaching hundreds of thousands of children in Aleppo, Rural Damascus, major parts of Homs, Deir ez Zour and Rural Dara’a. Medical supplies, including vaccines, have been held up at checkpoints, and vital work on repairing water pipelines has been delayed.

    Unimpeded humanitarian access, stressed UNICEF, requires clear commitments on behalf of the Syrian Government and opposition groups for, among other things, humanitarian pauses in the conflict to permit aid workers safe access and freedom of movement to deliver services and supplies to those in need.

    Despite the challenges, UNICEF and its partners have been able to provide 10 million people inside the strife-torn nation with access to safe drinking water this year. They have also immunized 2 million children against measles over the last two years, and are currently delivering school supplies to enable 1 million Syrian children to resume learning in the country.

     

     
    • press inside 17:57 on November 19, 2013 Permalink | Reply

      Reblogged this on News-Press and commented:
      #(UNICEF) is Calling for Greater Efforts to Ensure Humanitarian Access that will Safeguard the Lives of Thousands of Children#Peace

      Like

  • #AceNewsGroup 12:46 on November 19, 2013 Permalink
    Tags: , , , , Executive Council, , , , , , ,   

    #Syria Latest Update OPCW Executive Council on Chemical Weapons #Peace 


    150 px

    150 px (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

    OPCW Executive Council adopts plan for the destruction of Syria’s chemical weapons programme in the first half of 2014

    Friday, 15 November 2013
    • Most critical chemicals to leave Syria by end of 2013 • Over 60 percent of unfilled warheads and bombs destroyed

    Sigrid Kaag, Special Coordinator of the OPCW-UN Joint Mission (Left) and OPCW Director-General Ahmet Uzumcu arrive at the Executive Council meeting on 15 November 2013 to discuss the destruction plan of the Syrian Chemical Weapons Programme.

    The OPCW Executive Council (EC) approved today a detailed plan of destruction to eliminate Syria’s chemical weapons stockpile. In the plan, Syrian chemical weapons will be transported for destruction outside its territory to ensure their destruction in the “safest and soonest manner”, and no later than June 30th 2014.

    “I welcome the decision reached today by the Executive Council,” said OPCW Director General Ahmet Ümzücü. “The plan provides a clear roadmap. It sets ambitious milestones to be met by the Government of Syria. This next phase will be the most challenging and its prompt execution will require the existence of a secure environment for the verification and transport of chemical weapons. Continuing international support and assistance for this attempt will remain crucial.”

    “I wish to express my sincere appreciation for all the States who have supported this mission – through both financial and in-kind contributions,” said OPCW-UN Joint Mission Special Coordinator Sigrid Kaag addressing the Council.  “I am currently reaching out to others to consider joining this international effort, which is key to the successful implementation of the Executive Council’s decision”

    The flag of Syrian Arab Republic / Damascus, Syria

    The flag of Syrian Arab Republic / Damascus, Syria (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

    The EC’s decision distinguishes between destruction actions “in the Syrian Arab Republic” and destruction activities “outside the territory” of Syria and stipulates intermediate destruction milestones leading to the complete elimination of its chemical weapons programme.

    The plan envisions the removal of all declared chemical substances and precursors, except for isopropanol, from Syria no later than 5 February 2014 with the “most critical” chemicals to be transported out of Syria by 31 December 2013.  Syrian declared chemical weapons facilities, will undergo sequenced destruction from 15 December 2013 to 15 March 2014 according to a risk-based criterion.

    With respect to activities outside Syria, the Executive Council decided that the destruction of the priority chemical weapons will be completed by 31 March 2014 and all other declared chemical materials by 30 June 2014.

    The OPCW Director-General will present a specific plan for the destruction of Syrian chemicals outside the territory of the Syrian Arab Republic which includes provisions for ensuring clear responsibility at each stage for all chemicals and takes into account all relevant consideration, including target dates, requirements for safety and security, and overall costs. The Director-General is also requested to establish a special Trust Fund for this purpose and to keep the Executive Council informed on progress and if target dates will be modified.

    Reporting on the progress on the ground, the Director-General informed the Executive Council that the OPCW-UN Joint Mission was able to verify the destruction of over 60 percent of Syria’s declared unfilled munitions to date.  As per the Executive Council decision, the Syrian Arab Republic has committed to destroy all unfilled munitions, composed of warheads and bombs, by 31 January 2014.

     

     
  • #AceNewsGroup 11:51 on November 10, 2013 Permalink
    Tags: , , , , , , , ,   

    #Syria OPCW and UN Confirm Verification of 22 of 23 Sites Disclosed Near Damascus #Peace 


    150 px

    150 px (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

    The Joint Mission of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) and the United Nations overseeing destruction of Syria’s weapons stockpiles confirmed verifying 22 of the 23 sites disclosed by Damascus.

    “The additional site inspected is in the region of Aleppo and was one of the two sites that could not be visited earlier due to safety and security reasons,” a UN spokesperson told journalists in New York.

    “The site was confirmed as dismantled and long abandoned, with the building showing extensive battle damage,” the spokesperson said.

    The verification was conducted with the support of sealed cameras used by Syrian personnel as per the inspection team’s guidance.

    The exact geographical location and the time of capture of the footage and images were “fully authenticated”, according to the information provided by the spokesperson.

    Information about the Joint Mission in Syria is now available on a dedicated <“http://opcw.unmissions.org“>website launched today.

    The site provides background on the establishment of the Joint Mission, its mandate and its activities relating to the destruction of Syria’s chemical weapons programme.

     

     
  • #AceNewsGroup 11:06 on November 10, 2013 Permalink
    Tags: , Flaccid paralysis, , Infectious disease, OpenDocument, , Rosenbauer, ,   

    #Syria Adding to the Pain of War with Outbreak of Polio #Peace 


    Child receiving polio vaccine.

    The United Nations World Health Organization (WHO) recently confirmed 10 cases of polio in conflict-stricken Syria, adding that health authorities in the country and neighbouring nations have already begun a comprehensive response to the outbreak.

    In a <“http://www.unog.ch/unog/website/news_media.nsf/(httpNewsByYear_en)/0665CEE9A5BA9B3FC1257C13003C1623?OpenDocument“>briefing to reporters in Geneva, WHO Communications Officer Oliver Rosenbauer said that out of 22 reported cases of acute flaccid paralysis (AFP), 10 had been confirmed as being the result of Wild Polio Virus Type 1. The remaining 12 cases are still being investigated.

    The cases were initially reported on 17 October in the Deir Al Zour province in the north-east region of Syria. Due to the protracted conflict, which has displaced millions, Syria had already been considered at high-risk for vaccine-preventable diseases. However, the country has not experienced a case of polio since 1999.

    Polio, whose virus enters the body through the mouth and multiplies in the intestine attacking the nervous system, is highly infectious and can cause total paralysis in a matter of hours.

    Initial symptoms are fever, fatigue, headache, vomiting, and stiffness in the neck and pain in the limbs. One in 200 infections leads to irreversible paralysis and among those paralyzed, five to 10 per cent die when their breathing muscles become immobilized.

    Mr. Rosenbauer said the next step was to look at the isolated viruses and identify where they came from, to shed light on the source of the outbreak.

    The 22 people who have been tested are children, mostly toddlers less than two years old. All of them appeared to be under or unimmunized, with some having received one dose of a vaccine and others not receiving any vaccination at all. Mr. Rosenbauer said the children came down with fever and were then paralysed.

    WHO

    WHO (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

    WHO spokesperson Glenn Thomas added that health authorities in Syria and neighbouring countries had already begun the planning and implementation of the comprehensive outbreak response.

    Meanwhile, a UN spokesperson in New York reported today that Anthony Lake, the Executive Director of UNICEF, ended a two-day visit to Damascus, where he said that the Syrian Government and agency had agreed on the importance of reaching hundreds of thousands of children in some of the worst-affected parts of the war-torn country with life saving vaccines, including those against polio.

    He said that Mr. Lake said that immunizing children is in its very nature non-political and has no connection to any military considerations. Mr. Lake said that, with cases of polio now emerging in Syria for the first time since 1999, vaccinating children against polio is an urgent and critical priority for Syria and for the whole world.

     
  • #AceNewsGroup 16:08 on November 6, 2013 Permalink
    Tags: , , , , , , , ,   

    #Syria Urgently Requires a Robust Development Response to Complement Ongoing Humanitarian and Refugee Efforts in the Region #Peace 


    Coat of arms of Syria -- the "Hawk of Qur...

    Coat of arms of Syria — the “Hawk of Qureish” with shield of vertical tricolor of the national flag, holding a scroll with the words الجمهورية العربية السورية (Al-Jumhuriyah al-`Arabiyah as-Suriyah “The Syrian Arab Republic”). (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

    The crisis in Syria urgently requires a robust development response to complement ongoing humanitarian and refugee efforts in the region, senior United Nations officials today said at the start of a meeting in Jordan.

    “A comprehensive development response to complement our humanitarian efforts in Syria and its neighbours is overdue. We are determined to change that,” <” http://www.undp.org/content/undp/en/home/presscenter/pressreleases/2013/11/02/the-united-nations-a-scaled-up-development-response-to-the-syria-crisis-is-critical-now/“>said Sima Bahous, Chair of the Regional UN Development Group, which is hosting the meeting, and Director of the Regional Bureau for Arab States at the UN Development Programme (UNDP).

    The meeting of the Regional UN Development Group, is expected to close with a plan focused on development in Syria and its immediate sub-regional context and how to put that response to action, according to a UNDP news release.

    Regional directors and representatives of more than 20 UN agencies, including UNDP, are in the Jordanian‘s capital of Amman to discuss means to harmonize UN responses to the conflict which has killed more than 100,000 people and forced millions to flee their homes within Syria and into neighbouring countries.

    Almost 97 per cent of Syria’s refugees are hosted in the immediate surrounding region, with around one million in Lebanon, followed by Jordan, Iraq and Turkey.

    “The spillover of the crisis into its four neighboring countries is impacting economic and human development outcomes in those countries at the national and local levels,” UNDP said in a news release.

    Key sectors including investment, tourism, trade and local production are affected at varying levels of intensity, according to the UN agency. The crisis also is raising concerns over possibilities of triggering tensions between refugees and local populations in those countries.

    Syria

    Syria (Photo credit: Yishac – Isaac Alvarez i Brugada)

    Recent impact assessments in the two countries most affected by the crisis – Lebanon and Jordan – raise concerns that the crisis may be seriously compounding the deterioration of their economies, which were already under stress, with direct impact on incomes and poverty levels especially among the most vulnerable populations.

    A joint World Bank-UN assessment in Lebanon estimates that over the period of 2012- 2014, the Syrian conflict may cut real GDP growth by 2.9 percentage points annually, leading to a cumulative loss in wages, profits, taxes and investment of up to $7.5 billion.

    The number of Lebanese who are living in extreme poverty could rise from 1 million to 1.17 million and the unemployment rate could double to above 20 percent.

    According to UNDP, official assessments in Jordan indicate that the Government has incurred over $251 million during 2012 to provide and maintain services and basic needs of Syrian refuges and estimate that additional costs needed to continue hosting them may reach $1.68 billion, excluding the additional costs for the camps.

    This burden has stifled efforts to recover economic growth in the Jordan from 8.15 per cent in 2005 to 2.3 per cent in 2010. According to the cited figures, the national unemployment rate rose to 13.1 per cent from 12.7 per cent.

     

     
  • #AceNewsGroup 20:30 on November 4, 2013 Permalink
    Tags: , , , , Regional UN Development Group, , , , UN agencies, UN Development Programme, , ,   

    UN: Today has Agreed to Launch a Concerted Effort to the #Syrian Economic Crisis #Peace 


    Save #Syrias ChildrenSenior United Nations development officials have agreed to complement ongoing humanitarian efforts in Syria and its neighbours with support for increased demands on basic services and to help the countries recover from economic downturns.

    “While we continue to provide essential humanitarian support, we must as well attend to development needs in a manner that is complementary, simultaneous and urgent,” <“http://www.undp.org/content/undp/en/home/presscenter/pressreleases/2013/11/03/building-resilience-to-save-the-future-un-agencies-to-scale-up-their-development-response-to-the-syria-crisis.html“>stressed Sima Bahous, Chair of the Regional UN Development Group, which is hosting the two-day meeting.

    UNDP “We must safeguard present gains in development and arrest potential roll-back, and at the same time, strengthen recovery and nurture innate capacities for development planning and delivery, so that people –supported by their local institutions— can cope with the ongoing crisis and build back their lives, better,” added Ms. Bahous, who is also the Director of the Regional Bureau for Arab States at the UN Development Programme (UNDP).

    Regional directors and representatives of more than 20 UN agencies, including UNDP, have met in the Jordanian capital of Amman since Saturday to discuss means to harmonize UN responses to the conflict which has killed more than 100,000 people and forced millions to flee their homes within Syria and into neighbouring countries.

    Almost 97 per cent of Syria’s refugees are hosted in the immediate surrounding region, with around one million in Lebanon, followed by Jordan, Iraq and Turkey.

    “The spillover of the crisis into its four neighbouring countries is impacting economic and human development outcomes in those countries at the national and local levels,” UNDP has said.

    Key sectors including investment, tourism, trade and local production are affected at varying levels of intensity, according to the UN agency. The crisis also is raising concerns over possibilities of triggering tensions between refugees and local populations in those countries.

    The outcome response plan has three main aspects. The first, to support governmental efforts at national and sub-national levels to ensure the provision of quality housing and related services, such as water, sanitation, energy and waste removal, and to rehabilitate and reconstruct the social economic infrastructure.

    The agencies will also strengthen technical and managerial capacities of municipal governments. That includes, according to UNDP, promoting peaceful coexistence within conflict-affected communities.

    Turning to livelihood opportunities and sustainable employment, the plan will focus on improving access to markets and financial services, stimulating productive investments, and formulating pro-poor policies to promote private sector engagement.
    The Regional UN Development Group also agreed to support development inside Syria, by addressing root causes of the conflict and restoring basic services, where possible, in areas of relative peace, and provide support to livelihood activities.

    The UN agencies also explored means to optimize partnerships and funding mechanisms between national and local authorities and among donors, international cooperation agencies and the Organization in order to support the proposed resilience-based development response.

    “Today, we have made an excellent start on a long journey,” said Gustavo Gonzalez, Sub-regional Coordinator of the Development Response, and “As of today, we are rolling our sleeves up” he said.

     
  • #AceNewsGroup 18:34 on November 2, 2013 Permalink
    Tags: , , , , OPCW Executive Council, , , , ,   

    OPCW UN-Team Awaits Next Step’s on Destruction of #Syria’s Chemical Weapon’s-#Peace 


    150 px

    150 px (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

    INTERVIEW: The Joint Mission of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) and the United Nations overseeing the destruction of Syria’s weapons programme confirmed yesterday that the Government has destroyed critical production equipment, rendering them inoperable. By doing so, Syria has met the deadline set by the OPCW Executive Council to complete the destruction of such equipment by 1 November.

    The next milestone for the mission will be 15 November, by which time the Executive Council must approve a detailed plan of destruction submitted by Syria to eliminate its chemical weapons stockpile. The UN News Centre spoke with the head of the mission, Sigrid Kaag, on Thursday about the latest developments, ahead of her visit to New York for talks next week at UN Headquarters.

    UN News Centre: Can you describe what you saw during your visit to Syria?

    Sigrid Kaag: I had the opportunity to visit Syria I believe around 10 days ago now. It was the first call on the Government to discuss the ongoing collaboration in pursuit of the mandate of the joint mission. I also had extensive discussions with the joint mission team – the team that I lead – on where we are with internal preparations, with logistics, with security, given the conditions in the country, and obviously, how we can best support the roll-out of the chemical weapons destruction plan, once approved by the Executive Council of the OPCW.

    I visited one site, where I was able to see first hand how the facilities, once rendered inoperable… how the complete destruction will take place and then how the inspectors continue with their monitoring and verification.

    UN News Centre: It has been announced that the mission has completed inspection of the sites declared by Syria. Are there any plans to go into the rebel-held areas?

    Sigrid Kaag: Of all the declared sites, obviously the joint mission has carried out its first inspection, and has verified the rendering as inoperable of the production facilities… For now, all security aspects are very much closely coordinated with the Government of Syria, which is responsible for the safety and security of the joint mission, as will be the case for other missions as well. And we look at issues of access, safety and security on a case-by-case basis in close coordination with the designated official of the UN family, but also with development partners and counterparts.

    UN News Centre: During your visit, did you have any contact with people who were affected by the use of chemical weapons?

    Sigrid Kaag: No, we did not.

    UN News Centre: What’s next for the joint mission?

    Sigrid Kaag and Abdel-Rahman Ghandour

    Sigrid Kaag and Abdel-Rahman Ghandour (Photo credit: United Nations Development Programme)

    Sigrid Kaag: We’re waiting of course for the big discussion and decision by the Executive Council on the 15th of November. In the meantime, we are preparing internally as a joint mission, making sure that we are fit for purpose, that we have a good understanding of the requirements in order to ensure effective implementation of the plan. And of course we are very committed to help the Government as a State Party meet its obligations under the [Chemical Weapons] Convention, and therefore, ensure the completion of the chemical weapons programme by the ultimate stated deadline of the middle of 2014.

    UN News Centre: Who is guarding the actual chemical weapons?

    Sigrid Kaag: This all falls on the State Party, it’s under its responsibility to ensure the safety as well as access to the sites as well as the weapons. But the production facilities – and that’s why it’s an important day today – the production facilities have been rendered inoperable. Particular discussions are ongoing as to the complete elimination of the chemical weapons themselves.

    UN News Centre: What will happen to the weapons now?

    Sigrid Kaag: That is all part of the ongoing discussions within the framework that was agreed between Russia and the US, and supporting the Syrian authorities to look at what is an optimal chemical weapons destruction plan. So it’s too early to comment, that’s for the Executive Council of the OPCW to discuss and to decide upon. Then [it’ll be] very clear what the role of the joint mission will be.

    UN News Centre:  Would such weapons normally be destroyed in the country or somewhere else?

    Sigrid Kaag: I think ‘normal’ doesn’t apply under the current conditions. There are different scenarios being discussed. My understanding is, from the perspective of OPCW, that under normal circumstances – which is always peacetime – chemical weapons are destroyed in country. However, as we know, the conditions in Syria are such that different options would be explored.

    UN News Centre: Having worked in the region for a number of years, this was not your first visit to Syria. What were your impressions this time around?

    Sigrid Kaag: Well, it’s hard to speak of an impression… On this visit, I have been in Damascus primarily, meeting counterparts, and I have been on site visits. So it’s very hard to speak of my impressions as being holistic. I can’t compare them to the types of visits I would undertake in past personal or professional visits. I think on the overall conditions, the Secretary-General has spoken consistently… the Emergency Relief Coordinator… my visit itself was primarily confined to Damascus, to ongoing dialogue with senior Syrian officials.

     

     
  • #AceNewsGroup 16:03 on November 2, 2013 Permalink
    Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , Zamalka   

    UN: #Syrian Refugee Numbers have Reached Over Three Million Many Still Without #Food 


    English: Logo of the UN World Food Programme i...

    English: Logo of the UN World Food Programme in SVG format (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

    The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) said that it is reaching close to 3.3 million people in Syria – a record for its operations – but many are still without food in areas cut off by fighting, particularly in Damascus and the capital’s besieged suburbs.

    “WFP is concerned about the fate of many Syrians trapped in conflict areas and still in need of urgent food assistance,” spokesperson Elisabeth Byrs told journalists in Geneva.

    “Some 3.3 million has reached in October, but the overall target for WFP for the entire Syria was to reach four million people by the end of December 2013,” the spokesperson added.

    Damascus and Rural Damascus remain one of WFP’s biggest challenges due to insecurity and the siege in many conflict areas, said Mr. Byrnes.

    People are still trapped in Moadamiyeh, she noted, but the UN agency has not been able to enter the area.

    “WFP and UN partners had made nine unsuccessful attempts to reach Moadamiyeh and could not confirm what exactly was happening in that area,” the spokesperson said.

    Since mid-2012, WFP had been unable to access 37 other locations, such as Daraya, Yarmouk, Hajar Aswad, Yalda, Babila, Sbineh, Douma, Jobar, Qaboon, Zamalka and Erbeen.

    These are some of the most deprived areas where “even the most basic items were in scarce supply”, the spokesperson noted.

    More than a dozen trucks with supplies are en route to the capital Aleppo, carrying enough food for 75,000 people as part of the Governorate’s October allocation.

    Despite the allocations, the city is one of the Governorates where food distribution has become difficult in recent months.

    World Food Programme FEED bag

    World Food Programme FEED bag (Photo credit: Rooey202)

    More children are being admitted to hospitals with acute and moderate malnutrition, the UN Children’s Fund said, also addressing the press.

    “The most difficult challenge in helping those children was access,” said UNICEF spokeswoman Marixie Mercado.

    The community is also grabbling with a lack of skilled professionals to deal with malnutrition.

     

     
    • lotharson 17:58 on November 2, 2013 Permalink | Reply

      I truly hope that the West will not foster the formation of a new Islamist state:

      http://lotharlorraine.wordpress.com/2013/11/01/on-syria-and-western-superiority/

      Like

      • Ace News Group 18:26 on November 2, 2013 Permalink | Reply

        I agree but l see that as with the latest news in Pakistan and the drone strike, just as the Taliban leader is ready, for peace! So it appears the US decides to launch a drone and stops the peace process, by killing a Taliban Leader!
        The West does not want Peace they want War, as War will hide the multitude of sins and hide their debt problems, as people will accept anything to raise funds for the War Chest!
        So l see the rise of Isam and a Islamic State as being inevitable,dread to think of the consequences!

        Like

        • lotharson 21:07 on November 2, 2013 Permalink | Reply

          Yes it is truly disgusting…and scaring for all Christians and Jews living there.
          It makes me sick to realize that the quality of life of the large majority of Syrian citizens will considerably degrade as a consequence of the Western willingness to impose (sorry, I meant “introduce”) democracy into all these countries.

          Like

  • #AceNewsGroup 14:01 on October 31, 2013 Permalink
    Tags: , , , Jemima Khan, , , , , , UNICEF UK   

    UNICEF: Obtains First Partner in Drive for Syria’s Children 


    Flag of UNICEF

    Flag of UNICEF (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

    The UK government will match pound for pound all public donations to UNICEF’s Syria appeal, International Development Secretary Justine Greening announced today. The boost comes through the government’s Aid Match system and will double the charity’s ability to help children caught up in the crisis.

    This is the first charity partnership in a major new initiative from the government that will provide critical support to charities working to reach Syrian children who are suffering as a result of the war.

    The initiative is intended to recognise the level of concern from the British public about the millions of children now in desperate need of help by matching the generous public response to charity appeals.

    A series of further match funding initiatives which could provide tens of millions of pounds in new support will be agreed and announced in the run up to Christmas to help the children of Syria cope with the onset of winter and the trauma of conflict.

    International Development Secretary Justine Greening said:

    Syria’s people are experiencing unimaginable hardship with millions of children in particular facing a bleak and uncertain future.

    The UK has already committed its largest ever humanitarian response to the crisis and we are now teaming up with UNICEF to double the power of donations from the British public.

    Our partnership with UNICEF means that donations to UNICEF’s appeal for the children of Syria will be matched pound for pound by the UK government.

    UNICEF UK Ambassador Jemima Khan, who will be co-hosting UNICEF’s Halloween Ball fundraiser tonight, said:

    For over two years, the children of Syria have been witnessing and experiencing one horror after another. I have seen UNICEF’s work in emergencies all over the World. They work tirelessly to reach every child, but they cannot do it alone and the need has never been so urgent, particularly with winter approaching.

    We hope to raise vital funds at The Halloween Ball this evening for the children of Syria and I am very grateful to the UK government who have pledged to match pound for pound everything we raise.

    Over four million children’s lives have been affected by the Syria crisis with over a million of them forced to become refugees. More than a million Syrian children are unable to access basic education and more than 5,000 schools have been destroyed or damaged.

    Match funding will mean UNICEF can provide potentially life-saving assistance to thousands more children both inside Syria and in neighbouring countries, where they have fled the continuing fighting.

    As well as clean drinking water, food, vaccinations and medical support, match funding will support UNICEF’s work to provide education and trauma counselling for children who have been exposed to the horrors of the conflict.

    Today’s announcement comes ahead of UNICEF’s Halloween Ball this evening, which will welcome up to 400 guests from the worlds of entertainment, fashion and business in order to raise vitally needed funds for the children of Syria. All public donations made for UNICEF’s work in Syria at the ball and over the following three months will be matched by the government under this agreement.

    The new Syria match funding initiative will support a range of work from charities operating inside Syria and across the region. This could include basic equipment for temporary schools, paying teachers, heating in the harsh winter, helping children get out of hard and exploitative work and preventing girls from being trafficked, as well as supporting programmes that aim to keep children warm and safe during winter months.

    Notes to editors

    1. The UK has committed £500 million to the Syria crisis, its largest ever response to a humanitarian crisis.
    2. The new Syria match funding initiative will run alongside the UK’s existing aid match programme. This matches public donations to charity appeals for organisations working around the world with funding from the international development budget. A total of £120 million will be available for UK Aid Match over the next three years.
    3. Last month Justine Greening announced that the UK will be providing desperately needed help including counselling and education to help prevent an entire lost generation of Syrian children. Establishing match funding partnerships with UNICEF and other British charities helping Syria’s children is a key part of this initiative.
    4. UNICEF is the world’s leading children’s organisation. It works with families, local communities and governments in more than 190 countries to save and change children’s lives.

    For full details of the UK’s humanitarian response to the Syria crisis, please visit: Syria Crisis: Latest updates on UK aid.

     

     
  • #AceNewsGroup 12:42 on October 31, 2013 Permalink
    Tags: , , , , , Middle East Peace Process, Palestinian National Authority, , Peace process in the Israeli–Palestinian conflict, Security Council Resolution, , , ,   

    Middle East Peace Process, Syria and Iran. 


    The Foreign Secretary William Hague said:

    Middle East peace ProcessMr Speaker, with permission I will make a Statement on the Middle East Peace Process, Syria and Iran. On all of these matters there have been important diplomatic developments over the last few weeks, and I wanted to inform the House of them at the earliest opportunity.

    It is impossible to overstate the challenges and the gravity of the threats in the region if current openings and opportunities are not brought to fruition. But on each of these subjects there has been some progress, and it is important that we build on that as rapidly and decisively as possible.

    Whatever the pressure of other issues, we must never lose sight of the importance and centrality of the Middle East Peace Process, to the lives of millions of Israelis and Palestinians and to international peace and security. I pay tribute to the leadership of US Secretary of State John Kerry, Prime Minister Netanyahu and President Abbas for the progress that has been made, including the resumption of negotiations in July.

    The United States has confirmed that there have been seven rounds of direct bilateral negotiations since then. Both sides have now agreed to intensify the pace of the discussions and increase American participation in them, with the goal of reaching a permanent status agreement within nine months.

    During the UN General Assembly Ministerial week in New York, my Right Honourable Friend the Deputy Prime Minister met President Abbas in New York, while I held talks with Israeli Minister of International Relations Yuval Steinitz. We reiterated the United Kingdom’s unequivocal support for a two-state solution based on 1967 borders with agreed land swaps, Jerusalem as the shared capital, and a just and agreed settlement for refugees. With our European Union partners we are ready to provide major practical support to both sides in taking the bold steps that are needed.

    This includes our bilateral assistance to the Palestinian economy and the institutions of their future State. The UK is one of the largest donors to the Palestinians, providing £349 million for Palestinian development over four years.

    My Right Honourable Friend the Secretary of State for International Development attended the Ad Hoc Liaison Committee established to oversee Palestinian state building and development. She recommitted the UK to provide predictable, long term assistance aligned with the priorities of the Palestinian National Authority: building strong institutions, promoting private sector growth and humanitarian aid.

    Department for International Development We are also supporting the Palestinian Economic Initiative which the US and Quartet are developing. DFID will shortly be launching a new £15m Palestinian Market Development Programme to help Palestinian SMEs enter new markets and to help mobilise investment. Economic progress can never be a substitute for a political settlement, but it is vital that the Palestinian people see tangible improvements in their daily lives.

    Mr Speaker, the situation in Syria remains catastrophic. More than 100,000 people have been killed, and the number of Syrian refugees has grown by more than 1.8 million in just twelve months, to over two million. We must always be clear that we will not have succeeded in our work until this violence has been brought to a stop, but nevertheless we were able to make some diplomatic progress in New York on our objectives, namely to prevent the further use of chemical weapons, to alleviate humanitarian suffering, and to promote a political settlement to the conflict.

    On the first of those, I attended the meeting of the United Nations Security Council on 27th September, which adopted the first Resolution on Syria in 17 months. Security Council Resolution 2118 requires the full implementation of the near-simultaneous decision of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, which sets out how Syria’s chemical weapons must be verifiably eliminated within the first half of 2014.

    For the first time, the Security Council Resolution imposes binding and enforceable obligations on the Syrian regime to comply, with the threat of action under Chapter VII of the UN Charter if it does not. It also stipulates that those responsible for any use of chemical weapons must be held accountable. I announced in New York £2 million in funding in order to enable the OPCW to deploy to Syria last week.

    They have reported early progress in identifying and destroying chemical weapons. Under their supervision Syrian personnel have commenced the destruction or disabling of missile warheads, aerial bombs and mixing and filling equipment, and are carrying out work to assess the accuracy and completeness of the information provided by the regime.

    OPCWBritish nationals who work for the OPCW are already deployed in Syria as part of the new destruction mission, and we stand ready to provide further support as necessary – such as personnel, technical expertise and information. The House should be in no doubt that the voluntary destruction of a deadly arsenal of weapons that until recently the Assad regime denied it possessed is an important step forward, and a vindication of the threat of military action by the United States of America.

    Second, hundreds of thousands of Syrian civilians continue to suffer atrociously from the regime’s use of conventional weapons. The UK is leading the way in alleviating desperate humanitarian suffering. In the UK’s annual address to the
    General Assembly the Deputy Prime Minister confirmed an additional £100 million in UK assistance, bringing our total humanitarian contribution to date to £500 million – the largest ever British response to a single crisis.

    The Prime Minister’s campaign begun at the G20 and followed up by our Embassies worldwide has helped to secure more than $1 billion in new international pledges of humanitarian assistance since the start of September, and we look to other countries to do more to meet the level of suffering and instability caused by such an unprecedented number of people in need.

    Throughout the General Assembly and particularly in the two meetings I had with the other permanent members of the UN Security Council, I pressed the case for a Security Council Presidential Statement urging the Syrian Government to allow unhindered access to people in need, including across borders, and calling on all parties to agree on humanitarian pauses in the fighting to allow the delivery of aid. This statement was subsequently agreed on 2nd October. With our encouragement, the UN Secretary General has announced his intention to convene a new pledging conference in January 2014.

    The House will know that the stability of Jordan and Lebanon is high among our priorities, and in that regard I attended with the P5 Foreign Ministers the creation of a new International Support Group for Lebanon during the General Assembly. The UK is now providing £69 million to help Lebanon cope with the refugee crisis. In addition we are providing £11 million of non-lethal assistance to the Lebanese Armed Forces. And we are helping Jordan with £87 million of UK aid for Syrian refugees and host communities.

    Third, on the political process, UN Security Council Resolution 2118 also formally endorsed the Geneva Communiqué of June last year for the first time, calling for the establishment of a transitional governing body exercising full executive powers, which could include members of the present Government and the opposition and other groups, formed on the basis of mutual consent. The Resolution calls for the convening of an international conference on Syria to implement the Geneva Communiqué.

    As Foreign Ministers we agreed with the UN Secretary-General that we should aim to convene the Conference in Geneva by mid-November this year. An intensive period of preparation will be required, led by UN and Arab League Special Representative Lakhdar Brahimi.

    I met Syrian National Coalition President Ahmed Al-Jarba in New York, who assured me the Coalition remains committed to an inclusive and democratic Syria; that they reject extremism; and that they are committed to the Geneva Communiqué. There can be no peaceful and political settlement in Syria without the participation of the moderate opposition, and we are providing more than £20 million in non-lethal support to the moderate opposition and will do more in the coming months.

    I discussed the conflict in Syria with the new Foreign Minister of Iran, who I met twice in New York, including with the E3+3 Foreign Ministers. And I also had further discussions with him by telephone yesterday.

    It is clear that the new President and Ministers in Iran are presenting themselves and their country in a much more positive way than in the recent past. There is no doubt that the tone of the meetings with them is different.

    We have agreed to resume negotiations on their nuclear programme in Geneva next week on 15 and 16 October. We are looking forward to seeing serious proposals from Iran to follow-up on their stated desire to make rapid progress with negotiations. It will be very important for Iran’s relations with the international community for the marked change of presentation and statements to be accompanied by concrete actions and a practical approach to negotiations.

    We must not forget for one moment that as things stand today, Iran remains in defiance of six UN Security Council Resolutions and of multiple Resolutions of the International Atomic Energy Agency Board of Governors, and is installing more centrifuges in its nuclear facilities. In the absence of change to these policies we will continue to maintain strong sanctions. A substantial change in British or Western policies on the Iranian nuclear programme requires a substantive change in that programme.

    However we must test the Iranian Government’s sincerity to the full, and it is important that our channels of communication are open for that.

    Mr Zarif the Foreign Minister and I discussed how to improve the functioning of the UK-Iran bilateral relationship. Our diplomatic relations suffered a severe setback when our Embassy compounds in Tehran were overrun in 2011 and the Vienna Conventions flouted, and when the Iranian Majles voted to downgrade relations with the UK.

    It is understood on both sides that given this history, progress in our bilateral relationship needs to proceed on a step-by-step and reciprocal basis. The Foreign Minister and I agreed our officials would meet to discuss this. The first such meeting has taken place already, and will be followed by a further meeting in Geneva next week. This includes discussion of numbers of and conditions for locally-engaged staff in the Embassy premises of each country and visits to inspect these premises.

    I have made very clear to Mr Zarif that we are open to more direct contact and further improvements in our bilateral relationship.

    We have therefore agreed that both our countries will now appoint a non-resident Chargé d’affaires tasked with implementing the building of relations, including interim steps on the way towards eventual re-opening of both our Embassies, as well as dialogue on other issues of mutual concern.

    We must not underestimate the difficulties ahead. Iran has a complex power structure, there are voices in Iran who do not agree with their Government’s stated desire to see progress on nuclear negotiations and a rapprochement with the West, and improvements in our bilateral relations will require confidence on both sides that those improvements can be sustained. But to be open to such improvements is consistent with our desire to finding a peaceful resolution to the nuclear dispute and the fact that we have no quarrel with the people of Iran.

    The House will be conscious that on all of these issues the coming months may be unusually significant, and replete with dangers but also with opportunities. Her Majesty’s Government will spare no effort to promote a peaceful resolution of each of these conflicts and crises, working closely with our allies at all times, and taking full advantage of every diplomatic opening, never starry-eyed but always pursuing progress through resolute diplomacy.

     

     
  • #AceNewsGroup 19:43 on October 28, 2013 Permalink
    Tags: Agshin Mehdiyev, , , , , , OIC, Organisation of Islamic Cooperation, ,   

    UN:Security Council Recognised and Encouraged Active Contribution of Organisation of Islamic Co-operation 


    Map of nations in Organization of the Islamic ...

    Map of nations in Organization of the Islamic Conference (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

    The Security Council today recognized and encouraged the active contribution of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) in the work of the United Nations in the fields of peacemaking, preventive diplomacy, peacekeeping and peace building.

    Reading out a statement, Ambassador Agshin Mehdiyev of Azerbaijan, which holds this month’s rotating presidency of the Council, said the 15-member body “recognizes and further encourages” the active contribution of the OIC in the work that aims to realize the purposes and principles embodied in the UN Charter.

    “The Council notes the commitment of both the United Nations and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation to foster a global dialogue for the promotion of tolerance and peace, and calls for enhanced cooperation to promote better understanding across countries, cultures and civilizations,” according to the statement.

    During the meeting which preceded the statement, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon <“http://www.un.org/sg/statements/index.asp?nid=7233“>urged the OIC and all leaders to “do everything possible to repair rifts and rebuild confidence between Muslim communities as well as stem the influence of radical armed groups and violent extremists.”

    The UN chief urged partnerships to be strengthened between the UN and OIC which “could be uniquely placed” to launch a major initiative with partners to help end the “profoundly worrying” heightened tensions between Sunni and Shia communities in Syria and other parts of the world.

    “This upheaval that has caused the loss of so many civilian lives and represents such a threat to wider security,” Mr. Ban stressed in his remarks to the 15-member Council.

    The UN and the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) has been “making progress” in dismantling and destroying the Syrian chemical weapons programme, said Mr. Ban, while urging continued efforts to reach a comprehensive political agreement “which reflects the will of the Syrian people.”

    150 px

    150 px (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

    Highlighting other regions where the OIC would play a positive role, the top UN official highlighted that organization’s potential role to help break the status quo in the occupied Palestinian territory and forge a way forward in the Middle East peace process within the agreed frame.

    He also cited the OIC’s plans to visit Myanmar and welcomed the delegation’s “constructive engagement” to reduce tensions.

    Mr. Ban also highlighted the OIC’s efforts in Afghanistan and Sudan, and urged further partnerships in Mali, following the milestone presidential election there.

    Noting that the OIC and its member States have made significant efforts to mitigate the terrorist threat, the UN chief stressed the importance of addressing the conditions conducive to the spread of extremism and terrorism, including by strengthening efforts to peacefully resolve conflict, promote the rule of law, protect human rights and ensure good governance.

    “Terrorism is not associated with any particular religion, culture or people’s,” he said. “However, in recent years, terrorist violence has disproportionately affected countries that are members of OIC, from the Sahel and North Africa to the Middle East and South Asia.”

    He noted that the importance of intercultural dialogue between and within faiths “is more important than ever” and urged continued efforts to foster a culture of peace and co-existence through efforts such as the UN Alliance of Civilizations.

    In 2005, an initiative of Spain and Turkey created the UN Alliance of Civilizations, a forum where civil society, governments and the private sector could learn from each other and stand up for tolerance and inclusively and against extremism and polarization.

     

     
  • #AceNewsGroup 18:55 on October 27, 2013 Permalink
    Tags: , , , , , , , , ,   

    Nineteen Islamist Groups Fighting to Topple President Bashar al-Assad have Rejected Outright a Mooted US-Russian #Peace Initiative for #Syria 


    Courtesy of Voice of Russia

    19 Islamist rebel groups bow out of Syria peace talks

    Photo: EPA

    Nineteen Islamist groups fighting to topple President Bashar al-Assad have rejected outright a mooted US-Russian peace initiative for Syria dubbed Geneva 2, a statement said.

    “We announce that the Geneva 2 conference is not, nor will it ever be our people’s choice or our revolution’s demand,” the groups said in a late Saturday statement read in an online video by Ahmad Eissa al-Sheikh, chief of the Suqur al-Sham chief.

    “We consider it just another part of the conspiracy to throw our revolution off track and to abort it.”

    The statement also warned that anyone who went to such talks would be committing “treason, and … would have to answer for it before our courts”.

    The statement comes weeks after dozens of major rebel groups across Syria said the Western-backed opposition umbrella grouping the National Coalition had “failed”.

    The Geneva talks slated for next month aim to bring rebel and regime representatives to the table in a bid to seek a negotiated end to the Syrian conflict, which according to a rights group has claimed more than 115,000 lives since it erupted in March 2011.

    The National Coalition is to meet on November 9 to decide whether to take part in the peace talks but has stated emphatically it will only attend if there are guarantees they Assad will step down.

    Assad for his part has said “the factors are not yet in place” for such talks, and he has repeatedly rejected negotiations with any group with ties to the rebels or to foreign states.

    Among the signatories to Saturday’s statement are powerful Islamist groups Liwa al-Tawhid, Ahrar al-Sham, Suqur al-Sham and Ahfad al-Rasul, which has fought against Al-Qaeda-affiliated fighters in Syria.

    Read more:

    Kerry and Lavrov discuss planned Syria conference

    Lavrov, Brahimi agree to continue work on convocation of Geneva-2 conference

    UN Syria peace envoy says Iran should come to Geneva talks

    Geneva-2: Obama knows Americans can’t use force – expert

    Syria opposition to decide November 9 on Geneva talks

     Voice of Russia, AFP
    Read more: http://voiceofrussia.com/news/2013_10_27/19-Islamist-rebel-groups-bow-out-of-Syria-peace-talks-5278/

     
  • #AceNewsGroup 13:03 on October 26, 2013 Permalink
    Tags: , , Chemical warfare, , , , , , , UN News, ,   

    #SYRIA, Chemical Weapons Watchdog Adapts to War Publicity #Peace 


    150 px

    150 px (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

    FEATURE: WORKING ALONGSIDE UN IN SYRIA, CHEMICAL WEAPONS WATCHDOG ADAPTS TO WAR, PUBLICITY

    After years of remarkable but largely unheralded success at ridding the world of mustard gas and deadly nerve agents like sarin and VX, inspectors from the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) have now been thrown into entirely new territory – working amid Syria’s bloody civil war and in the glare of the media following a surprise Nobel Peace Prize win two weeks ago.

    The acronym “OPCW” would likely have been met by blank stares a few weeks ago.  Now, even though the organisation has been thrust into the limelight, relatively few people understand its mandate or the dangerous work undertaken by its inspection teams.

    “This is an organisation that for 16 years has carried out its work very quietly. I would say we have even shunned publicity…but now, we’re trying to make it work for us,” said Franz Ontal, head of inspector training for the <“http://www.opcw.org/“>OPCW.

    In an interview with UN News Centre, Mr. Ontal, himself a former inspector, spoke of efforts to ensure that the 27-member team, working jointly with the United Nations in the embattled suburbs of Damascus, will carry out its tasks in a high-pressure setting while maintaining staff safety.

    He added, not without some pride, the watchdog agency is honoured by the Nobel win and that its inspectors are well-prepared for both the hostile environment in Syria and the media spotlight.

    Earlier this month, the UN Security Council endorsed Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s proposal to deploy up to 100 UN and OPCW experts in a multi-phase operation to carry out its resolution on eliminating Syria’s chemical weapons material and equipment, scheduled for completion by 30 June, 2014.

    The Council passed its measure after Syria agreed to join the Chemical Weapons Convention following a chemical weapons attack in late August that killed hundreds of people in the Ghouta suburb. An initial UN-led team that was headed to inspect that incident came under sniper fire. While no one was injured, one vehicle in the convoy was severely damaged, forcing the team to postpone its activities for a day.

    WMD world map

    WMD world map (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

    Both incidents threw into stark relief the deepening crisis in the country, where more than 100,000 people have already lost their lives and some 6.5 million others have been driven from their homes since protesters first sought the ouster of President Bashar al-Assad’s Government in March, 2011.

    The UN has called the OPCW into service as the implementing body of the 1997 Convention. It is responsible for monitoring and verifying chemical weapons destruction and has carried out inspections in Iraq and continues to work with, among others, the United States and Russia in destroying large stockpiles. In a recent success, the OPCW oversaw the destruction of 85 per cent of post-conflict Libya’s mustard sulphur agent.

    Yet, while the agency has tackled many challenges in the past, its current mission in Syria is different, said Mr. Ontal, underscoring that the war-time setting has added “another layer of concern” to the inspectors’ work.

    Normally confronted with stress related to dealing with hazardous materials, they are also carrying out their dangerous task while wearing flack vests and helmets to protect them from stray bullets and flying shrapnel.

    “These are two levels of stress that should never meet, but this is the environment in which we are working in Syria,” he said.

    Under such conditions, the joint OPCW-UN team will use the spotlight “to show that we are carrying out our duties responsibly.” Indeed, Mr. Ontal said: “We are in Syria to do a job. We want to show that we are not there to take sides. We are impartial and we plan to carry out our work in a professional and transparent way.”

    The inspectors have been on the ground since early October but are just now wrapping up their first week of activities with the UN under the Council’s official mandate.

    Spokesman Michael Luhan said this week the OPCW is confident Syria will meet the 1 November deadline for destroying all equipment used in the production chemical agents. He also flagged another milestone reached, adding that a complete, official, inventory of all Syria’s chemical weapons, munitions, and production facilities, was expected to be delivered to the Organisation’s headquarters ahead of schedule.

    Still, despite steady progress and cooperation on the ground, Mr. Ontal worries.

    “I’m an inspector myself. So I feel I speak from both sides and say that we just want to get everybody back home safely,” he said, noting that the organisation has a very good safety record – there have been injuries but no casualties – “and we want to keep that record and end our mission in Syria with no casualties.”

    “Also, I want us to do a good job. This is a tremendous responsibility given to us by the international community and we want to complete it in the safest most effective, efficient and transparent way.”

     
    • kaligrafinusantaraonline 14:04 on October 26, 2013 Permalink | Reply

      Hopefully joint UN team – OPCW can finish the job properly as said by Mr. Ontal.
      thank you for sharing this post

      Like

      • Ace News Group 14:33 on October 26, 2013 Permalink | Reply

        I total agree and all l would like to see is Peace for the people that are suffering these atrocities! This war has been going on for 2 years plus, but until the world’s media got involved on the Chemical Weapons, very few people were aware of over 100,000 plus people dying.

        Like

  • #AceNewsGroup 21:23 on October 25, 2013 Permalink
    Tags: , , , , , , , , ,   

    SECURITY COUNCIL’S LEADERSHIP ROLE VITAL TO END ‘APPALLING SUFFERING’ IN #SYRIA 


    United Nations

    UN OFFICIAL POST   
    After its call on all parties in Syria for humanitarian access to relieve the plight of civilians trapped by heavy fighting, the Security Council must show leadership to ensure cooperation for delivery of food and medicines, and protection measures, the United Nations Emergency Relief Coordinator urged today.

    “I am extremely disappointed that we have not been able to make further progress on the ground,” said Valeria Amos as she briefed the Council this morning on the humanitarian situation in Syria.

    “Three weeks have passed since the adoption of the Council’s Presidential Statement [on the issue]; with little change to report. Each day that passes without the parties upholding their most basic obligations results in more lost lives, more displaced people and more people denies access to the most basic services,” added Ms. Amos, who is also the Under-Secretary-general for Humanitarian Affairs.

    On 2 October, the Council, in a Presidential Statement, urged the Syrian Government to immediately allow cross border aid deliveries, and also called on all parties to the conflict to agree on humanitarian pauses in the fighting, with special attention to key delivery routes.

    The statement also deplored the escalating violence in a conflict that has already killed more than 100, 000 people and driven some 6.5 million other form their homes since opposition protesters first sought the ouster of the Government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in March 2011.

    “Words, despite their ability to shock, cannot really paint a picture of the grime and gruesome reality of Syria today,” Ms. Amos said in today’s briefing. “I call upon all members of the Council to exert influence and take necessary action to stop this brutality and violence. This Council’s leadership role is vital.”

    She said humanitarian pauses are needed in all locations “where communities are being held hostage by one party of the other to the conflict” to deliver food, medicine and shelter. “We need those who control the check-points, on both sides of the conflict to ensure the safe and unhindered passage of humanitarian convoys,” she added.

    English: Valerie Amos, Baroness Amos at the 20...

    English: Valerie Amos, Baroness Amos at the 2007 World Economic Forum on Africa (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

    Ms. Amos also said that people must be allowed to move to safer areas without fear of attack and that he Syrian Government must immediately lift all bureaucratic impediments to humanitarian operation, including visa delays.

    The suffering will only get worse as the fighting intensifies and winter sets in, she said, warning: “this is a race against time.”

    Speaking to reporters after her briefing, Ms. Amos reiterated her disappointment at the lack of progress in efforts to alleviate the suffering in Syria and said: “What we are seeing is a deepening of the crisis, more and more people affected and in particular I expressed my concern about the extremely brutal and violent nature of this conflict.”

    Ms. Amos said she asked the Council to consider a number of measures which would help implement the Presidential Statement and had expressed the desire to discuss the issues in further detail.

    She said Council members had listened to her proposals “very carefully” and had asked questions of their own, including on the attitude of both the Government and the opposition to the aims of the Statement; on the security situation and what might be hampering aid delivery; and on specific issues such as the situations of women and children.

    “The situation on the ground has not fundamentally changed [since the adoption of the Presidential Statement]. What I need is the political support of the Security Council members and other Members of the United Nations to really make a difference,” she said.

    On the political front, UN Spokesperson Martin Nesirky said the Joint Special Representative for Syria of the UN and the League of Arab States, Lakhdar Brahimi, is in Qatar today, where he met the Emir to discuss the crisis and preparations for an international conference on Syria, to be held in Geneva.

    He said that yesterday, Mr. Brahimi was in Turkey where he met with General Salim Idriss of the Free Syrian Army and 10 of his military commanders, and they also discussed the holding of a conference on Syria. “The Joint Special Representative reiterated his view that there is no military solution to the Syrian crisis and that all efforts should be exerted to stop the conflict and end the suffering of the Syrian people,” Mr. Nesirky said.

    He said that before travelling to Doha, Mr. Brahimi met today in Ankara with Ahmet Davotuglu, Turkey’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, to discuss preparations for the Geneva conference. Mr. Brahimi heads to Tehran tomorrow.

    Related articles

     

     
  • #AceNewsGroup 18:35 on October 22, 2013 Permalink
    Tags: , , Edwards, , , , , , , ,   

    #Syria has fully co-operated with Joint OPCW-UN Mission to Destroy Chemical Arsenal #Peace 


    150 px

    150 px (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

    The Syrian Government has been fully cooperating with the destruction of its chemical weapons programme, the head of the joint mission of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) and the United Nations today said.

    “To date, the Government of Syria has fully cooperated in supporting the work of the advance team and the OPCW-UN Joint Mission,” said Special Coordinator Sigrid Kaag in a <“http://www.un.org/sg/offthecuff/index.asp?nid=3144“>statement from Damascus.

    She noted that the timeframes are “challenging” given the goal of eliminating the country’s chemical weapons programme in the first half of 2014.

    Inspections so far have been conducted at 17 sites, the OPCW confirmed today. At 14 of these sites, the inspectors carried out activities related to the destruction of critical equipment to make the facilities inoperable.

    “The Technical Secretariat continues to assist Syria in Damascus in finalising its initial formal declaration covering its chemical weapons and related facilities,” the OPCW noted on its website.

    Meanwhile, the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) is racing against time to help Syrians prepare for oncoming winter as temperatures across the region are already dropping.

    Spokesperson Adrian Edwards <“http://www.unhcr.org/526659cb6.html“>told journalists in Geneva that UNHCR relief aid has been delivered to some 2,500 people who have now been evacuated from Mouadamiya in Rural Damascus, where thousands are still believed to be trapped.

    In addition to monitoring the general condition and protection concerns of these internally displaced people, UNHCR delivered relief items including mattresses, blankets, cooking sets, hygienic supplies and other aid.

    WAGGGS-UNHCR badge

    WAGGGS-UNHCR badge (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

    Humanitarian agencies have been denied access to Mouadamiya for months, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA). Its chief, Valerie Amos, reiterated in recent days calls on all parties to agree an immediate pause in hostilities there and to allow humanitarian agencies unhindered access to evacuate the remaining civilians and deliver life-saving treatment and supplies in areas where fighting and shelling is ongoing.

    Last week, through local partners, UNHCR delivered aid within the hard-to-reach city of Raqqa to more than 10,000 people. Raqqa, located in northern Iraq, hosts internally displaced people from Deir es Zour and from Aleppo, 160 kilometres to the west.

    “UNHCR observed that many of the displaced are living in buildings that lack windows, doors and electricity. People in this area will soon urgently require thermal blankets and plastic sheets to deal with winter temperatures,” Mr. Edwards said.

    The conflict, which began in March 2011, has claimed over 100,000 lives, sent more than 2 million people fleeing for safety to neighbouring countries and displaced 4.5 million within Syria.

    “Virtually every town and city across Syria is affected by the conflict or hosts traumatized, displaced people,” the spokesperson said.

    Women told us they lacked privacy in the collective shelters, Mr. Edwards noted. He added concerns about the vulnerability of women, many heading broken households.

    In addition, the UN agency is worried about the impact of the crisis on young people, almost two million of whom have dropped out of school and a growing number of which are being exploited for labour or recruited into armed groups.

     

     
  • #AceNewsGroup 17:09 on October 22, 2013 Permalink
    Tags: , , Friends of Syria Group, , , , , , , ,   

    Friends of #Syria Meeting to be Hosted in London#Peace 


    William Hague speaks on behalf of ‘London 11’ after core group of the Friends of Syria and President of National Coalition meet in London.

    After the conclusion of a core group of the Friends of Syria meeting which he had hosted in London, the Foreign Secretary spoke on behalf of the group.

    The Foreign Secretary William Hague said:

    We have just concluded an important and productive meeting of the Foreign Ministers of the Friends of Syria core group, including the President of the Syrian National Coalition.

    We have met against the backdrop of the regime’s escalating use of indiscriminate and disproportionate force against the people of Syria. They are using tanks, torture, artillery, SCUD missiles, air attacks; laying siege to desperate people; and presiding over the creation of a humanitarian catastrophe.

    Members of the opposition have spoken powerfully about people starving and women and children suffering at the hands of the regime. The only sustainable way to end this conflict and the suffering of innocent Syrian civilians is through a political transition in Syria. The purpose of our meeting today has been to send a signal of our resolve, our unity and determination in brining that about, building on the diplomatic progress made during the UN General Assembly last month.

    We have agreed a number of important steps today:

    First, we agreed that we would put our united and collective weight behind the UN-led Geneva II process, which must lead to establishing by mutual consent a Transitional Governing Body with full executive powers as set out in the Communiqué in 2012. By definition that means that it can only be agreed with the consent of the Syrian National Coalition. So Assad will play no role in that future Government of Syria.

    Second, despite the enormous challenges faced by the Syrian opposition, we urged the National Coalition to commit itself fully to the Geneva II process and to lead and form the heart of any opposition delegation. Geneva offers the Syrian people the best hope to improve their lives.

    Third, we agreed with them that we will provide the intensive political and practical support that will be required to give the Geneva II process the best chance of success.

    Fourth, we agreed a set of principles, attached to today’s communiqué, that underline the unity of our approach to the Geneva II process as the Friends of Syria core group.

    We agreed the Syrian opposition, including the moderate armed groups, and moderate opposition represented by the coalition continue to need our strong collective backing. There can be no peaceful and political settlement in Syria without the participation of the moderate opposition. So we pledged further support to them.

    Syria

    Syria (Photo credit: Yishac – Isaac Alvarez i Brugada)

    President Al Jarba attended lunch and made clear, as in New York, his support. We are as clear as he is that Assad has no part in the future of Syria.

    The UK will continue to support the opposition in its efforts to help and protect the Syrian people from the murderous abuses of the regime through the more than £20 million in support to the opposition that we have provided this year. This is support that to helps to save lives and provide services to the Syrian population – including search and rescue equipment and training, power generators, communications, support and training to civil administrations.

    Between now and Geneva II Conference, we plan to announce a further package of UK support, including substantial non-lethal support to the National Coalition working with General Idris of the Free Syrian Army’s Supreme Military Council. This assistance is likely to take the form of communications, medical, and logistics equipment. It will help them to save lives on the ground.

    None of us has lost sight of the deepening humanitarian disaster.

    As winter approaches, the risks are growing to the nearly 7 million Syrians in need. This is compounded still further by the actions of the regime. The UN Emergency Relief Coordinator Valerie Amos said yesterday that the UN continues to be denied access on the ground to those in need of humanitarian assistance by obstacles placed by the Syrian regime. In the suburbs of Damascus, many innocent Syrians remain trapped as a result of the regime’s siege tactics. This is unacceptable and full and uninhibited access for humanitarian aid to people in need must be allowed.

    We have intensified the humanitarian support our eleven countries are providing, and encourage others to do the same through further funding pledges and we will be pressing the case for humanitarian access as called for by the UN Security Council on 2 October.

    The UK is the second largest humanitarian donor to the Syria conflict with over £500 million of aid allocated to date. Yesterday, we announced a further £15.5 million of lifesaving support to Palestinian refugees both inside Syrian and in neighbouring countries. This will include food for over 150,000 people and clothing for people in need of urgent help.

    Our eleven countries will continue to work closely together in the weeks leading up to a Geneva Conference to ensure it has the best possible chance of success, and the people of Syria finally get the political transition they so desperately need and deserve.

     

     
  • #AceNewsGroup 19:37 on October 19, 2013 Permalink
    Tags: , , , , , Moadamiyeh, , , , ,   

    #SYRIA: UN Humanitarian Chief Urges Safe Passage for Civilians Trapped in Rural Damascus 


    English: Emblem of the United Nations. Color i...

    English: Emblem of the United Nations. Color is #d69d36 from the image at http://www.un.org/depts/dhl/maplib/flag.htm (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

    The United Nations humanitarian chief on Saturday called for a ceasefire in Moadamiyeh in Rural Damascus to allow aid agencies access to evacuate thousands of civilians trapped by the ongoing conflict in Syria.

    “The humanitarian community has stressed time and time again that people must not be denied life-saving help and that the fighting has to stop,” Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Valerie Amos said in a <“https://docs.unocha.org/sites/dms/Documents/Statement%20by%20USG%20Valerie%20Amos%20on%20Moadamiyeh,%20Syria%2019Oct2013.pdf“>statement.

    Humanitarian agencies have been denied access to Moadamiyeh for months, the statement noted. Although the evacuation of more than 3,000 people took place on Sunday, the same number or more remain trapped. There are reports of continued shelling and fighting in the area, preventing the completion of the rescue operation.

    “I call on all parties to agree an immediate pause in hostilities in Moadamiyeh to allow humanitarian agencies unhindered access to evacuate the remaining civilians and deliver life-saving treatment and supplies in areas where fighting and shelling is ongoing,” said Ms. Amos, who is also UN Emergency Relief Coordinator.

    Those already evacuated from Moadamiyeh received immediate assistance from the Syrian Arab Red Crescent, UN humanitarian agencies and partners, local businesses and private individuals, including food, medical treatment and psycho-social support.

    Ms. Amos said she continues to be “extremely worried” by the situation unfolding across Syria where ordinary women, children and men are facing horrific violence and brutality from all sides of the conflict.

    Thousands of families also remain trapped in other locations across Syria, for example in Nubil, Zahra, old Aleppo town, old Homs town and Hassakeh.

    “Civilians must be allowed to move to safer areas without the fear of attack,” stressed Ms. Amos.

    “It is vital that all parties to the conflict respect their obligations under international human rights and humanitarian laws to protect civilians and to allow neutral, impartial humanitarian organizations safe access to all people in need, wherever they are in Syria.”

    The conflict, which began in March 2011, has claimed over 100,000 lives, sent more than 2 million people fleeing for safety to neighbouring countries and displaced 4.5 million within Syria.

    #AceWorldNews #syria #peace

     

     
  • #AceNewsGroup 19:43 on October 18, 2013 Permalink
    Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,   

    UN-Urges-Countries-to-Ensure-Safe-Passage-for-#Syrians-Fleeing-Conflict 


    Flag of United Nations Refugee Agency

    Flag of United Nations Refugee Agency (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

    With the numbers of Syrians seeking safety in Europe on the rise, the United Nations refugee agency <“http://www.unhcr.org/cgi-bin/texis/vtx/search?page=search&docid=526108d89&query=Italy“>said today it is concerned about difficulties displaced people face during their passage and at borders, including the risk of drowning at sea.

    Melissa Fleming, chief spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), cited the case of a boat carrying between 400 and 500 Syrians and Palestinians that sank in the Mediterranean last Friday. Only 200 people have been rescued.

    “We are disturbed that the cause of the tragedy could well be attributed to shots that were fired after the boat left Libya, injuring four passengers and damaging the hull,” Ms. Fleming told a news conference in Geneva.

    The same day, she noted, a boat sank just off Alexandria in Egypt with an estimated 112 passengers on board, 40 of whom were Syrian. Twelve bodies were recovered, including five children. The survivors are being held in detention facilities in two police stations.

    They were among a growing number of Syrians trying to cross the Mediterranean from Egypt to Italy because of anxiety about their security, according to UNHCR. Many mention physical assaults, verbal threats, detention and deportation.

    The Egyptian Government estimates that some 250,000 to 300,000 Syrians currently reside in Egypt, of whom more than 122,000 are registered with UNHCR.

    Between January and the end of September, at least 7,557 Syrians and Palestinians arrived on the coast of Italy, including 6,233 since August in 63 boats. This compares to about 350 Syrians in 2012. Most of the Syrian refugees that reach Italy continue on to other countries in Europe in search of asylum.

    UNHCR was particularly concerned about the increasing number of unaccompanied children making the voyage. As the cost of travel can range from $2,000-$5,000 per person, some families opt to send their children alone or with relatives or friends.

    “UNHCR notes with concern that over 800 Syrians have been arrested in Egypt since August for attempting to illegally depart and 144, including 44 children, have been deported to third countries,” said Ms. Fleming.

    “Although charges have not been laid, approximately 589 Syrians remain in administrative detention, including women and 84 children. UNHCR is seeking access to the detained in order to properly verify numbers, conditions, and needs, or provide legal assistance,” she added.

    United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees ...

    United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

    UNHCR recognizes that a number of countries in North Africa are increasingly affected by the displacement caused by the Syria crisis, placing additional demands on their infrastructure and resources. Given the dramatic needs of Syrian refugees, which are likely to continue and grow in the immediate future, reinforcement of capacity to receive them in North African countries is increasingly urgent, the agency stressed.

    UNHCR is working with Governments, the European Union and other partners to put in place a comprehensive response to saving lives of refugees and migrants at sea. It is calling for a number of measures to prevent further tragedies and increase responsibility sharing.

    Generous approaches to protection are needed, Ms. Fleming noted, including non-penalization of those arriving without identity documents, offering flexibility in the application of family reunification criteria and procedures, dispensing with certain visa requirements, and facilitation of the entry of Syrians for work, study, family or humanitarian purposes under national programmes.

    More than 100,000 people have been killed since opposition groups first sought the ouster of President Bashar Al-Assad in March 2011. The conflict has also sent 2 million people fleeing for safety to neighbouring countries and displaced some 4.5 million people internally.

     

     
  • #AceNewsGroup 18:08 on October 17, 2013 Permalink
    Tags: , , , , Royal Commission, , , UN Commission of Inquiry, , , ,   

    Press release – Human Rights and Democracy Report 2012 – 2013 – #Syria 


    Coat of arms of Syria -- the "Hawk of Qur...

    Coat of arms of Syria — the “Hawk of Qureish” with shield of vertical tricolor of the national flag, holding a scroll with the words الجمهورية العربية السورية (Al-Jumhuriyah al-`Arabiyah as-Suriyah “The Syrian Arab Republic”). (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

    Latest update: 30 September 2013

    The human rights situation in Syria has continued to deteriorate in the period between July and September 2013. The conflict has reached devastating proportions: more than 100,000 Syrians have been killed, 6.8 million are in need inside Syria and over 5.8 million Syrians have been forced to flee their homes, with over 2 million people fleeing to neighbouring countries. Nearly a third of the Syrian population is in urgent need of humanitarian assistance.

    In light of the deteriorating humanitarian situation, the UK announced a further £100 million of humanitarian assistance on 25 September to help get essentials such as food, water and medicine to Syrian people in dire need. This brings the UK’s total to half a billion pounds, the UK’s largest response to a single humanitarian crisis. This reflects the scale, despair and brutality of the situation.

    We remain in full support of the UN Commission of Inquiry, who continue to gather evidence of human rights violations and abuses with the aim of bringing those responsible to account. Their latest report, published on 11 September, highlighted how civilians are continuing to suffer from the ongoing fighting. The report described crimes against humanity and war crimes being committed by the regime and its forces, and serious violations committed by extremist anti-regime armed groups. The report concluded that there is no military solution to the conflict, and that a political solution founded upon the tenets of the Geneva communiqué is the only path to peace.

    Against this background, the UK welcomed the adoption by the UN Human Rights Council of a new resolution on 27 September, which condemned the use of chemical weapons, called for the perpetrators of human rights violations and abuses to be held to account and demanded full access for the UN Commission of Inquiry and humanitarian workers. The resolution also condemned the use of chemical weapons and contained language on preventing sexual violence.

    On the same day, the UN Security Council unanimously adopted a resolution on Syrian chemical weapons, ending a 17-month stalemate in the Security Council on Syria. The UK strongly supported this resolution, which is a welcome step towards our broad objective of achieving a political solution to end the crisis. We continue to work towards a second Geneva conference to bring all sides together. We are appalled by the chemical weapons attack in Damascus on 21 August, which led to the death of hundreds of civilians and wounded many more. All evidence points towards government responsibility for the attacks. The Prime Minister and Foreign Secretary have consistently made clear that those responsible for the most serious international crimes in Syria should be held to account, and we believe the situation in Syria should be referred to the International Criminal Court.

    Since April 2012, we have committed over £40.5 million in non-humanitarian assistance to address the Syria crisis. This includes support to the moderate opposition, local councils, human rights defenders and civil society. We have provided equipment to help protect these groups and enable them to provide security and services to the Syrian people; this equipment includes armoured vehicles, body armour, generators, communications equipment and training for human rights activists.

    Latest update: 30 June 2013

    Syria

    Syria (Photo credit: ewixx)

    In the period between April and June 2013, the human rights situation in Syria continued to deteriorate. Over 93,000 Syrians have died, more than 1.6 million are refugees and 4.25 million have been displaced within Syria due to the conflict.

    We remain in full support of the work of the UN Commission of Inquiry, who continue to gather evidence of human rights violations and abuses with the aim of bringing all those responsible to account. Their latest report, published on 4 June highlighted the new levels of brutality evident in the conflict; including documented cases of the use of chemical agents, the systematic imposition of sieges, forcible displacement and sexual and gender based violence and abuse. The report notes that whilst anti-government armed groups have also committed war crimes, their violations and abuses did not reach the intensity and scale of those committed by government forces and affiliated militia.

    The UK welcomed the UN Human Rights Council’s adoption of a new resolution on 14 June, which strongly condemned the intervention of all foreign combatants, including those fighting on behalf of the Syrian regime. It urged all parties to refrain from any actions which may contribute to an increase in the number of violations of human rights and international law. The resolution stressed the need to follow-up on the Commission of Inquiry’s report and conduct a transparent and independent investigation into all violations of international law by all parties.

    We also welcomed the UN Human Rights Council’s previous resolution adopted on 28 May, centred upon the Syrian government’s siege of Al-Qusayr. The resolution strongly condemned the violations of international law by Syrian authorities and government-affiliated militias, in particular the regime’s use of ballistic missiles and other heavy weapons against the people of Al-Qusayr. The resolution demanded that the Syrian authorities allow free and unimpeded access by the UN and humanitarian agencies, and requested that the Commission of Inquiry urgently conducts a comprehensive inquiry into the events in Al-Qusayr. In a statement on 4 June, the Foreign Secretary, William Hague, reiterated the request, calling on Assad’s forces to allow immediate humanitarian access to Al-Qusayr.

    The UK remains committed to achieving a political solution to the crisis based on a vision for a united, inclusive and democratic Syria. As the Geneva Communiqué states, the public services must be preserved or restored. This includes the military forces and security services. However all governmental institutions and state offices must perform according to professional and human rights standards. We also condemn in the strongest possible terms all human rights violations and abuses in Syria, committed by anyone, including indiscriminate attacks on civilians. We call on all sides to respect international humanitarian and human rights laws, noting the particular responsibility of the Syrian authorities in this regard.

    There are now 1.6 million refugees registered/in process in neighbouring countries, and nearly a third of the Syrian population is in need of urgent humanitarian assistance. The UK is doing all it can to help all those affected by the violence and is playing a leading role as a bilateral donor to the international humanitarian response. We have already contributed £173 million in humanitarian aid so far. This has provided food for over 132,000 people across Syria, clean drinking water for almost 1 million people and almost 300,000 medical consultations. As announced at the G8, the UK is now set to double its contribution, bringing our total support to £348 million, with over £100 million going to the UN appeals. The funding includes our ongoing humanitarian aid, as well as development assistance to Jordan and Lebanon, both of whom have seen a dramatic increase in the number of Syrian refugees in recent months.

    The UK has also continued to provide support via non-lethal assistance, geared towards strengthening the moderate opposition, supporting civil society and helping to reduce the effects of regional spill over. This assistance includes training for human rights activists, communications equipment, body armour and water purification kits. This has brought the total of our non-lethal assistance to £30million.

    Further Information

    Read and comment on the country of concern – Syria

    Read and comment on the Human Rights and Democracy Report 2012 in full

     

     
  • #AceNewsGroup 13:50 on October 17, 2013 Permalink
    Tags: , , Alex Jones, Graham, , Jack Weinstein, , , , ,   

    Whistleblowers warn America of nuke movements 


    Emblem of the Nuclear Weapons Center of Air Fo...

    Emblem of the Nuclear Weapons Center of Air Force Materiel Command of the United States Air Force located at Kirtland Air Force Base (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

    On September 3, whistle-blowers inside the US military alerted independent and mainstream media outlets about the mysterious movement of America’s dusty old nuclear warheads stored at an Air Force base in Texas. Witnesses described how the nukes were loaded onto semi-trucks bound for a military base in South Carolina. With the base commander present and approving the transfer verbally, no paperwork was ever noticed by any of the whistle-blowers.

    Infowars was one the first outlets to alert the public. “Alex Jones here with a breaking emergency alert for Infowars.com,” Jones began his news announcement, “We’re in Texas and have military sources at a major Air Force base in west Texas that have reported to us the unprecedented event of secret nuclear weapons that were stored there being removed and transferred out of the base today, to be shipped to South Carolina.”

    Read the Whiteout Press article, ‘Obama reportedly redeploys Nukes for Syria Escalation’ for complete details.

    English: Lindsey Graham, U.S. Senator from Sou...

    English: Lindsey Graham, U.S. Senator from South Carolina (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

    Sen. Lindsey Graham’s cryptic warning

    South Carolina’s Republican US Senator has made some bizarre comments over the last year, almost all in support of launching numerous new wars around the globe. It was Senator Graham (R-SC) who has ceaselessly argued that the US should join the Syrian rebels and launch a war against the Assad regime. Not stopping there, Graham insists that once Assad is removed from power, the US should turn on its Syrian rebel allies and annihilate them too.

    Also on September 3 – the same day as the secret nuke transfers and the suspension of America’s #2 nuke commander – Sen. Graham ominously warned the nation that his home state of South Carolina was in danger of being nuked by Iran. The only way to guarantee the entire city of Charleston would not be murdered, Graham insisted, was to launch a pre-emptive war against both Iran and Syria.

    Published by Infowars, CBS News quoted the Senator. “He [Graham] says if there is no US response [to Syria], Iran will not believe America’s resolve to block Iran from developing nuclear weapons. Graham also says those nuclear weapons in the hands of terrorists could result in a bomb coming to Charleston Harbour.”

    Constant critics of America’s war machine and empire-builders immediately put the events of that one single day together and warned of an impending ‘false flag’ attack on South Carolina. They reiterated that on that one day, Sept. 3:

    • Nuclear command secretly moves nuclear warheads from Texas to South Carolina.
    • The #2 Commander of US nukes is suspended.
    • South Carolina Senator Lindsay Graham warns that Iran may attack South Carolina with nukes.

    Second nuke Commander removed from duty in same week

    Just days later, the Washington Post reported that the Air Force’s top nuclear weapons commander was also removed from duty, joining his Navy counterpart. Neither the Air Force nor the Obama administration would comment on the reason for his removal.

    English:

    English: (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

    The Post reported, ‘The Air Force removed Maj. Gen. Michael Carey, a 35-year veteran, from his command of 20th Air Force, responsible for all 450 of the service’s intercontinental ballistic missiles. Carey, who took his post in Wyoming in June 2012, will be reassigned pending the outcome of an investigation into personal misbehavior, the service said.’ Showing why so many critics of the federal government are suddenly nervous and suspicious, the outlet writes, ‘Removing senior officers in the nuclear force is rare but has happened twice this week.’

    Echoing the suspicions of a number of government critics, Infowars closed its report describing Gen. Carey’s replacement as commander of the Air Force’s nuclear weapons, ‘The highest level generals have now installed a new commander, Pentagon Air Force Commander Jack Weinstein, who may be willing to do the bidding of higher-ups that the previous two nuke commanders would not.’

    Courtesy of the Whiteout Press – Article – October 13 – 2013   http://www.whiteoutpress.com/articles/q42013/what-s-obama-doing-with-america-s-nuclear-warheads/

     
    • joecruzmn 19:16 on October 17, 2013 Permalink | Reply

      Reblogged this on These Christian Times and commented:
      UPDATE ON SECRET NUCLEAR WARHEAD TRANSFER: Over a month ago I did an article titled The False Flag Connections. Ace News services has done a great job of connecting all related articles concerning this grave situation. I HIGHLY ADVISE YOU to click on all links to see how deep the rabbit hole goes. This is a story that hasn’t died off and something the main stream media isn’t really reporting. I am usually not the type to get into conspiracies, but something had to be done about this story especially with the warning Sen. Lindsey Graham gave. That was one of the reasons why I put the story up on my Blog. We must always be vigilant and seek truth. Please take the time to read and see what has happen since the transfer occurred. What was the reason for this Transfer? Where are the currently located? Why hasn’t the media been more vocal? Something doesn’t smell right and there is a possibility of a FALSE FLAG ATTACK until we know the answers to this story. God bless you and please don’t hesitate to share the word and love of Jesus Christ

      Like

      • Ace News Group 19:38 on October 17, 2013 Permalink | Reply

        Thanks for re-blog and comment l have also started following your blog The Christian Times!
        Regards #AceNewsServices

        Like

        • joecruzmn 19:40 on October 17, 2013 Permalink | Reply

          Thanks bud and you did a great job on all related articles. Keep doing what you do and if its great I will reblog. I have started to follow you as well. Let me know if it states that I am following you to make sure. God Bless

          Like

          • Ace News Group 19:49 on October 17, 2013 Permalink | Reply

            Sorted Joe for your notification l am called Ian and l always make sure, l research posts and articles for the truth! It is hard to find and sometimes l have to wait to publish, but if l get any follow to this story will post. Thanks for the follow.

            God Bless Joe

            Like

            • joecruzmn 19:55 on October 17, 2013 Permalink | Reply

              It is hard to find people willing to do the things you do. I am proud of people like you willing to risk reputation to search for truth. I cant wait to read some of your other articles.

              Like

  • #AceNewsGroup 22:00 on October 15, 2013 Permalink
    Tags: , British Council, , , , , , , , , , the British Council   


    British teachers form partnerships with Lebanese and Jordanian schools to provide support for Syrian refugee children.

    British secondary school pupils will help Syrian counterparts who are refugees affected by the crisis, through a twinning initiative announced today by International Development Secretary Justine Greening.

    The scheme, run through the British Council, will partner UK schools with Lebanese and Jordanian schools teaching Syrian refugee children. British school children will get the chance to link up with refugee children and hear first-hand about the reality of life from those who have been affected by the situation in Syria.

    Under the initiative, British teachers and educators will form partnerships with schools in the region and provide support to their counterparts on a range of issues such as:

    • specially tailored teaching and learning resources to show schoolchildren in the UK the impact of the Syria crisis;
    • Syrian, Lebanese and British children sharing their experiences through Skype and letter writing; and
    • opportunities for teachers to share ideas, lesson plans and to work on joint projects together.
    Coat of arms of Lebanon Deutsch: Wappen von Li...

    Coat of arms of Lebanon Deutsch: Wappen von Libanon Español: Escudo de Líbano עברית: סמל לבנון (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

    The scheme will focus initially on schools in Lebanon, which currently hosts more than a quarter of a million Syrian refugee children, an even higher number than there are Lebanese children. The scheme plans to expand to other schools in Jordan and more widely across the region.

    Justine Greening said:

    “Syrian secondary school children should not miss out on an education because their country is at war. We must do all we can to prevent a lost generation of Syrian children, and I want to give their UK counterparts and teachers the chance to play their part in our support.

    Teachers in Syria’s neighbouring countries are working tirelessly to ensure that everyone in their classroom has the chance to learn, no matter where they are from. But they are under tremendous pressure from cultural and language differences and the sheer weight of numbers of refugee children.

    “This initiative will give British teachers and educators the chance to make a direct difference. It will also pave the way for British school children and Syrian refugee children to build friendships, share their experiences and gain a better understanding of the wider world they are all growing up in.”

    The initiative will build on the Connecting Classrooms programme that the British Council already runs, drawing on existing partnerships with 20 schools in Jordan and Lebanon. In particular, it will work with schools in Lebanon where 20-30 per cent of pupils are refugees, in order to identify areas where support is most needed. The UK is already working with partners in Lebanon to identify the particular needs of schools there and how best to respond to these.

    Over the next two months, the British Council will run a recruitment drive to find new UK schools to partner with 16 Lebanese partner schools already looking for links with the UK. It will also prioritise UK-Lebanon/Jordan links for future school partnership application rounds (25 October 2013 and February 2014), with a focus on those schools in Lebanon and Jordan particularly affected by high numbers of refugee pupils.

     
  • #AceNewsGroup 20:11 on September 3, 2013 Permalink
    Tags: , , , Ali Larijani, , , August, , , , , CBS, , Chemical Weapons Convention, , , , Faisal Mekdad, , , , , , , Ministry of Foreign Affairs (Iran), , , , , , , , , , , , September 7 2013, , Stephen Rapp, , , , , , , , , ,   

    #Syria Crisis Live – As it happens – when it happens #peace 


    International pressure has been building for a military strike on Syria in the wake of an alleged chemical weapons attack in a Damascus suburb. The West has laid the blame at the feet of President Assad, as UN experts collected chemical samples on-site.

    All Syria’s chemical weapons production lines destroyed – OPCW

    Published time: October 31, 2013 11:45

    An image grab taken from Syrian television shows an inspector from the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) at work at an undisclosed location in Syria (AFP Photo/Syrian television )
    Download video (15.31 MB)
    Damascus has met the first disarmament deadline, having destroyed all previously declared chemical weapons production and mixing equipment, the international watchdog has confirmed.

    The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) has acknowledged that Damascus has complied with the watchdog’s decision, adopted on September 27, on complete elimination of chemical weapons and means for production in Syria before November 1.

    Teams of experts have visited 21 out of 23 declared chemical weapon production sites (with 41 buildings and structures) and witnessed destruction of equipment at the facilities. The only two uninspected facilities were “too dangerous” to visit, but inspectors have confirmed that equipment from those two had been previously evacuated to safe locations and also destroyed.

    “The OPCW is satisfied it has verified, and seen destroyed, all declared critical production/mixing/filling equipment from all 23 sites,” the OPCW document states.

    PCW Director-General, Ahmet Üzümcü, has already welcomed a group of eight inspectors back to the OPCW headquarters in The Hague. They had worked in Syria as part of the Advanced Team since October 1.

    Yet thousands of tons of warfare agents and chemicals remain to be eliminated.

    Earlier Ahmet Üzümcü confirmed that Syria declared the possession of 1,300 tons of chemicals and precursors needed for chemical weapons production, as well as over 1,200 empty chemical munitions.

    The process of elimination of all Syria’s chemical weapons is expected to take nine months.

     An image grab taken from Syrian television on October 19, 2013 shows an inspectors from the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) at work at an undisclosed location in Syria. (AFP Photo/Syrian television)An image grab taken from Syrian television on October 19, 2013 shows an inspectors from the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) at work at an undisclosed location in Syria. (AFP Photo/Syrian television)

    It must be mentioned that on October 11 the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons was awarded the Nobel Prize for unprecedented efforts in eliminating chemical weapons. Over the 16 years of the OPCW’s watch, more than 80 percent of chemical weapons stockpiles worldwide have been eliminated.

    The program of total elimination of Syria’s chemical arsenal was initiated by Moscow after the August 21 attack in Damascus, where malefactors of disputed origin used homemade chemical agents to slaughter civilians.

    Some US allies in the Middle East called on Washington to start military aggression against Syria, on the pretext that it was the regime of President Bashar Assad that had used chemical weapons against its own people.

    The US administration accepted Russia’s proposal to force President Assad to give up chemical stockpiles, amid accusations from allies that Washington was breaking its promise to launch a military strike on Assad if he crossed the ‘red line’ of resorting to chemical weapons.

    However, Washington opted not to be dragged into yet another military conflict in the Middle East.

    UN inspectors visit 21 of 23 chemical sites in Syria

    The security situation in Syria has prevented international inspectors from visiting two remaining chemical weapons sites, according to the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons. Inspectors have visited 21 out of 23 chemical sites, Itar-Tass reported. “The two remaining sites have not been visited due to security reasons,” the Hague-based international watchdog said in a statement. It added that Syria has presented in time a formal declaration on its chemical weapons program, including a schedule of their destruction.

    Friday, October 11

    Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical W...

    Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons Plaque (Photo credit: PEO, Assembled Chemical Weapons Alternatives)

    08:00 GMT: This year’s Nobel Peace Prize is set to go to the OPCW, the organization currently tasked with overseeing Syria’s chemical weapons arsenal handover to international hands – according to a Norwegian public broadcaster.

    03:25 GMT: Nearly two dozen of the commentators who appeared on major media outlets to discuss a possible US military strike on Syria had relationships with contractors and other organizations with avested interest in the conflict, according to a new report.

    OPCW Update – October 9  

    150 px

    150 px (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

    CHEMICAL WEAPONS WATCHDOG URGES COOPERATION IN SYRIA TO CARRY OUT UN-JOINT MISSION
    New York, Oct  9 2013  3:00PM
    The head of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) today called on all parties in the Syrian conflict to cooperate so that a joint United Nations mission tasked with overseeing the destruction of the country’s chemical stockpiles can carry out its work as quickly as possible.

    “We have urged all parties in Syria to be cooperative and to contribute positively to this mission,” the OPCW’s Director-General, Ahmet Üzümcü, said during a press conference in The Hague, and added that temporary ceasefires will permit the experts to carry out their work.

    “Much depends on the situation on the ground,” he said, stressing that the deadline for destroying the chemical weapons is “extremely tight” and that there have been significant logistical and security challenges.

    “I think that the elimination of those weapons is in the interest of all. Therefore, if we can assure some cooperation by all parties and some temporary ceasefires could be established in order to permit our experts to work in a permissible environment… I think the targets could be reached,”

    The UN Security Council unanimously adopted a resolution two weeks ago calling for the speedy implementation of procedures drawn up by the OPCW for the “expeditious destruction of the Syrian Arab Republic’s chemical weapons programme and stringent verification thereof.”

    The destruction of chemical weapons facilities, stocks and associated material is the responsibility of the Syrian Government, since neither the OPCW nor the UN is mandated to conduct actual destruction activities.

    An advance team for the UN-OPCW mission began its work on 6 October, and Mr. Üzümcü said some equipment has already been destroyed. He added that first verification activities have to be completed by the end of this month and production facilities will have to be rendered unusable by that time as well, with the view of destroying all chemical weapons capabilities by mid-2014.

    Mr. Üzümcü said Syrian authorities have been cooperative so far, and added that 12 additional experts were deployed to Damascus, the capital, today.

    Monday, October 7

    12:45 GMT: People in countries whose governments are not directly involved in the Syrian crisis mostly oppose military intervention against the government of President Bashar Assad, a Reuters/Ipsos poll showed. Overall, 52 percent of people surveyed in September favored military intervention and 57 percent were against their own country taking part in such an operation.

    The survey was conducted in 15, mostly European countries, but excluded Iran, Russia and China, which are supporting Damascus in the ongoing crisis, as well as Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Qatar, which are most directly involved in the rebels’ fight against the Syrian government.

    In the survey, Argentina was the country most strongly opposed to military intervention in Syria, with 68 percent of people against it.

    Some 36 percent of people surveyed said that Assad’s government was responsible for the use of chemical weapons, the accusation which the US voiced as a reason for a possible strike in Syria. About a quarter believe that both the Syrian army and the opposition used chemical weapons at some point of time, while another quarter said they didn’t know who was behind the attacks.

    12:37 GMT: The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons has posted a statement on its website, saying that Syria is being “cooperative” in the operation to destroy its chemical weapons arsenal.

    “Discussions were held with the Syrian authorities on the disclosure which Syria earlier provided to the OPCW on its chemical weapons program,” the statement said, adding that the talks were “constructive.”

    Saturday, October 5

    6:00 GMT: The Syrian government has gone beyond its pledge and handed over additional information on its chemical weapons program to international experts. UN spokesman Martin Nesirky said the new data had been received by the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) and the OPCW countries should expect an update by Tuesday.

    Thursday, October 3

    18:00 GMT: The initial United Nations report on how Syria will dispose of its chemical weapons will be presented on October 7, says Russian UN envoy Vitaly Churkin.

    “The chemical weapons experts are already in place in Syria, and have started work” Churkin told Rossiya-24, a Russian news channel.

    “The UN Secretary General’s report on October 7 will indicate what role the United Nations will play in the carrying out of the chemical weapons resolution passed by the Security Council.”

    16:26 GMT: An international team of chemical weapons experts who arrived in Damascus on Tuesday has been making “encouraging initial progress” according to the UN. It is working towards the full elimination of Syria’s chemical weapons stockpiles  – a task they believe to be achievable by mid-2014.

    “Documents handed over yesterday by the Syrian Government look promising, according to team members, but further analysis, particularly of technical diagrams, will be necessary and some more questions remain to be answered,” said the UN statement.

    Tuesday, October 1

    14:50 GMT: The Israeli ambassador to Moscow, Dorit Golender, has said that her country backs the plan to place Syrian chemical weapons under international control. “Israel has welcomed the US-Russia plan. But results are determined by deeds,” Golender told RIA Novosti.

    12:26 GMT:
     The team of twenty international OPCW inspectors who are tasked with the elimination of chemical weapons in Syria have entered the country from Lebanon over the Masnaa border.

    11:30 GMT: Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has expressed doubts that the West will be successful in getting the Syrian opposition to take part in the ‘Geneva-2’ peace conference due to be held mid-November.

    “Regarding opposition representation – this remains to be settled. Until recently we have been relying on our Western partners who pledged to push the opposition to the negotiations table and we hoped they would manage it quickly. But so far they have not succeeded. And I am not sure they will by mid-November” Lavrov told reporters at a press conference.

    11:00 GMT: Russian representatives will work alongside the OPCW inspectors in Syria and take active part in the operation to dismantle chemical weapons in the country, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov told reporters.

    Monday, September 30

    20:43 GMT: Work on the destruction of chemical weapons in Syria will begin October 1, UN spokesman Martin Nesirky confirmed. “The beginning of this joint operation is scheduled for tomorrow,” he stated at a briefing in New York. Nesirky added that a group of UN experts have returned from Syria and said their report will be completed by the end of October.

    20:19 GMT: Turkey’s parliament will debate the motion to authorize military strikes on Syria this Thursday, Deputy Prime Minister Bulent Arinc told Turkish media.

    15:05 GMT: China says that it will send its experts to oversee the destruction of Syria’s chemical weapons arsenal.

    13:45 GMT: China has condemned an attack on its embassy in Damascus, in which one embassy staff was injured. A spokesman for the Chinese Foreign Ministry has also demanded that “all parties in Syria strictly adhere to the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations and ensure the safety of diplomatic organizations and their members in a proper way.”

    Earlier on Monday, Chinese media reported that an area adjacent to the country’s embassy in Damascus was shelled by mortar rounds, and that one of the shells exploded in the embassy’s yard, damaging one building and injuring at least one member of staff. The diplomatic mission temporarily suspended its work, but no evacuation of staff was reported.

    11:31 GMT: The team of UN experts investigating use of chemical weapons in Syrian civil war left Damascus on Monday after completing their six-day mission to investigate several cases of alleged chemical weapons use in the country. The investigators’ report, on seven separate cases of alleged use of chemical weapons during the Syrian conflict, is due to be presented sometime in October.

    09:38 GMT: France was ready to launch air strikes against Syria’s chemical weapons facilities on Sept. 1, Le Nouvel Observateur reported, but the country’s president, Francois Hollande, had to call the operation off after President Barack Obama decided to seek approval from the US Congress for a military operation against Syria. France’s Rafale fighter jets had planned to launch missiles while flying the Mediterranean, without entering Syrian airspace, the news magazine reported.

    08:56 GMT: The Council of Europe’s parliamentary assembly, which advises the European Union on human rights issues, plans to hold an urgent debate on Syria on Oct. 3 in Strasbourg, France.

    Russia’s representative to the assembly, Duma Foreign Affairs committee chairman Aleksey Pushkov, told journalists that the assembly should pass a resolution on the conflict.

    “Syria is the key issue in international politics and there is no doubt that PACE should have a resolution,”Pushkov said, adding that there had been a “serious evolution” in the country. “While two years ago, the prevailing view was that there was a democratic revolution in Syria and people are fighting tyranny, now opinions have changed toward Russia’s stance on this issue,”  Pushkov said.

    Sunday, September 29

    21:13 GMT: The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) have seen a “positive start” to their work in Syria, Itar-Tass reports, citing an OPCW brief in the Hague. “So far our interaction with the Syrians has been very businesslike and very efficient,” said an OPCW official. Both parties’ intention is to develop a relationship based on mutual trust, saying that the OPCW team of experts have no reason to believe that the Syrian government is trying to hide its chemical weapons. The OPCW brief also said that no unannounced inspections of chemical weapons sites are planned, as that would facilitate mistrust between the two sides.

    Saturday, September 28

    20:07 GMT: Damascus will not accept any transition plan that excludes President Bashar Assad, Foreign Minister Walid al Moallem told AP Saturday on the sideline of the UN General Assembly. “For the Syrian people, Bashar Assad is the elected president until mid-2014, when presidential elections will be held,” al Moallem said. Earlier the foreign minister told RT that the Syrian civil war could end in weeks if the West and Gulf States stopped supporting the insurgents on the ground.

    18:50 GMT: Russia reached its aim of making sure professionals from the international chemical weapons watchdog are the main actors regarding the UN resolution on Syria, and that there are no loopholes for military action, Russian FM Sergey Lavrov told Russia’s Channel One News.

    Lavrov admitted the Russian-American compromise on the UNSC resolution “did not come easy.” But the Russian side has “achieved its goal” in that the resolution on Syria, supporting another document by the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), “remains within the framework of the Geneva Communiqué.”

    00:17: GMT: The UN Security Council has unanimously adopted a resolution outlining the details of taking under international control and ultimately destroying Syria’s chemical weapons arsenal.

    The target date for a new peace conference in Geneva was set for mid-November. However, the Syrian opposition should be represented at the Geneva peace talks in a single delegation, the Secretary-General said.

    The adopted resolution calls for consequences if inspectors decide that Syria has failed to fulfill its obligations.

    Friday, September 27

    22:50 GMT: The Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) has adopted a decision on Syria chemical arms by consensus, the UK ambassador to the UN said.

    The Executive Council has adopted the decision regarding #Syria

    — OPCW (@OPCW) September 27, 2013

     

    22:30 GMT: The meeting of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) is taking place several hours later than planned. This could push back the timeframe of the Security Council vote on a draft resolution even further.

    The UK ambassador to the UN has announced that the meeting of OPCW in the Hague has been delayed until delayed until 00:30 local time or 18:30pm EDT. The OPCW Executive Council was earlier planning to meet at 22:00 Friday.

    The UN Security Council is scheduled to meet at 20:00 EDT for a ministerial level vote on a draft resolution on Syrian chemical weapons.

    Thursday, September 26

    17:10 GMT: France has stated that progress is being made over a UN Security Council resolution on Syria’s chemical weapons.

    Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said that “France’s demands have been satisfied at this point,” and that talks have “progressed overall,” following Wednesday’s meeting of five powers. However, there remain“some issues to clarify” before a resolution is adopted, he told reporters.

    17:00 GMT: Martin Nesirky, the spokesperson for UN Secretary-General Martin Ban Ki-Moon said that the format of a meeting on Syria involving Ban Ki-moon, Lavrov and Kerry is broadening and will naturally involve United Nations and Arab League Special Envoy to Syria, Lakhdar Brahimi. “We already said that a trilateral meeting with Minister Lavrov, Secretary of State Kerry, as well as the Secretary General, and naturally Mr. Brahimi, would take place. This format is now expanding,” he said.

    15:55 GMT: UN chemical arms experts have started their mission the day after returning to Syria. For security reasons, their schedule and the sites they will visit have not being disclosed. According to UN spokesman Martin Nesirky, the UN experts’ agenda will depend on the situation. Syria initially agreed to allow UN experts to visit three different locations. The teams will focus on examining 14 alleged attacks when chemical weapons or chemical agents were used.

    Wednesday, September 25

    08:54 GMT: UN chemical experts have once again returned to Damascus, AFP says.

    Tuesday, September 24

    17:00 GMT: The solution to the Syrian conflict must be a political one, as too much time has been wasted in solving the country’s crisis, French President Francois Hollande said in his speech at the opening day of the UN General Assembly.

    But the French president reiterated that the UN Security Council resolution on Syria should include the application of Chapter 7 of the UN Charter, which allows the use of military force.

    16:44 GMT: The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons has approved a draft resolution on Syria, a diplomatic source told the RIA Novosti news agency. The source added that the organization did not have any outstanding issues with the proposal, and added that the UN Security Council would draft a resolution only after the OPCW presented its version.

    14:00 GMT: Military victory in Syria is “an illusion,” with “political settlement” being the only way out of the crisis in the country, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said as he addressed world leaders in his opening speech at the General Assembly.

    The UN chief has called on Syrian President Bashar Assad, the country’s opposition and “all those in this hall with influence over them” to work immediately to arrange a second Geneva peace conference aimed at reaching a political solution.

    13:28 GMT: While concentrating on chemical weapons, the international community mustn’t forget that the flow of conventional weapons to Syria also remains a pressing issue, UN Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon, said at the opening of the organization’s General Assembly in New York.

    “We can hardly be satisfied with destroying chemical weapons, while a wider war is still destroying Syria. The majority of the deaths in Syria were caused by normal weapons and I call on foreign powers to halt the flow of arms into the country,” he said.

    “The Syrian government must commit to its pledges over its chemical weapons arsenal,”
     Ban added.

    07:30 GMT: UN chemical weapons inspectors are to return to Syria on Wednesday to continue their mission, said Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov.

    The experts were sent to investigate several cases of alleged use of chemical weapons, but their work was disrupted by the August 21 attack, which killed an estimated 1,400 people. The team was redirected to the location of the new incident to conduct a probe and produce an intermediate report on it. However, they were expected to continue their initial mission later.

    “We are satisfied that our persistent calls for the return of the UN inspectors for an investigation of the previous episodes have finally borne fruit,” the Russian diplomat commented.

    Russia criticized the intermediate report presented at the UN last week, which some Western countries took as blaming the government of Syrian President Bashar Assad for the attack. Moscow says the evidence is not conclusive and argued that a more comprehensive assessment of the situation would prove that Syrian rebels could have been involved in both this and previous attacks.

    Saturday, September 20

    09:30 GMT: Russia could change its position on Syria if it is discovered that President Bashar Assad is“cheating”, the head of the Russian Presidential Administration Sergey Ivanov said.

    “I’m speaking theoretically and hypothetically, but if it appears certain to us that Assad is cheating, we may change our position,” Ivanov said at the International Institute for Strategic Studies ‘Global Strategic Review’ conference in Stockholm.

    Ivanov also questioned how the world would respond if it turns out that both Damascus and the Syrian opposition had deployed chemical weapons.

    “Just imagine what the international community would do then,” he questioned.

    Ivanov reiterated that Russia saw no other option than to navigate the ongoing crisis in Syria diplomatically, adding that within a week the full extent of Assad’s chemical weapons arsenal would be known.

    Friday, September 20

    09:30 GMT: Russia could change its position on Syria if it is discovered that President Bashar Assad is“cheating”, the head of the Russian Presidential Administration Sergey Ivanov said.

    “I’m speaking theoretically and hypothetically, but if it appears certain to us that Assad is cheating, we may change our position,” Ivanov said at the International Institute for Strategic Studies ‘Global Strategic Review’ conference in Stockholm.

    Ivanov also questioned how the world would respond if it turns out that both Damascus and the Syrian opposition had deployed chemical weapons.

    “Just imagine what the international community would do then,” he questioned.

    Ivanov reiterated that Russia saw no other option than to navigate the ongoing crisis in Syria diplomatically, adding that within a week the full extent of Assad’s chemical weapons arsenal would be known.

    18:10 GMT: The US will thoroughly examine data on Syria’s chemical arsenal, which the government of Bashar Assad passed to the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), deputy State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf said. Syria has already forwarded the OPCW a draft record of its chemical arsenal, she added.

    14:29 GMT: Russian foreign minister, Sergey Lavrov, and US Secretary of State, John Kerry, have held telephone consultations on the situation in Syria in view of the agreement to place all the country’s chemical weapons under international supervision. The call was initiated by the American side, the Russian Foreign ministry said.

    13:18 GMT: Damascus has submitted a detailed index of its chemical weapons stockpiles and production facilities to the Hague-based Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), the group told Reuters on Friday. The OPCW won’t release details of what it has received, AP reports.

    On Saturday, Russia and the United States reached a deal on a framework that will see the destruction or removal of Syria’s chemical weapons by mid- 2014. Under the plan, the Assad government had one week to hand over an inventory of its chemical weapons arsenal. Syria is believed to have around 1,000 metric tonnes of chemical agents.

    Meanwhile, the OPCW has postponed a meeting on Syria originally set for this Sunday, AFP reports. No new date has been given for the meeting.

    12:40 GMT: RT’s Maria Finoshina, currently in Syria has spoken to Maaloula residents who were forced to flee their predominantly Christian village when it was seized by jihadists. Having found temporary asylum in Damascus, they still live in fear having not overcome the shock of what had happened. They are also worried about the fate of their missing relatives. Very few are ready to speak to journalists as a result.

    12:20 GMT: Finland is ready to provide its experts for destroying the Syrian chemical weapons arsenal, according to the country’s Foreign Ministry statement, cited by Itar-Tass news agency.

    11:50 GMT: The Syrian government is expected to submit data concerning its chemical weapons to the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) by September 22, according to the spokesman for the watchdog, Michael Luhan.  

    11:20 GMT: Up to 400 Russian citizens could be fighting in Syria now, according to Sergey Smirnov, first deputy head of the Federal Security Service (FSB).

    We estimate that around 300-400 people have left Russia for Syria. They will come back and that represents a big threat,” he said.

    Thursday, September 19

    20:00 GMT: French President Francois Hollande has suggested that Paris could arm Syrian rebels, but do it carefully enough to avoid the weapons falling into the hands of jihadists.

    On delivering weapons, we have always said that we want to control these supplies so that they do indeed go to the Free Syrian Army … because they represent the Syrian National Coalition that we recognize as the legitimate representative of the Syrian people and today they are caught between a hammer and an anvil. The hammer is the air strikes and actions of the Syrian regime and the anvil is radical Islam,” Hollande said as cited by Reuters.

    French President Francois Hollande (AFP Photo/Issouf Sanogo)French President Francois Hollande (AFP Photo/Issouf Sanogo)

    The French president highlighted Russia supplying arms to the Syrian government as one of the reasons for his decision to provide the rebels with arms.

    19:26 GMT: US Secretary of State John Kerry urged the UN Security Council to take action on Syria next week.

    The Security Council must be prepared to act next week,” Kerry told reporters. “It is vital for the international community to stand up and speak out in the strongest possible terms about the importance of enforceable action to rid the world of Syria’s chemical weapons.

    Kerry said that although the UN mission in Syria had no mandate to determine who was behind the Ghouta chemical attack which claimed hundreds of lives in August, the facts provided by inspectors clearly implicate that Bashar Assad’s government is to blame.

    18:30 GMT: Christian leaders from the World Council of Churches (WCC) are planning a summit on Syria, similar to the Geneva II negotiations world powers have long been trying to hold.

    There is no military solution to Syria,” the general secretary of the WCC, Rev. Olav Fykse Tveit, told journalists. “Now is the time to say everyone has failed and there has to be a change and that change has to include all parties and that includes the president [of Syria].

    17:45 GMT: The World Bank has said that the refugee crisis engulfing Lebanon as a result of the Syrian civil war will cost the country $7.5 billion.

    17:40 GMT: The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), the world’s chemical weapons watchdog, will meet Sunday to discuss the Russian-US plan to destroy Syria’s arsenal, it said.

    17:30 GMT: Bulgaria has asked the EU for aid to help it cope with Syrian refugees, the interior minister said Thursday.  Over 4,000 illegal immigrants, about half of them from Syria, are seeking asylum in Bulgaria and Sofia says its capacity is at breaking point.

    17:25 GMT: NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said he doesn’t foresee NATO playing a role in the agreement to destroy Syria’s chemical weapons, but said that individual NATO countries may help to implement it.

    14:15 GMT: Russian President Vladimir Putin has said that he believes the use of chemical weapons in Damascus on August 21 was a provocation on the part of the Syrian rebels.

    We have every grounds to believe that it was a provocation. Of course, it was adroit and clever, but, at the same time, primitive in terms of technical performance. They took an old Soviet-made missile, which was taken out of service in the Syrian army long ago. It was most important to have ‘made in the USSR’ written [on the missile],” Putin said at the Valdai discussion forum on Thursday.

    12:30 GMT: Russia is ready to take part in the transportation and destruction of Syrian chemical weapons, according to Russia’s Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu

    What awaits us is a huge and serious task to fulfill, and we are only at the beginning of the process,” said Shoigu as cited by Vesti24. “Whatever role we get when it comes to international control [of Syrian chemical weapons] –  be it transportation or destruction – Russia and its military forces are naturally ready to take it on.”

    12:15 GMT: An estimated 130 French nationals or immigrants are now fighting in Syria, according to the country’s Interior Minister, Manuel Valls.

    It worries me because they could represent a potential threat [to France] upon their return,” Valls said, as cited by France 24.

    The Minister specified that the number is bigger than in other recent conflicts in the region, such as Iraq or Afghanistan.

    12:00 GMT: Turkey has shut one of its border gates to Syria following fighting, which took place in the Syrian town of Azaz near the Turkish frontier.  Two rebel groups reportedly confronted each other – an Al-Qaeda affiliated group clashed with the Western-backed Free Syrian Army, according to a Turkish official, cited by Reuters.

    The Oncupinar border gate has been closed for security reasons as there is still confusion about what is happening on the Syrian side. All humanitarian assistance that normally goes through the gate has ceased,” the official said.

    11:25 GMT: Russia is completely ready for the possible evacuation of its citizens from Syria in case it is needed, according to Russia’s Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu, cited by RIA news agency. Seven thousand Russian citizens are currently in Syria. The Minister said he was ordered by President Putin to prepare the evacuation plans.

    Wednesday, September 18

    23:58 GMT: The US is working with Syrians to collect evidence to use against President Bashar Assad, who should “absolutely” be tried for crimes against humanity, a top US official on war crimes said.

    “Enormous crimes have been committed that can be traced directly to the highest levels of the Syrian regime,” Stephen Rapp, the US ambassador-at-large for war crimes issues, told Yahoo News on Wednesday.

    Rapp added that the mounting evidence would make prosecution easier than cases “we’ve seen at the international level against a chief of state.”

    “Without question, there are credible, very credible allegations of crimes against humanity, murder, rape, mutilation, other crimes,” Rapp said. “And, of course, since we now have a civil war these become war crimes as well.”

    Stephen Rapp (AFP Photo/Armin Weigel)Stephen Rapp (AFP Photo/Armin Weigel)

    Rapp said that Syrian partners have obtained more than 200,000 pages of documents which are now being analyzed in a special location that the US helped establish in Europe.

    “We’re working with Syrian groups, educating them, training them in how to find this information, identifying it, and measuring shell holes, and determining what direction the shells came from, other things like that ” Rapp said.

    Rapp acknowledged the hurdles surrounding a possible criminal case, including reservations from Russia. In the meantime, the accumulation of evidence will go on.

    “Our preference is to work with Syrians, with people in the region, with international players and work toward establishing some kind of hybrid, or mixed court,” he said. “That will take time, [but] it could be begun even before there was an end to the conflict.”

     

    Tuesday, September 17

    16:50 GMT: In response to Russia’s criticism of the recent report on the Aug.21 chemical weapon attack, the UN says it is “indisputable” and “thoroughly objective”. 

    “The findings in that report are indisputable,” UN spokesman Martin Nesirky told reporters. “They speak for themselves and this was a thoroughly objective report on that specific incident.”

    16:42 GMT: NATO’s Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen says military options should remain“on the table” in negotiations with Syria.

    Rasmussen said he supports the recent US-Russian agreement under which the Assad regime says it will give up its chemical weapons arsenal.

    “I would expect the Syrian regime to fully comply with the demands of the international community and in the case of non-compliance we will need a very firm international response,” NATO chief said after meeting British Prime Minister David Cameron in London.

    Rasmussen stressed that it is “crucial that the UN Security Council expeditiously adopts a firm resolution that can constitute the framework for a swift, secure and verifiable elimination of all chemical weapons in Syria”

    “I do believe that the credible threat of military action was the reason why diplomacy got a chance and I think in order to keep momentum in the diplomatic and political process the military option should still be on the table,” he told reporters.

    12:47 GMT: The chief UN chemical weapons inspector Ake Sellstrom says his experts will return to Syria “within weeks” to complete the investigation that was interrupted by August 21 attack in Damascus suburb. The team will evaluate “allegations of chemical weapons use from both sides, but perhaps mainly from the Syrian government’s side.”

    Sellstrom said he does not see a need for more investigations of the August 21 attacks, but if the team“receives any additional information it will be included next time we report,” he added.

    12:30 GMT: President Assad thanked Russia for helping Syria confront a “savage attack”, AFP reported.

    12:25 GMT: Syrian government says it is sure the UN will not vote for the resolution on Chapter 7 of the UN Charter, regulating the use of military force on behalf of the council, AFP reported citing Faisal Mekdad, the deputy foreign minister of Syria.

    “I think it’s a lie that Western countries use. We think this will never be used. There is no justification for that,” Mekdad said.

    21:53 GMT: Syria has handed over new evidence to Russia that the chemical weapons were used by the armed opposition, Russian deputy foreign minister Sergey Ryabkov told RIA Novosti“That is really true. Just now we were given evidence. We need to analyze it.”

    21:33 GMT: Russian deputy foreign minister Sergey Ryabkov stated that Russia is disappointed that the UN inspectors’ findings are “politicized” and “biased” in nature, adding that without the complete picture of what is happening in Syria, the conclusions can only be described as one-sided.

    “We were disappointed to say the least, with the approach adopted by the UN and the UN inspectors, who were in Syria, which was very selective and incomplete, without regard to the circumstances, and was compiled without the collection of materials in the other three sites,” Ryabkov said.

    20:55 GMT: In response to a question from a journalist on whether the chemical weapons deal gives Syrian President Bashar Assad job security, State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki said that any government in place would be in charge of seeing it to the end.

    “Any individual, any government that is in place, whether that’s a transitional government, whatever it may be, would be in charge of implementing this. And that is the body that would work through this,” she said.

    20:40 GMT: The draft UN Security Council resolution on chemical weapons in Syria was presented at the meeting of the five permanent UN members, RIA Novosti cited a UN source as saying. “France, Great Britain and the United States introduced a draft resolution today at a meeting of the five in New York,” the source said, adding that Russia and China will be studying the resolution.

    20:36 GMT: Russian deputy foreign minister Sergey Ryabkov stated that the first round of talks with Syrian foreign minister Walid Moualem in Damascus was constructive. There are hopes for more positive discussions on Wednesday, Ryabkov said.

    19:39 GMT: Syria’s army has confirmed that its military helicopter, which was shot down by Turkish forces on September 16, violated the neighboring country’s air space.

    The helicopter was on a reconnaissance mission, inspecting the infiltration of terrorists across the border, and mistakenly entered Turkish airspace, the military said in a statement released by Syria’s SANA news agency.

    The harsh reaction from Turkish side – particularly, the fact that the helicopter, not tasked with any fighting mission, was downed as it headed back to Syria – reveals the real intentions of Erdogan’s government, which is seeking escalation at the Syrian border, the statement added.

    18:50 GMT: Russia urges the interested parties not to hurry with throwing unsubstantiated accusations of chemical weapons use against the Syrian government of Bashar Assad, Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Aleksandr Lukashevich said.

    “Simplistic and groundless accusations against the Syrian authorities, which, in fact, remove all responsibility from the opposition, are childish and inappropriate,” he stressed. “As it’s thorough and, more importantly, professional establishment of cases of chemical weapons use in Syria, for which the fresh UN inspectors’ report stands for.”

    18:43 GMT: Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has held a phone conversation with UK Foreign Secretary William Hague, discussing the details of the US-Russia deal, which calls for the Syrian government’s chemical arsenal to be placed under international supervision and subsequently destroyed.

    “We hope that our British partners would get seriously involved in the implementation” of the Syrian chemical weapons accord, Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Aleksandr Lukashevich said.

    18:00 GMT: The UNSC resolution on Syrian chemical weapons should be binding and guarantee that the chemical arsenal will be destroyed in accordance with the agreement reached between the US and Russia in Geneva, Ban Ki-moon said.

    17:09 GMT: The UN report on the Syrian chemical attack on August 21 does not show that Assad forces used sarin gas, the UN Secretary General said. The statement came in response to Western countries, which said the report proves the chemical weapon attack was perpetrated by government forces.

    “If you read the report, you will understand that there are no conclusions on where those rockets were fired from,” Ban said.

    16:36 GMT: The United States, Russia, Britain, France and China are expected to meet in New York to discuss a draft resolution on destroying Syria’s chemical arsenal based on a US-Russian agreement, Reuters reports citing a US official.

    “Today, the P5 members of the UN Security Council (US, UK, France, Russia, China) will meet to discuss the joint P3 (US, UK, France) draft Security Council Resolution on Syria’s chemical weapons program,” Erin Pelton, spokeswoman for the US mission to the UN, said in an email.

    16:34 GMT: While Russia’s deputy foreign minister is negotiating with the Syrian foreign minister, Walid Moualem, there are media reports emerging saying that the Syrian government passed its allies evidence that proves that the rebels were behind the attack in Ghouta on August 21.

    However, RT’s Maria Finoshina, who is currently at the meeting, says there are no details about the report.

    14:41 GMT: Russian deputy foreign minister, Sergey Ryabkov, will arrive in the Syrian capital Damascus on Tuesday to hold talks with the country’s foreign minister, Walid Moualem, Russia’s Foreign Ministry told RT.

    14:18 GMT: The implementation of the US-Russia deal on chemical weapons in Syria has topped the agenda of the Moscow meeting between the Russian President’s plenipotentiary for Middle East issues, Mikhail Bogdanov, and the Syrian ambassador to the country, Riyadh Haddad.

    The officials also shared the view that a political settlement to the crisis in the Middle eastern state must be reached as soon as possible based on the Geneva Communique, which calls for a peace conference on Syria, the Russian Foreign Ministry said.

    Monday, September 16

     

    19:06 GMT: Russia expects the draft UNSC resolution on Syrian chemical weapons, which is now being prepared by France, Britain and the US, will be based on agreements reached at the meeting between Russia’s Foreign Minister Lavrov and US Secretary of State John Kerry.

    “I hope, this draft resolution will be based on what was agreed in Geneva and will not contain elements they [France, Britain and the US] sometimes introduce in public statements,” Russia’s UN envoy Vitaly Churkin said.

    18:21 GMT: The inspection team concluded that the munitions linked to one of the impact sites, called Site 1 in the report, matched types of the Soviet-made M14 artillery rocket, “with either an original or improvised warhead.” The UN experts suggested that based on the “orientation and impact craters” and other damage in the area, the rockets were fired from an unspecified area to the northwest.

    18:36 GMT: After the presentation of the UN report, Samantha Power, the US Ambassador to the United Nations, said that she was convinced, based on the technical details from the inspectors, the weapons belonged to forces loyal to President Assad’s regime.

    “Now the mandate of the UN chemical weapons team was, as you well know, not to investigate capability. But the technical details of the UN report make clear that only the regime could have carried out this large-scale chemical weapons attack,
    ” Power told reporters at a news conference.

    16:23 GMT: The UN Secretary General said the conclusions drawn in the report are “overwhelming and indisputable”.
    “The facts speak for themselves,” he added.

    Ban called the attack in Ghouta “the most significant confirmed use of chemical weapons against civilians since Saddam Hussein used them in Halabja in 1988.”

    15:35 GMT: Turkish warplanes have shot down a Syrian helicopter after it crossed 2 km into Turkish air space, Turkey’s Deputy Prime Minister, Bulent Arinc, has admitted.

    “It was continuously warned by our air defense but as the violation continued, it fell on Syrian soil at 2:25 pm [1125 GMT], having been hit by missiles from our planes,” he told assembled journalists.

    Arinc said that the fate of the pilots was unclear. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a UK-based NGO, claimed that one of the men has been captured by anti-Assad rebels.

    12:50 GMT: The head of the UN panel on war crimes in Syria claims that 14 cases of chemical attacks are currently being investigated.

    12:40 GMT: The US, UK and France are pushing for more aid to the Syrian rebels, while also pressing President Assad to deliver on his promise of handing the chemical weapons arsenal over to international hands.

    But they still argue that no end to the conflict is in sight, unless Assad leaves.

    08:44 GMT: France, Britain and the US will press for a strong UN Security Council resolution on Syrian chemical weapons, the French president’s office says. They want the document to include detailed and binding dates for the planned dismantling of the stockpile.

    01:23 GMT: A Russian newspaper Kommersant has published a response from Rep. Steve Israel to President Vladimir Putin’s editorial in the New York Times last week that stirred a lot of controversy among US officials while generally getting support among the American public.

    In his letter Israel says that if diplomacy fails the US should act to prevent the spread of chemical weapons “without boots on the ground and in a limited, focused and swift way.” He argues that “Bashar al-Assad has used chemical weapons repeatedly” and that “we don’t want Syria’s chemical weapons to fall into the wrong hands -including some elements of the rebel forces in Syria.”

    In regards to Putin’s comment on American exceptionalism, Israel wrote:

    “If your leaders are serious about truly creating a regimen to control and contain chemical weapons in Syria under international supervision in a transparent, verifiable and effective way, then we will be able to add this to the latest example of exceptional achievements partnered by our two nations.”

    Sunday, September 15

    19:28 GMT: On Monday, Secretary General Ban Ki-moon will present a report by the UN team on the chemical weapons in Syria.

    Ban earlier revealed the report will give “overwhelming” confirmation that arms of mass destruction were used in an attack near Damascus on August 21.

    “Therefore, I’m sure that there will be surely the process of accountability when everything is over,” he said.

    However, the UN team is not expected to say who was responsible for the attack as it was only tasked to either confirm or deny the use of chemical agents.

    19:15 GMT: Iran has information that it’s the rebels, not the government forces, who used chemical weapon in Syria, according to Iran’s new Foreign Minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif.

    “The chemical weapons are still in the possession of extremists and terrorists in Syria, which threatens not only Syria,” Zariff told Lebanese TV channel, Al-Mayadin.

    Iran condemns the use of weapons of mass destruction – no matter, who resorted to using it and who suffered from it, the Foreign Minister added.

    19:02 GMT: French President Francois Hollande has said military action against the Assad regime in Syria is still an option. France insists the UNSC resolution on Syria should include sanctions in case Damascus failed to hand over it chemical weapons to international control. However, Hollande did not specify what sanctions.

    “There should be the possibility of using military force, otherwise the resolution will not have power,”Hollande said.

    Speaking on French prime-time television, he said resolution could be voted by the end of the week.

    13:10 GMT: Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu expressed the country’s hope that the Russian-US deal for bringing Syria’s chemical weapons arsenal under international control would result in its “complete destruction”, Reuters reports.

    “We hope the understandings reached between the United States and Russia regarding the Syrian chemical weapons will yield results,” the PM said, speaking at a ceremony to commemorate the Israeli soldiers killed in the 1973 Middle East war.

    “These understandings will be judged by their result – the complete destruction of all of the chemical weapons stockpiles that the Syrian regime has used against its own people,” Netanyahu added.

    12:26 GMT: The Arab League welcomed Saturday’s agreement between the US and Russia to dismantle Syria’s chemical weapons stockpile by mid-2014 in exchange for military non-intervention, AFP reports.

    07:27 GMT: Syrian opposition group National Coaltion of Syrian Revolution and Opposition Forces demanded that the international community forced the Syrian Army to stop using its air superiority, after Damascus agreed to dispose of its chemical weapons stockpile.

    “The prohibition of chemical weapons, the use of which has left more than 1,400 civilians dead, [should] be extended to the use of ballistic missiles and aircraft against urban areas,” the coalition said in a statement.

    07:00 GMT: Iran said the deal between Russia and the US for the removal of Syria’s chemical arsenal was a sign of “rationality” in American behavior, Iranian ISNA news agency quotes.

    Ali Larijani, a speaker at the Iranian parliament, spoke at a Saturday news conference, saying that a US strike would only result in larger regional conflict and would constitute a breach of itnernational law, and that the US has realised this.

    “We are hopeful that American politicians have some rationality so they avoid extremist behavior, and the events of the last few days and the decisions that have been taken indicate this rationality,” he said.

    Iran's Parliament speaker Ali Larijani.(Reuters / Faisal Mahmood)Iran’s Parliament speaker Ali Larijani.(Reuters / Faisal Mahmood)

    5:37 GMT: US Secretary of State John Kerry is to make a brief stop in Jerusalem on Sunday for talks with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on the US-Russia deal to secure Syria’s chemical weapons stockpiles.

    He will then travel to Paris for further discussion on Syria with his French and British counterparts Laurent Fabius and William Hague, respectively. Kerry is also scheduled to meet with Saudi Arabia’s foreign minister, Saud Al Faisal, while in Paris.

    04:53 GMT: China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi has welcomed the deal between Russia and the United States concerning the elimination of Syria’s chemical weapons arsenal, AFP reports.

    “The Chinese side welcomes the general agreement between the US and Russia. This agreement will enable tensions in Syria to be eased,” he said during the visit of his French counterpart Laurent Fabius.

    The French FM, who arrived to Beijing Sunday morning, called this “a significant step forward”, adding that “we must move forward on the basis of this general agreement.”

    Saturday, September 14

    21:03 GMT: Syria has welcomed the agreement reached in Geneva between the Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and his US counterpart John Kerry.  In a statement by the Syrian Prime Minister Wael al-Halqi, Damascus has assured the implementation of the deal  as the “sole exit” from the crisis, expressing Syria’s welcome of the ”credible international initiatives, first and foremost the Geneva 2 conference.”

    20:30 GMT: The Syrian National Coalition has appointed a new interim Prime Minister. The main Western-supported opposition alliance has named Ahmad Saleh Touma, a dentist and a political activist, to be their leader during a meeting in Istanbul.  Touma is the second politician to fill the leader’s post after Ghassan Hitto resigned in July.

    “Syria will be the republic of humans where there will be no place for killers and criminals,”
     Touma said shortly after his appointment.

    20:12 GMT:
     NATO has welcomed the breakthrough in negotiations on Syria, praising the diplomatic effort of the US Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov.

    “This is an important step towards the goal of ensuring the swift, secure and verifiable elimination of Syria’s stocks of chemical weapons. Full and unreserved Syrian compliance is now key,” Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said.

    19:58 GMT: In its first reaction to a deal struck between John Kerry and Sergey Lavrov in Geneva, Iran – the main ally of the Syrian government said that Washington now has no excuse to attack Syria.

    “The new situation means in fact that any pretext for the United States and certain countries to engage in military action against Syria has been removed,”
     Hossein Amir-Abdollahian, Iran’s Deputy Foreign Minister said.

    19:35 GMT: US Republican Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham have criticized Russian-American agreement on the Syrian chemical weapons calling it a start down a “diplomatic blind alley,”reports Reuters.

    The senior lawmakers said in a statement that the deal reached between Lavrov and Kerry in Geneva will afford Syria’s Assad months to “delay and deceive” while more people die in the Syrian war.

    It requires a willful suspension of disbelief to see this agreement as anything other than the start of a diplomatic blind alley, and the Obama administration is being led into it by Bashar Assad and Vladimir Putin,” the statement reads.

    U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham and U.S. Senator John McCain.(Reuters / Mike Theiler)U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham and U.S. Senator John McCain.(Reuters / Mike Theiler)

    18:40 GMT: The UN has confirmed receiving the documents that Syria submitted for joining the Chemical Weapons Convention.

    The Convention will enter into force for the Syrian Arab Republic on the 30th day following the date of deposit of this instrument of accession, namely on 14 October 2013,” the UN press office said in a statement, Reuters cites.

    18:00 GMT: The European Union said Saturday it welcomed the Russian-US deal to destroy Syria’s chemical weapons stockpiles and offered to help in implementing the agreement.

    “I welcome the agreement reached today between the United States and the Russian Federation to ensure the swift and secure destruction of Syria’s chemical weapons and programme,” EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said in a statement.

    16:10 GMT: US President Barack Obama has said he welcomes progress reached between Moscow and Washington on Syrian chemical weapons. However, if diplomacy fails the US remains prepared to act. 

    15:55 GMT: Fidel Castro, the former president of Cuba, has applauded a Russian-led proposal to destroy Syria’s chemical weapons. The former leader wrote “the intelligent Russian initiative” meant “the risk that the conflict explodes with its lamentable consequences seems to have diminished.” 

    The US and Russia reached an agreement Saturday at talks in Geneva to implement the plan.

    15:49 GMT: US military has not made any changes to force posture following the American-Russian agreement on Syria, the Pentagon says as cited by Reuters.

    The credible threat of military force has been key to driving diplomatic progress, and it’s important that the Assad regime lives up to its obligations under the framework agreement,” Pentagon spokesman George Little said in a statement.

    15:01 GMT: There are 45 facilities in Syria that develop or store chemical weapons,believe US experts according to the French newspaper Le Figaro.

    “Most likely, there are 45 facilities associated with the chemical weapons’ program “, the newspaper quoted an unnamed US official. The official added that the US and Russia agree on the fact that the stockpile of chemical weapons in Syria is estimated at about one million tons.

    14:46 GMT: A representative of the Syrian top-brass has dismissed as groundless earlier statements by the head of the Free Syrian Army (FSA) regarding the alleged moving of part of Syria’s chemical weapons arsenal to neighboring Iraq and Lebanon.

    This is an absolutely groundless lie,” a senior member of the Armed forces told RIA Novosti.

    13:23 GMT:

    Have spoken to Secretary Kerry. UK welcomes US-Russia agreement on #Syriachemical weapons. Urgent work on implementation now to take place

    — William Hague (@WilliamJHague) September 14, 2013

     

    13:06 GMT: The head of the Free Syrian Army (FSA) has accused the government of President Bashar Assad of moving part of its chemical weapons to neighboring Iraq and Lebanon over the last few days in a bit to avoid detection by international inspectors.

    Damascus did not immediately reply to the accusations.

    FSA chief General Selim Idriss earlier in the day refused a US-Russian deal to place its chemical weapons arsenal under international control so as to avert the potential of a Western strike against the country.

    “The Russian-American initiative does not concern us. It only seeks to gain time,” Idriss said.

    “We completely ignore this initiative and will continue to fight to bring down the regime,”
     he told a press conference Saturday in the Turkish city of Istanbul.

    Idris considers the US-Russia plan as a blow to rebel forces, who have been battling for two-and-a-half-years to topple the Assad government.

    12:57 GMT: UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has promised his full support in implementing the Geneva agreement reached Saturday by Russia and the US on eliminating Syrian chemical weapons.

    12:42 GMT: France has welcomed the deal between Russia and the United States on destroying Syria’s chemical weapons.

    The draft agreement reached in Geneva about eliminating the Syrian regime’s chemical weapons is an important step forward,” Reuters reported French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius as saying in a statement.

    11:43 GMT: The President of Syria’s Supreme Military Opposition has said the Russian initiative on the Assad government’s chemical weapons will not solve the conflict that has raged for two years.

    10:41 GMT: The US is ready for military action if diplomacy fails on Syria, President Obama said.

    Friday, September 13

    20:50 GMT: The United States has accepted that Russia will block any efforts at the UN Security Council to authorize military action against the Syrian government, senior White House officials conceded Friday, AFP reports.

    The officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, said that a UN report on a chemical weapons attack that occurred in a Damascus suburb will chip away at Moscow’s claim rebel forces were responsible. They admitted, however, that the new findings set to be published Monday will do little to persuade the Kremlin that military action is the right course.

    The officials maintain the US still has the option of acting unilaterally or cobbling together a coalition if the Russian backed initiative to put Syria’s chemical weapons under international control falls through. They further said Western powers would beef up a draft resolution against Syria with tougher sanctions, but not military action,in the hope that Moscow will drop its veto.

    20:40 GMT: The United States and Russia will enter their third day of negotiations on ending Syria’s chemical weapons program, a US official said. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and his US counterpart John Kerry will join negotiators before holding a joint press conference later on Saturday.

    “This morning’s meeting has started,” Reuters cites the US official as saying.

    Both sides view the elimination of Syria’s chemical weapons stockpiles as a necessary precursor to finding a political solution in a country that has embroiled in civil war for over two years.  

    22:14 GMT: Republican Senator John McCain said he would love to write a response to Vladimir Putin’s recent Op-Ed in the New York Times and his spokesman, Brian Rogers, confirmed that McCain will submit a piece in the Russian newspaper Pravda.

    “We would be only pleased to publish a story penned by such a prominent politician as John McCain,”Dmitry Sudakov, the English editor of Pravda, told Foreign Policy.

    McCain’s submission in both Russian and English is expected by next Wednesday at the latest.

    18:45 GMT: France, the United Arab Emirates and Jordan have agreed to strengthen the Syrian opposition in its battle with President Assad.The Elysee said in a statement Friday that President Hollande and the ministers from the three countries“agreed on the need to strengthen international support for the democratic opposition.”18:30 GMT: President Barak Obama said Friday, after a meeting in the White House with the emir of Kuwait Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Jaber al-Sabah, that he hopes talks on the destruction of Syria’s chemical weapons will be successful but he will insist that any deal is “verifiable and enforceable”.18:15 GMT: The US State Department said Friday it is confident that the UN report on the 21 August chemical weapons attack in Damascus will say that they were used but is unlikely to assign blame.18:10 GMT: The Russian Foreign Ministry announced Friday that US Secretary of State John Kerry, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and UN envoy Lakhdar Brahimi agreed at a meeting in Geneva that only a political solution will end the civil war in Syria.The ministry also said that they had agreed to meet in New York at the end of the month for more talks on Syria on the sidelines of UN General Assembly meeting.18:00 GMT: The French, British and US foreign ministers will meet for lunch in Paris Monday to discuss the Syrian crisis, France’s foreign ministry announced Friday.17:35 GMT: Speaking by phone to AP from the Netherlands the head of the UN chemical weapons inspection team, Ake Sellstrom, says he has completed his report on Syria and will deliver it to the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon over the weekend.“It’s done, but when to present it is up to the Secretary General,” he said.17:30 GMT: A UN report will show that chemical weapons were used on August 21 in Syria, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said Friday.Ban’s comments at the UN Development Forum in New York said that the inspectors’ report will be released “as soon as possible.”“I believe that the report will be an overwhelming, overwhelming report that chemical weapons (were) used, even though I cannot publicly say at this time before I receive this report,” he said.A UN team has been analyzing evidence gathered in Syria about the attack, which the US government says was launched by Assad’s forces and killed 1,400 people.However, the chief UN weapons inspector, after confirming to AP that the report was completed, declined to comment on its conclusions.Ban said he was “very much troubled” by divisions over Syria among members of the US Security Council, which has been unable to adopt any resolutions on Syria during the now 2 1/2-year civil war.He said that if the deadlock at the UN continues, it will represent a “failure.” Ban said that Syrian President Bashar Assad had “committed many crimes against humanity” and should be held accountable when the conflict is over.16:50 GMT: Putin’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, argued against premature forecasts and speculation about what the international community would do to resolve the Syrian crisis.“Any arguments outside of the current dialogue in Geneva between Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and US Secretary of State John Kerry should not have the right to exist,” Peskov said. “The stakes are so high, so ghostly is the glimmer of hope, that it is better to refrain from commenting on the modalities of possible proposals.”
    16:48 GMT: Egypt supports neither of the parties in the Syrian conflict, Egyptian Foreign Minister Nabil Fahmy told RIA Novosti news agency, but instead is calling for a political solution to the crisis within the framework of the so-called “Geneva-2” peace conference.”We want to achieve a political solution to this problem based on the principles of Geneva-2 that will preserve the integrity of the Syrian state,” Fahmy said.“We have no authority, and we do not seek to support any particular government there, it is a Syrian decision. We want to preserve Syria, a state that is threatened with break-up. We have supported the Syrian revolution in the sense of the aspirations of the Syrians to a better, free and democratic life. We have condemned many steps of the Syrian government, but we are against the division of Syria, its division on religious principles. There is no military solution to the Syrian crisis.”Fahmy added: “The former president [Mohamed Morsi] said that he wanted to start a holy war in Syria. We’re not going to wage it. This is an irresponsible statement that does not correspond with our national interests.”

    16:20 GMT: Al-Qaeda linked rebels in Syria have declared an offensive against two other insurgent factions in the Syrian opposition. The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) have accused each other of attacks and collaborating with the government. Analysts have reported an inclease in clashes between rebels in recent months mainly over territory and the spoils of war.

    United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.(Reuters / Brendan McDermid)United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.(Reuters / Brendan McDermid)

    16:15 GMT: UN chief Ban Ki Moon has said that Syrian President Assad has committed many crimes against humanity.

    Referring to a UN report into the use of chemical weapons he said, “I believe that the report will be an overwhelming report that chemical weapons (were) used even though I cannot publicly say at this time before i receive the report.”

    16:00 GMT: The UN has said that Syria’s application to the chemical weapons treaty is not complete. The UN has asked Syria for more information in order to join the chemical weapons convention. The UN declined to say what information was actually missing.

    15:50 GMT: A new report from the United Nations Commission of Inquiry on Syria has documented the brutal tactics used by the Syrian government are using against civilians, including electrocution, rape and getting medical professionals to torture hospital detainees. It also fingers the rebels for using brutal methods but to a lesser degree.

    15:45 GMT: Human Rights Watch accused Syrian government forces and pro-regime militias Friday of carrying out summary executions in predominately Sunni Muslim towns along the Mediterranean coast in May in which at least 248 people died.

    15:40 GMT: Around 3,300 Syrians have arrived in Italy by boat over recent weeks the UN refugee agency said Friday. Many have come from troubled Egypt, where they at first found a haven from violence and bloodshed.

    15:33 GMT: The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) said that Syrian Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad had requested technical assistance in joining the group.

    12:11 GMT: The UN has asked Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and US Secretary of State John Kerry to help a team investigating human rights violations get into Syria.

    “The Human Rights Council has repeatedly called upon the Syrian authorities to grant access to the members of the commission of inquiry,” wrote U.N. Human Rights Council president, Remigiusz Henczel, in a letter to the two diplomats, adding that previous requests had fallen on deaf ears.

     

    12:00 GMT: Unnamed US officials talking to the Wall Street Journal allege that a secret Syrian military outfit has been dividing the countries chemical weapons arsenal between up to 50 different sites. The top secret group, known as Unit 450, has been moving stocks around for months in the hope of avoiding detection, in the event of US airstrikes.

    09:14 GMT: Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and his US counterpart John Kerry have agreed to meet on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly on September 28 to further discuss kick starting the stalled Geneva II peace conference on Syria.

    Speaking alongside Kerry and Lavrov in Geneva on Friday, Lakhdar Brahimi, the United Nations and Arab League Special Envoy to Syria, said ongoing work to hand to put Syria’s chemical weapons under international control was a necessary step for convening the Geneva II conference.

    Russian Foreign minister Sergey Lavrov (R) speaks on September 13, 2013 during a press conference with United Nations-Arab League special envoy for Syria Lakhdar Brahimi (C) and US Secretary of State John Kerry after their high-stakes talks on Syria's chemical weapons at the UN headquarters in Geneva. (AFP Photo/Larry Downing)Russian Foreign minister Sergey Lavrov (R) speaks on September 13, 2013 during a press conference with United Nations-Arab League special envoy for Syria Lakhdar Brahimi (C) and US Secretary of State John Kerry after their high-stakes talks on Syria’s chemical weapons at the UN headquarters in Geneva. (AFP Photo/Larry Downing)

    “We look forward to working on the chemical weapons [issue] in Syria. This is extremely important in itself, and it is important for us in trying to successfully organize the Geneva II conference,” Brahimi said.

    Lavrov and Kerry both expressed hopes that talks on Syria’s chemical weapons would revive efforts at coming to a political settlement in the country.

    08:45 GMT: Iran has backed Russia’s initiative to place Syria’s chemical weapons under international control and the decision by Syria to sign the Chemical Weapons Convention

    “We would like to support all these efforts … the Russian initiative and Syria’s decision to join the convention focused on chemical weapons,” Reuters cites President Hassan Rouhani as saying at a summit of a regional security group led by China and Russia.

    08:25 GMT: China’s Foreign Ministry welcomed on Friday a decision by Syria to sign the Chemical Weapons Convention.

    Damascus has promised to submit all of the documents to the United Nations needed to join the treaty over the next several days. A month after signing the convention, Syria says it will hand over all the information regarding its chemical weapons stockpiles to relevant international bodies.

    Syrian President Bashar Assad said his decision to place the country’s chemical weapons under international control was prompted by Russia, and a US threat to attack the country following an August 21 attack in a Damascus suburb did not “influence the decision.”

    08:16 GMT: Secretary of State John Kerry said talks with his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov in Geneva on Thursday night regarding the ongoing crisis in Syria were “constructive.”

    Kerry, who met with Lavrov and Lakhdar Brahimi, the United Nations and Arab League Special Envoy to Syria, kicked off the first round of negotiations regarding Russia’s initiative to see Syria’s chemical weapons brought under international control.

    Lavrov, who also met with his Kazakh counterpart Erlan Idrisov in Astana on Thursday, said “I’m positive there is a chance for peace in Syria, and it cannot be missed.”

    “It is necessary ensure Syria’s adherence to the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, which would entail a declaration of Syria’s chemical weapons storage sites and the disclosure of its chemical [weapons] program,”
     he said.

    Russia remains opposed to efforts within the UN Security Council to force Syria to hand over its chemical weapons arsenal under the threat of force.

    07:12 GMT: Russia welcomes Syria’s decision to join the Chemical Weapons Convention, which is aimed at prohibiting chemical weapons use, President Putin said.

    Putin said, “I think we should welcome this decision of the Syrian leadership and I would like to hope that this will be an important step in dealing with the crisis.”

    Russian President Vladimir Putin (C) at the 13th Summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) in Bishkek. (RIA Novosti/Michael Klimentyev)Russian President Vladimir Putin (C) at the 13th Summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) in Bishkek. (RIA Novosti/Michael Klimentyev)

    Russia’s President stated, “This confirms the serious intentions of the Syrian partners.” The leader underlined, “We consider intolerable any foreign military intervention into this country without the UN Security Council sanctions.” He also stressed, “The efforts that have been recently made have permitted to decrease the direct threat of a military operation.”

    Thursday, September 12

    23:15 GMT: Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, Secretary of State John Kerry and UN Arab League envoy Lakhdar Brahimi, will meet in Geneva for talks on Syria on Friday, a diplomatic source told RIA Novosti.

    20:14 GMT: After the UN accepted documents from Damascus concerning Syria joining the Chemical Weapons Convention, Syria has “legally speaking” become a full member of the treaty, Syrian UN Ambassador Bashar Jaafari said.

    “Legally speaking Syria has become, starting today, a full member of the convention,” Ambassador Bashar Jaafari told reporters in New York.

    18:30 GMT: White House Press Secretary Jay Carney has repeated the view of the Pentagon that Russia is “isolated and alone” in denying Assad has used chemical weapons.

    17:55 GMT: Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said now that Syria has agreed to Moscow’s proposal to put its chemical weapons stockpiles under international control, there is a chance to convene the peace talks on Syria, Geneva-2, that will help end the ongoing conflict.

    We proceed from the premise that the solution to this problem makes any military strike against Syria unnecessary,” he said at a media conference in Geneva, ahead of talks with US Secretary of State John Kerry.

    17:50 GMT: The US says there is no change in its position that Bashar al-Assad absolutely must not be part of Syria’s political future, despite Washington’s willingness to work with Assad on chemical weapons removal.

    17:45 GMT: The US says it accepts that the removal of chemical weapons from Syria is complicated and will “take some time”.

    17:40 GMT: The US has said that it will not allow Syria to use accession to the anti-chemical weapons treaty as a stalling tactic and that the option of military strikes is still on the table.

    16:30 GMT: A spokesman for the UN has said that they have received documents from Damascus concerning Syria joining the Chemical Weapons Convention. The Convention came into force on 29 April 1997 and is signed by 189 countries.

    “In the past few hours we have received a document from the government of Syria that is being translated, which is to be an accession document concerning the Chemical Weapons Convention,” UN spokesman Farhan Haq told reporters

    16:00 GMT: The US has said that Russia is “isolated and alone” in blaming the Syrian rebels for the Chemical attack in a Damascus suburb that killed almost 1500 people on the August 21.

    “Russia is isolated and alone in blaming the opposition. We’ve seen no credible reporting that the opposition has used chemical weapons in Syria,” Pentagon press secretary George Little told reporters Thursday.

    15:30 GMT: Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has arrived in Geneva for talks with Secretary of State John Kerry. The US President, Barak Obama, has said he hopes the outcome will be positive, according to a statement issued by the White House Thursday.

    14:30 GMT: Syria will start passing information on its chemical weapons to international organizations a month after it signs the Chemical Weapons Convention, President Bashar Assad said in an interviewwith Rossiya-24 TV channel.

    It does not mean though that mean the country “will sign the documents, fulfill the obligations and that’s it,” Assad said. “It’s a bilateral process aimed, first of all, at making the US stop pursuing its policy of threats against Syria.”  He added that a lot would also depend on the extent to which Russia’s proposal is accepted.

    No country in the Middle East, including Israel, should possess weapons of mass destruction, Assad said, adding that removing WMD would protect the region and the world from devastating and expensive wars in future.

    11:30 GMT: The European parliament has passed a resolution welcoming the proposal for Syria to put its chemical weapons arsenal under international control. The document urges a similar UN resolution to be passed in order to ensure Syria’s compliance with its pledge to cooperate with the international community.  

    11:15 GMT: Britain’s Foreign Secretary William Hague says any Syrian chemical weapons deal must identify all such arms and ensure they don’t fall into the wrong hands, according to Reuters.

    11:00 GMT: Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan says he does not believe that Damascus is sincere in its pledge to surrender Syria’s chemical weapons to international control.

    Prime Minister of Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdogan (AFP Photo)Prime Minister of Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdogan (AFP Photo)

    The Assad regime has not lived up to any of its pledges, it has won time for new massacres and continues to do so,” Erdogan said in a speech, as cited by Reuters. “We are doubtful that the promises regarding chemical weapons will be met.”

    10:48 GMT: Aleksey Pushkov, the head of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the Russian Duma, said the US’s participation in international military campaigns has only been making the country weaker.

    All of the recent wars have made the US weaker, not stronger. You don’t have to be Einstein to understand: a new war will once again hit America itself,” Pushkov tweeted.

    10:40 GMT: Prior to his meeting with US Secretary of State John Kerry due later in the day, Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov welcomed Syria’s readiness to place its chemical weapons under international control.

    I am certain that there’s a chance for peace in Syria,” said Lavrov at a meeting with students in Kazakhstan. He added the military intervention would only further destabilize Syria and the region, according to Interfax news agency.

    The US has called on Syria to quickly declare the size and scope of its chemical weapons.

    It’s doable, but difficult,” a US official was cited by AFP.

    7:40 GMT: The primary western-backed Syrian rebel leadership council has rejected a Russian initiative to put Syria’s chemical weapons under international control, the group said in a video statement.

    “We announce our definitive rejection of the Russian initiative to place chemical weapons under international custody,” Reuters cites Salim Idriss, head of the rebel Supreme Military Council, as saying in a video posted online late on Wednesday.

    On Monday, Russia called on Syria to turn over its chemical weapons for destruction and sign on to the Chemical Weapons Convention so as to avert Western military intervention in the country. The Syrian leadership agreed to the Russian initiative later that evening.

    06:21 GMT: Russian and US chemical weapons experts are set to participate in negotiations between Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and US Secretary of State John Kerry. The talks are to focus on the chemical weapons crisis in Syria.

    Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov(L) and US Secretary of State John Kerry (AFP Photo/Paul J. Richards)Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov(L) and US Secretary of State John Kerry (AFP Photo/Paul J. Richards)

    05:34 GMT: A senior Israeli official has said that Russia’s plan to remove chemical weapons from Syria could be a solution to the conflict. Strategic Affairs Minister Yuval Steinitz said that the international community would need a guarantee from Moscow that “Syria is cleansed of chemical weaponry.”

    “I cannot say that we have full faith, but if this Russian proposal … will really remove the chemical weaponry from Syria, first of all, and will then dismantle it … then this is a way to end this tragedy and a way to end this threat too,”
     Strategic Affairs Minister Yuval Steinitz said on Israel’s Army Radio.

    Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called for the government of Syrian President Bashar Assad to be “stripped of its chemical weapons” on Wednesday, but stopped short of openly voicing his support of the Russian initiative. Damascus has accepted the proposal and agreed to hand over its chemical weapons stash to international control.

    01:55 GMT: Over the past two weeks the CIA has started delivering weapons to the Syrian opposition, the Washington Post cites US officials and Syrian figures. Vehicles, communications equipment and advanced combat medical kits also been given to Syria by the US State Department.

    The arms shipments, which include light weapons and munitions, started arriving in Syria at the time when President Obama was expected to order missile strikes against Damascus.

    01:17 GMT: The potential strike by the United States against Syria, despite strong opposition from all over the world, will result in more innocent victims and escalation of the conflict beyond Syria’s borders,President Putin wrote in the New York Times.

    In a lengthy piece titled A Plea for Caution from Russia, the President reminded that the United Nations was created as a universal instrument for preventing devastating wars and that taking military action without Security Council authorization would be against international law.

    “It is alarming that military intervention in internal conflicts in foreign countries has become commonplace for the United States,” Putin added.

    Wednesday, September 11

    20:32 GMT: The five permanent members of the UN Security Council have started a closed-door meeting on the situation in Syria. The meeting where the envoys are expected to discuss the French proposed resolution, it follows a gathering of representatives from Britain, France and the US earlier on Wednesday.

    18:50 GMT: Russia has submitted to the UN Security Council documents providing evidence that chemical weapons were used by rebel forces, Russian Ambassador to Lebanon Aleksandr Zasypkin told Al Mayadeen channel, reports RIA Novosti.

    18:41 GMT: The US Administration insists that Syrian President Assad should resign from power, State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki says. She added that this “political decision” would require a dialogue between Syria’s conflicting sides.  

    17:46 GMT: American arms experts are going to Geneva with US Secretary of State John Kerry, where he will meet on Thursday with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov for talks on Syria, AFP reports.

    The talks are expected to last for at least two days, possibly more, State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki told a media briefing, Reuters reports.

    While in Geneva, Kerry also plans to meet with UN-Arab League envoy Lakhdar Brahimi.

    16:53 GMT: The five permanent UN Security Council members – Russia, China, Britain, France and the US – will hold a closed-door meeting to discuss France’s draft resolution on chemical weapons in Syria, a UN source told Itar-Tass.

    16:20 GMT: The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has urged the US and Russia to tackle the obstacles to delivering aid in Syria. US Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov are to meet in Geneva on Thursday to discuss Russia’s plan to transfer Syrian chemical weapons to international control.

    Both Syrian government forces and rebels are preventing medical assistance from reaching the sick and wounded, Reuters cited Red Cross president Peter Maurer as saying.

    We need political and diplomatic support for independent humanitarian action,” Maurer told journalists.

    14:53 GMT: Russia has formally handed over a plan for “establishing international control of chemical weapons in Syria” to the United States, Russia’s Interfax and Itar-Tass news agencies reported, citing sources.

    “We are hoping to discuss it in Geneva,”
     a source in the Russian delegation said.

    14:10 GMT: Israeli president Shimon Peres said he trusts the Russian and American presidents regarding a deal to reach a peaceful solution to the Syrian chemical weapon problem.

    I know both President Obama and President Putin, and I am convinced that if an agreement is reached it will be reliable, explicit and significant,” he said at an Israeli Navy graduation ceremony, reports The Times of Israel.

    Diplomacy is always preferable to war but the main issue at present is integrity and in particular the integrity of the #Syrian regime.

    — PresidentPeres (@PresidentPeres) September 11, 2013

    12:03 GMT: NATO supports efforts to control and eliminate Syrian chemical weapons, an official in the alliance told Itar-Tass, commenting on Russia’s proposal to Damascus to put its chemical weapons arsenal under international control.

    “Efforts to ensure the control of and ultimate destruction of Syria’s chemical weapons are positive and we support the UN in this area; however, the details of these proposals are not yet clear,” the source said. “The international community has a responsibility to make sure that the longstanding norm and practice against the use of chemical weapons is maintained, and violators are held accountable.

    11:23 GMT: Syria’s National Coordination Committee (NCC) has suggested placing chemical weapons under Russia’s control, the rebel Syrian organization said in a statement.

    The NCC said that it has submitted its proposal to the Russian ambassador to Beirut as well as to the foreign ministries of Egypt and Iraq.  The organization – which is at odds over a number of key issues with another opposition group, the Syrian National Council (SNC) – also called for the so-called “Geneva-2” peace talks on Syria to begin immediately.

    07:46 GMT: Russia has handed the evidence over to the UN Security Council, the head of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the Russian Duma, Aleksey Pushkov, stressed.

    “We have the basis to think not only the Syrian government has them [chemical weapons]…but we suspect that those weapons have been used by the rebels several times,” he indicated.

    01:43 GMT: Addressing the nation, the US president has asked Congress to postpone a vote on military action in Syria as diplomacy is pursued to put chemical weapons beyond the regime’s reach, but called on the military to maintain pressure on the Syrian government.

    Tuesday, September 10

    20:19 GMT: A total of 33 countries have now signed a joint statement on Syria condemning the chemical attack on August 21 and blaming the Syrian government for it, the White House said. Eight more countries voiced their support of the “efforts undertaken by the United States and other countries to reinforce the prohibition on the use of chemical weapons.”

    20:07 GMT: US Secretary of State John Kerry will meet Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov in Geneva to discuss Syria’s chemical weapons on Thursday, US officials told Reuters. Lavrov is expected to share Russia’s proposals on securing Syria’s chemical weapons stockpiles under international control for review by the US administration.

    19:14 GMT: The Russian Foreign Ministry said that Secretary of State John Kerry and Minister Sergey Lavrov have agreed on a possible bilateral meeting soon to discuss initiative on Syria’s chemical weapons.

    “The two have agreed to work together, including the possibility of holding a bilateral meeting in the coming days to discuss concrete ways of fulfilling the initiative of putting Syrian chemical weapons under international control,” the Foreign Ministry said following a phone call between Lavrov and Kerry.

    Russia’s proposal to remove Syrian chemical weapons is expected to be formally sent to the US later on Tuesday, John Kerry said after the call.

    19:03 GMT: UN Security Council closed-door meeting called by Russia has been canceled, according to the Council’s current president Australia’s Ambassador to the UN, Gary Quinlan.

    Following withdrawal of the request for consultations, Security Council meeting scheduled for 4pm will not proceed #OzPrez #UNSC

    — Gary Quinlan (@AustraliaUN) September 10, 2013

    18:45 GMT: President Obama has reportedly called on the US Senate to postpone the vote on possible military actions in Syria until the diplomatic solution is discussed, according Politico newspaper which cited a source from the closed-door meeting.

    18:43 GMT: John Kerry said that any Syria weapons deal must be struck in a binding UN Security Council resolution.

    17:20 GMT: Barack Obama and Francois Hollande have refused to rule out the possibility of a military strike against Syria, following a telephone conversation.

    “The heads of state highlighted their preference for a diplomatic solution but they also underlined the importance of keeping all options open,” said a statement from Hollande’s press office.

    17:15 GMT: Moscow has called an emergency closed-door consultations at the UN Security Council to discuss its chemical weapon removal plan. The round-table is expected to begin at 8 pm GMT Tuesday.

    16:45 GMT: Moscow will propose a draft statement by the chairman of the UN Security Council, supporting the initiative to transfer Syria’s chemical weapons to international control, the Russian Foreign Ministry said.

    The issue was discussed during a phone conversation between Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and his French counterpart, Laurent Fabius.

    “[Lavrov] said that Russia, on its part, is submitting a draft statement for the UN Security Council’s chairman, welcoming the… initiative and calling on the UN Secretary General, the general director of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, and all the interested parties to make efforts to facilitate the implementation of this proposal,” the ministry’s statement said.

    During the call, Lavrov said described as “unacceptable” a French proposal to adopt a Security Council resolution blaming President Assad’s government for the chemical weapons attack.

    15:32 GMT: With regards to the size of a US strike on Syria, Sec. Kerry told lawmakers in the House that the White House wants a limited strike that would pale in comparison to other recent military operations. “It’s not Iraq, it’s not Iran, it’s not a years’ war,” he said.

    “I have said that this will be meaningful, it will be serious, the Assad regime will feel it,” Kerry said, “…but compared to Iraq, Kosovo, Libya—it’s small. It is not any of those things.”

    15:28 GMT: Britain and France, along with the US, are expected to table a resolution on Syrian chemical weapons to the UN Security Council later Tuesday, UK Prime Minister David Cameron said.

    “If this is a serious proposal then we should act accordingly and I think a UN Security Council resolution is a good idea,” Cameron said.

    14:47 GMT: The US is waiting to see a real and verifiable plan from Russia for removing chemical weapons from Syria, but it won’t wait long and won’t allow President Bashar Assad to use it as a delaying tactic, Secretary of State John Kerry said.

    “We’re waiting for that proposal. But we’re not waiting for long,” Kerry told a hearing of the House of Representatives Armed Services Committee. “President Obama will take a hard look at it. But it has to be swift, it has to be real, it has to be verifiable. It can’t be a delaying tactic.”

    US Secretary of State John Kerry (L) speaks as US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel (R) watches while testifying on Syria to the House Armed Services Committee on September 10, 2013 in the Rayburn House Office Building on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC.(AFP Photo / Mandel Ngan) US Secretary of State John Kerry (L) speaks as US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel (R) watches while testifying on Syria to the House Armed Services Committee on September 10, 2013 in the Rayburn House Office Building on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC.(AFP Photo / Mandel Ngan)

    14:46 GMT: Answering to how America should proceed with regards to a strike on Syria following news of a possible compromise brokered by Russia, Sec. Kerry said, “The use of force should absolutely not be off the table.”

    14:38 GMT: Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel told representatives in Congress that a US strike on Syria, as outlined by President Barack Obama, would degrade the Assad regime’s chemical weapons capabilities without jeopardizing America’s security interests any further.

    Hagel also said that authorizing the use of military force would not open the door for an indefinite operation overseas. “We will not send America’s sons and daughters to fight another country’s civil war,” Hagel said. “We are not contemplating any kind of open ended intervention or an operation involving American ground troops. A political solution created by the Syrian people is the only way to ultimately end the violence in Syria.”

    14:25 GMT: US Secretary of State John Kerry is speaking before a House panel in an attempt to garner congressional approval for a strike against Bashar al-Assad’s regime in Syria. “Thirty-one countries support US holding Syria accountable,” Kerry told lawmakers. Should the US not launch a military strike, he cautioned, America’s “ambivalence” and “weakness” would not be projected onto its adversaries.

    The risk of not acting is much greater than the risk of acting,” Kerry said.

    14:02 GMT: The US Senate may not vote this week on the authorization for military strike against Syria, congressional aides said. Congressional leaders also said they want to wait for the public’s response to President Barack Obama’s address to the American people, which is expected Tuesday night. The House Democratic lawmaker said that White House aides told House Democrats that diplomacy, rather than military action, is now the priority on Syria.

    14:01 GMT: As international attention switched to the discussions between Russian and Syria, activists said that Syrian government warplanes have bombed rebellious districts of Damascus for the first time since the August 21 poison gas attack.

    Rebels said the air strikes were a demonstration that the government now believed the West had lost its nerve.

    “By sending the planes back, the regime is sending the message that it no longer feels international pressure,” Reuters reported Wasim Ahmad, a rebel activist in the Mouadamiya district of Damascus, as saying.

    13:37 GMT: Syria said it has signed “major contracts” with Iran that would cover its needs for food, medical and other supplies, state television in Damascus reported.

    11:45 GMT: British Prime Minister David Cameron says serious questions need to be answered about the Russian proposal for Syrian chemical weapons handover, his spokesman said. Meanwhile Foreign Secretary William Hague said the UK has to “make sure that this is not just a device to fool the world.”

    11:35 GMT: The Arab League supports Russia’s initiative on putting over Syrian chemical weapons stockpile under international control, the organization’s chief Nabil el-Araby said, according to AFP. He told reporters in Cairo the League will “soon issue a statement announcing its support officially” of the Russian plan.

    11:05 GMT: Russian President Vladimir Putin and US President Barack Obama discussed the idea of putting Syria’s chemical weapons arsenal under international control at the time of the G20 summit, Putin’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov told Reuters, without giving further details.

    Russia’s President Vladimir Putin (L) welcomes US President Barack Obama at the start of the G20 summit on September 5, 2013 in Saint Petersburg.(AFP Photo / Yuri Kadobnov)Russia’s President Vladimir Putin (L) welcomes US President Barack Obama at the start of the G20 summit on September 5, 2013 in Saint Petersburg.(AFP Photo / Yuri Kadobnov)

    09:53 GMT: Iran now has strong proof of terrorists using chemical weapons in August’s attack, the country’s deputy foreign minister said in Moscow today.

    “As far as chemical weapons use by terrorist groups is concerned, we, together with Russia, have strong proof… some of it is obvious. For example, in December of last year we received information that two capsules containing sarin gas are being transported inside Syria by terrorists.”

    09:49 GMT: Despite news that France is on-board with the decision to place Syria’s chemical arsenal under international control, Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said at a press conference on Tuesday that this does not exclude the possibility of a military strike on the country, RIA Novosti says.

    “Following Russia’s lead, we saw our determination to act supplemented by a new path. We will follow this path, but we do not wish for it to become an evasive maneuver. Therefore, all options remain on the table.”

    09:35 GMT: Tehran says it is certain that the Syrian regime has not participated in August’s chemical attack. This comes from Iran’s Deputy Foreign Minister, Hosseyn Amir Abdollahian’s statement in Moscow.

    “We believe the Syrian government has not used chemical weapons [and that] Damascus will give the utmost consideration to any political decision,” the Deputy FM said.

    09:30 GMT: Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has announced that Russia, together with Syria, is working on a concrete plan for putting its chemical arsenal under control.

    Russia's Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov attends a meeting with his Libyan counterpart Mohammed Abdulaziz in Moscow, September 10, 2013.(Reuters / Maxim Shemetov)Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov attends a meeting with his Libyan counterpart Mohammed Abdulaziz in Moscow, September 10, 2013.(Reuters / Maxim Shemetov)

    09:25 GMT: According to AFP, France is to propose its own Syria resolution at the UN Security Council on Tuesday.

    09:20 GMT: China promises to back Russia’s proposal for Syria to hand over its chemical weapons arsenal over for international control – Reuters reports.

    GMT 07:50: Members of a UN human rights conference in Geneva were presented accounts of international experts, Syrian public figures and Russian news reporters covering the Syrian conflict, which back Russia’s opposition to the US plans for a military intervention in Syria, the Russian Foreign Ministry reports.

    The speakers argued that the suspected sarin gas attack near Damascus on August 21 was likely a provocation of the rebel forces and that a military action against the President Bashar Assad government will likely result in civilian casualties and a humanitarian catastrophe affecting the entire region.

    Syrian opposition's Shaam News Network shows bodies of children and adults laying on the ground as Syrian rebels claim they were killed in a toxic gas attack by pro-government forces in eastern Ghouta, on the outskirts of Damascus on August 21, 2013.(AFP Photo / Shaam News Network)Syrian opposition’s Shaam News Network shows bodies of children and adults laying on the ground as Syrian rebels claim they were killed in a toxic gas attack by pro-government forces in eastern Ghouta, on the outskirts of Damascus on August 21, 2013.(AFP Photo / Shaam News Network)

    Evidence for the Russian case, including numerous eyewitness reports and results of investigations of the chemical weapon incident by activists, were handed over to a UN commission of experts probing the Syrian crisis, the ministry said.

    Monday, September 9

    23:14 GMT: Hardline Republican Senator John McCain said the US should get on board with Russia’s proposal for Syria to hand over control of its chemical weapons to the international community.

    “If there is an international [agreement], if you have the guidelines, the requirements, the reporting, the dates— all of that guided by a very detailed resolution to the UN Security Council, I think that you can’t say no to it even though I’m very dubious that this is a real proposal,”
     McCain told Time magazine. “I think it’s just a stalling tactic but to reject it out of hand is obviously not something that you can do.”

    22:19 GMT: President Obama said he is willing to “absolutely” put on pause the limited strike option on Syria if President Bashar Assad accepts Russia’s proposal to hand over control of the country’s chemical weapons to the international community.

    U.S. President Barack Obama participates in an interview with Chris Wallace (R), anchor of "Fox News Sunday", in the Blue Room of the White House in Washington September 9, 2013.(Reuters / Pete Souza)U.S. President Barack Obama participates in an interview with Chris Wallace (R), anchor of “Fox News Sunday”, in the Blue Room of the White House in Washington September 9, 2013.(Reuters / Pete Souza)

    “Let’s see if we can come up with language that avoids a strike but accomplishes our key goals to make sure that these chemical weapons are not used,” the US president said during an ABC News interview with Diane Sawyer – one of many he gave on Monday.

    Meanwhile, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid announced that a test vote on a resolution to strike Syria will be postponed.

    20:50 GMT: American public opinion is mounting against US military strikes against Syria, according to a new poll by Pew Research and USA Today.

    In the past week, Pew has found in its surveys the contingent of those polled that are opposed to missile strikes has gone up 15 percent in a week to 63 percent. The number who favor action in Syria has basically held consistent in that time period at 28 percent, from 29 percent last week. The number of undecideds on the matter has gone down to 9 percent from 23 percent.

    Seventy percent of self-identified Republicans, 66 percent of independents and 53 percent of Democrats are against US aggression in Syria. The number of those opposed to strikes has gone up among all three political identities.

    AFP Photo / Joan JenningsAFP Photo / Joan Jennings

    The new poll was conducted Sept. 4-8, among 1,506 adults nationwide.

    19:52 GMT: Chemical weapons being handed over under international control is “worthy of close scrutiny” but acceptable “under at least three conditions,” French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said in a statement. The conditions include a quick handover of control over the weapons and permission to further destroy them. He also said the operation should only take place after a UN Security Council resolution. Fabius added that Assad will face consequences if he fails to comply.

    19:48 GMT: In response to Russia’s proposal, Syria’s  top rebel commander has accused President Bashar Assad’s regime and Moscow of deceit.

    “We call for strikes and we warn the international community that this [Assad] regime tells lies, and the liar [Russian President Vladimir] Putin is its teacher. Putin is the biggest liar,” Free Syrian Army chief Selim Idriss told Al Jazeera. 

    “The regime wants to buy time to save itself,” Idriss added. He also warned “decision makers” against falling into Assad’s “trap of deceit and dishonesty.”

    18:44 GMT: Former US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said she is taking Russia’s proposal to Syria very seriously, adding that a Syrian chemical arms handover would be an “important” step.

    Former US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton speaks about the situation in Syria after meeting with US President Barack Obama at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building in Washington, DC on September 9, 2013.(AFP Photo / Saul Loeb)Former US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton speaks about the situation in Syria after meeting with US President Barack Obama at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building in Washington, DC on September 9, 2013.(AFP Photo / Saul Loeb)

    “This is about protecting the Syrian people… and our friends in the regions… If the regime immediately surrendered its stockpiles to international control… that would be an important step. But this cannot be another excuse for delay or obstruction,” she said.

    However, Clinton then said that she supports President Barack Obama’s attempts to seek military action against Syria and called on Congress to approve it.

    18:41 GMT: The US Senate has set a procedural vote to take place on Wednesday on whether to authorize President Barack Obama to use “limited military action” against Syria.

    17:59 GMT: Deputy National Security Adviser Tony Blinken echoed Harf’s statement indicating that the US will take a “hard look” at the Russian proposal.

    “We haven’t had a chance to look at it yet, we haven’t had a chance to talk to the Russians about it,” he said. “We would welcome Assad giving up his chemical weapons…that’s the whole unfortunately the track record to date…doesn’t give you a lot of confidence…that said we want to look hard at what the Russians have proposed.”

    17:54 GMT: State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf said the US has “serious and deep skepticism” about the statements from Russia and Syria.

    “If we see any indication that this latest statement has any merit, the US will look at it,” Harf said. But“everything we have seen from the Assad regime points in the opposite direction.”

    “We’ll have to take a hard look at the Russian statement … so we understand exactly what the Russians are proposing here,” State Department spokeswoman said. “Clearly we have some serious skepticism.”

    17:46 GMT: A new poll conducted by AP, September 6-8, shows that a majority of Americans oppose a US strike on Syria. Most of those who took part in the survey said they are sure that even a limited attack that President Obama is seeking approval for will drag the US into a long-term commitment of military force in Syria.

    At the same time, some 20 percent of respondents said they believe that US military involvement would prevent other countries from using their own weapons of mass destruction in the future.

    17:44 GMT: Cyprus said it will not take part in any kind of strike on Syria, if it comes to that.

    “It’s clear that in no case will it become a launch pad of military operations, or a target of attacks,” Cypriot government spokesman Christos Stylianides said.

    A Typhoon jet of the British Royal Air Force (RAF) lands at a British base at Akrotiri, near the city of Limassol August 29, 2013.(Reuters / Yiannis Nisiotis)A Typhoon jet of the British Royal Air Force (RAF) lands at a British base at Akrotiri, near the city of Limassol August 29, 2013.(Reuters / Yiannis Nisiotis)

    At the same time, Nicosia would be ready to offer assistance to third-country nationals evacuated from the Middle East as a significant number of countries asked Cyprus to host its nationals and offer humanitarian aid if necessary.

    17:12 GMT: Fourteen more countries, including the United Arab Emirates, Qatar and Kosovo, which is not universally recognized as an independent state, have backed a statement condemning the Assad regime for an alleged chemical weapons attack on August 21 and called for a strong international response to bring the Syrian government to account, the White House said.

    In total, 25 countries are now supporting the statement as the US is seeking an international coalition for military strikes against Syria.

    12:27 GMT: Freed after being kidnapped in Syria, Belgian teacher and writer, Pierre Piccinin da Prata, has said that the Syrian regime did not use chemical weapons. “This is my moral duty to tell [sic] about this,” he said in an interview with the RTL-TV channel. “This is not Assad’s government who used sarin gas or any other combat gas in [the] Damascus area. We are sure about this after we accidently heard a conversation between rebels.”

    12:08 GMT: US Secretary of State John Kerry has said that the Syrian President “could turn over every single bit of his chemical weapons to the international community” to avoid a military strike on the country.

    Following Kerry’s statement, a US State Department spokeswoman clarified that Secretary Kerry was making a rhetorical argument about the impossibility and unlikelihood of Assad turning over chemical weapons”.

    “His (Kerry’s) point was that this brutal dictator with a history of playing fast and loose with the facts cannot be trusted to turn over chemical weapons, otherwise he would have done so long ago. That’s why the world faces this moment,” the spokeswoman said.

    09:10 GMT: During a media briefing in London with US Secretary of State John Kerry, the UK Foreign Secretary William Hague said that the UK and the US will continue working with all sides, including Russia, to overcome the crisis in Syria.

    Hague also noted that UK’s objectives and efforts on solving Syria conflict remain “closely aligned” with US.

    Sunday, September 8

    17:35 GMT: Israel has deployed its Iron Dome defense shield west of Jerusalem, AFP reports. A military spokeswoman declined to comment on the move, saying only that “defense systems are deployed in accordance with situation assessments.

    17:01 GMT: Russia has evacuated 70 more people from Syria, the Emergencies Ministry told RIA Novosti news agency. The plane, which supposedly departed from Latakia, had Russian nationals and other CIS citizens on board.

    16:58 GMT: German intelligence has concluded that Bashar Assad may not be personally behind the chemical attack on Damascus’s outskirts, Bild am Sonntag newspaper reported.

    Intercepted radio messages reportedly revealed that Syrian commanders had been asking the country’s leader to allow them to use chemical weapons for the last four-and-a-half months. Based on the messages, German intelligence believes the attack might have been initiated at a lower level than the presidential palace.

    16:19 GMT: President Barack Obama’s address to the nation on the Syrian crisis is scheduled for 9:00pm EST Tuesday evening (01:00am GMT Wednesday morning).

    14:58 GMT: Syrian President Assad has talked to the American media for the first time in two years. CBS’ Charlie Rose spoke to the President; however, the full interview will only be available on Monday on the Face the Nation TV-show.

    Syrian president Bashar al-Assad denied to CBS being behind chemical attack.

    14:11GMT: Both the soldiers of President Bashar Assad and the rebels troops agree that the expected US-led strikes against Syria won’t change the situation in the country, ITV News international editor, Bill Neely, wrote in his article for the Guardian paper.

    “The Americans can shoot their missiles but they’ll get nowhere. Our real enemy is over there, on the ground – Al-Qaeda!” a veteran governmental soldier said.

    “How can it be that America is going to fight us, on the side of Al-Qaeda?”
    a young Syrian army commander wondered. “How can America be against a secular country and for Islamists, who kill their prisoners and dump their bodies in a well?”

    While one of the rebels stressed that “the Americans will scratch the surface, hit 5 per cent of the regime’s power and save face. That won’t save us from another attack.”

    Syrian rebels clash with government forces (unseen) at a military airport in Syria's northeastern city of Deir Ezzor on July 1, 2013. (AFP Photo / Karam Jamal)

    13:28 GMT: The British people oppose any military attack on Syria even if they were presented with undeniable evidence that the government of Syrian president Bashar Assad used sarin gas against its own citizens, an IMC Research opinion poll for the Sunday Telegraph revealed.

    A large proportion of voters (46 per cent) said they wouldn’t want the country’s MPs to stage a second Commons vote on joining the US-led military operation in Syria, if UN weapons inspectors confirm that the August 21 attack involved chemical weapons.

    The poll also revealed that 47 per cent believe that the British role in the Syrian crisis should be limited to “providing aid to refugees,” with only 19 per cent speaking up for military involvement.

    13:24 GMT: With tensions mounting in the Middle East and the number of Syrian refugees reaching 2 million, UNICEF continues to provide urgent life-saving supplies to children inside Syria and in Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey, Iraq and Egypt, the organization’s press release said.

    12:45 GMT: The US authorities have supplied the Japanese government with evidence aimed at convincing the country’s cabinet that forces of Syrian president, Bashar Assad, used chemical weapons near Damascus on August 21.

    The source in the government has confirmed to Kyodo news agency that the materials were received, but didn’t disclose the specific content of the evidence.

    12:28 GMT: A Russian Emergencies Ministry plane has arrived in the Syrian port city of Latakia to pick up Russians and CIS citizens wanting to leave the country in anticipation of the US strikes, RIA-Novosti news agency reports.

    A team of rescuers and psychologists is onboard to assist the passengers during the flight. Emergencies Ministry spokeswoman, Irina Rossius said.

    All the people, who desire to leave, are already in the Latakia airport, with their numbers currently being determined.

    Il-76.(RIA Novosti / Vladimir Baranov)

    12:11 GMT: The spread of chemical arms is “a bigger issue than Syria,” Britain’s Foreign Secretary William Hague said, calling for a tough response to the alleged use of poison gas in the Middle Eastern country.

    “I do believe very strongly that the world must stand up against the use of chemical weapons,” he told the BBC. “The risks of not doing so in my view are greater than the risks of doing so. Allowing the spread of use of chemical weapons in the 21st century is an evil that we have to stand up to, one way or another.”

    US Secretary of State, John Kerry, is to arrive in London on Sunday for talks with Hague as part of his European tour to gain support for the strikes against the targets of Bashar Assad’s government.

    The British parliament has rejected joining the US-led military operation in Syria, with the Foreign Secretary saying that, despite him fully backing the American plan, the government is “not planning” another vote on the issue “unless the circumstances change dramatically.”

    11:47 GMT: The Brazilian state and its citizens will always support the Syrian people, Brazil’s defense minister Humberto De Azevedo Viana Filho said on his visit to Istanbul, adding that his country stands for a peaceful solution to the crisis.

    “Brazil is always on the side of dialogue as a solution to the problems,” the minister is cited as saying by Turkey’s Anadolu news agency. “However, our country is definitely against the use of chemical weapons, which is accepted as an international crime in Brazil. From the very beginning, we have had a clear stance towards such countries as Syria which has killed its own people.”

    08:58 GMT:Turkey spotted “movements” on the Syrian-Turkish border. Turkish jets have been put on standby in case there are any borer violations, IHA reports.

    The Turkish Sabah newspaper added that the “have the permission to open fire in case of hostile movement”. Earlier, a loud explosion was heard on the border.

    01:44 GMT: The US Senate Intelligence Committee has released a compilation of 13 videos presented to the committee as proof of the alleged chemical attack in a Damascus suburb on August 21.

    The committee said in a statement: “Each of these 13 videos explicitly claim to show victims of a chemical or poison gas attack. At the request of Chairman Feinstein, these videos were selected by the Open Source Center to depict a representative range of YouTube content posted regarding the reported 21 August chemical weapons (CW) attacks in the suburbs of Damascus, Syria. All of the videos were posted on YouTube by pro-Syrian opposition users. With one exception, all 13 videos were posted by a pro-opposition Internet news channel that consistently posts user-created videos concerning the Syrian conflict. The news channel does not primarily generate content, but instead re-posts content originally posted by others.”

    Saturday, September 7

    19:48 GMT: Over 200 protesters have gathered at the White House before marching to Capitol Hill in a demonstration opposing possible US military strikes against Syria.

    The protest is one of several planned rallies taking place in cities across America. A larger demonstration is scheduled to take place in Washington on Monday.

    Congressional officials report that by a margin of 100 to one, people are telling the elected representatives from their district that they should vote ‘no’ on the war resolution,” Sarah Sloan of the ANSWER Coalition, which organized the protest, said in a statement. “Because of the deep split inside the political establishment, what the people do can make a huge difference.”

    People march from the White House to the US Capitol in Washington against US intervention in Syria on September 7, 2013. (AFP Photo/Nicholas Kamm)

    19:34 GMT: The US has no plans to evacuate all of its employees from Beirut, Lebanon ahead of a possible military strike against Syria, Secretary of State John Kerry said.

    The Syrian crisis does affect Lebanon. But we do not want it to spill over in the region,” Kerry said after a meeting with French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius.

    Kerry acknowledged, however, that that the number of American employees in Lebanon has been reduced “for security reasons.”

    18:01 GMT: Hundreds of pilgrims have arrived in St Peter’s Square in the Vatican to join Pope Francis in prayer for Syria. The head of the Catholic Church has invited people of all faiths to join in a day of fasting and prayer to call for an end to the Syrian conflict.

    During this week’s G20 summit, the Pope called on world leaders to seek peace in Syria through diplomatic means and to lay aside the “futile pursuit” of a military solution.

    Pope Francis (2ndL under the awning) presides over the mass vigil for prayer for peace in Syria in Saint Peter square at the Vatican, on September 7 2013. (AFP Photo/Andreas Solaro)Pope Francis (2ndL under the awning) presides over the mass vigil for prayer for peace in Syria in Saint Peter square at the Vatican, on September 7 2013. (AFP Photo/Andreas Solaro)

    17:50 GMT: US President Barack Obama has made no decisions about waiting for a UN weapons inspectors’ report on chemical arms used in Syria, and he is keeping all of his options open, US Secretary of State John Kerry said after meeting with French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius.


    17:40 GMT:
     French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius believes a military strike against Syria is the key to a political solution to the country’s conflict.

    Fabius added that all the members of the UN Security Council should denounce the Syrian government and support the use of force.

    The statement came after the French FM’s meeting with US Secretary of State John Kerry, who agreed with his counterpart, adding that “[Syrian President Bashar] Assad must be punished.”

    17:17 GMT: A rally against the expected US-led military operation in Syria is continuing for a second day in front of the American Embassy in al-Metn’s Awkar neighborhood, east of the Lebanese capital of Beirut.

    “Syria, the land of Arabism and resilience, is in danger. But the country does not want protection as it safeguarded Arabs for a long time. It needs Arabs to stand by its side instead of calling on foreign countries to destroy it,” Naharnet quoted activist Ali Taleb as saying.

    “The American Spring will not be achieved through Damascus, and certainly not through Beirut,”
     he said.

     protester holds a poster burning on which is depicted former US president George W. Bush taking off a mask of current President Barack Obama during a demonstration of supporters of Syrian regime near the US embassy, east of Beirut against a possible US military strike on Syria on September 7, 2013. (AFP Photo)protester holds a poster burning on which is depicted former US president George W. Bush taking off a mask of current President Barack Obama during a demonstration of supporters of Syrian regime near the US embassy, east of Beirut against a possible US military strike on Syria on September 7, 2013. (AFP Photo)
    Lebanese supporters of Syrian regime, shout slogans during a demonstration near the US embassy, east of Beirut against a possible US military strike on Syria on September 7, 2013. (AFP Photo)Lebanese supporters of Syrian regime, shout slogans during a demonstration near the US embassy, east of Beirut against a possible US military strike on Syria on September 7, 2013. (AFP Photo)

    14:31 GMT: Lebanese authorities have intensified security measures across the country “in the wake of tensions in the Middle East and possible U.S. military action against Syria for its alleged use of chemical weapons,” the Lebanese Higher Defense Council told Al Arabiya.

    11:44 GMT: The European Union’s Catherin Ashton claims that available information is enough to constitute strong evidence of the Syrian regime’s responsibility for Augusts’ chemical attack.

    11:20 GMT: President Obama said that a small military force may be needed in Syria after all, to deter future chemical weapons attacks – according to Reuters. Although he said on his weekly radio and internet address that a protracted conflict like “Iraq or Afghanistan” is not something he wants.

    11:18 GMT: German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle has said he will join the G20 declaration calling for military action against the Syrian regime.

    11:15 GMT: According to a survey carried out by the French newspaper Figaro, two-thirds of the French (68 percent) are against international military action on Syria, regardless of what their government chooses to do.

    02:52 GMT: As Congress debates Syria military strikes, the US has issued travel warnings to Americans for Lebanon and southeastern Turkey based on possible violence in those countries bordering Syria, the US State Department announced Friday. In addition, the U.S. has also ordered its diplomats to leave both countries as a precautionary measure.

    “Security of our people and our facilities in the region is of utmost concern to everyone here,” State Dept. spokeswoman Marie Harf said, adding that she was not aware of any specific threats.

    20:51 GMT: The UN has drawn up emergency plans for a military strike on Syria, but at the same time will continue to deliver aid to the region, UN humanitarian chief Valerie Amos said after her trip to Damascus, AFP reported.

    “We continue to update and look at our contingency planning,” Amos stated, noting that the UN has great concern for its staff on the ground and still has “a commitment to continue our humanitarian operations.”

    Valerie Amos (Reuters / Denis Balibouse)Valerie Amos (Reuters / Denis Balibouse)

    20:35 GMT: US Deputy National Security Adviser Tony Blinken, an aide close to President Obama, told NPR Friday that military action in Syria is unlikely without congressional approval. Blinken asserted that “the president has the authority to act” if Congress votes down the proposal next week, but “it’s neither his desire nor intention to use that authority absent Congress backing him.”

    18:55 GMT: Syrian President Bashar Assad barely used any of his chemical weapons stockpile in the alleged attack near Damascus on August 21, according to the US Ambassador to the United Nations.

    “We assess that although Assad used more chemical weapons on August 21 than he had before, he has barely put a dent in his enormous stockpile,” Samantha Power said at the Center for American Progress think-tank in Washington.

    “We have exhausted the alternatives” to military action, she said, adding that Assad counted on Russia’s support.

    17:23 GMT:  Friday, September 6th, a so-called Tweet storm rages on the popular networking service for awareness on #OpSyria911. Organizers of the storm, Anonymous hacktivist group, urged opponents of a military intervention to “call, fax, email, and write a letter to your representatives and voice your disdain for any military actions intruded on the Syrian people.”

    15:59 GMT: The Leaders and Representatives of Australia, Canada, France, Italy, Japan, Republic of Korea, Saudi Arabia, Spain, Turkey, the United Kingdom and the United States of America issued a joint statement on the sidelines of the Group of 20 Nations Leader’s Meeting in Saint Petersburg, Russia regarding the crisis in Syria.

    “The international norm against the use of chemical weapons is longstanding and universal.  The use of chemical weapons anywhere diminishes the security of people everywhere.  Left unchallenged, it increases the risk of further use and proliferation of these weapons,”
     the joint statement issued by the White House read.

    “We condemn in the strongest terms the horrific chemical weapons attack in the suburbs of Damascus on August 21st that claimed the lives of so many men, women, and children.  The evidence clearly points to the Syrian government being responsible for the attack, which is part of a pattern of chemical weapons use by the regime.

    We call for a strong international response to this grave violation of the world’s rules and conscience that will send a clear message that this kind of atrocity can never be repeated. Those who perpetrated these crimes must be held accountable.”

    The family photo during the G20 summit on September 6, 2013 in Saint Petersburg (AFP Photo)The family photo during the G20 summit on September 6, 2013 in Saint Petersburg (AFP Photo)

    The statement went on the show its support for a UN Security Council resolution, but “recognized” the Council had remained paralyzed for two years.

    The statement further condemned “in the strongest terms” human rights violations in Syria on all sides.

    15:52 GMT: France says that any military action against Syria would only entail military targets so as to avoid civilian casualties. President Francois Hollande said all G20 states has condemned the use of chemical weapons and agreed they were deployed in Syria. He further warned that if the UN Security Council could not agree on a response to the attack, a coalition must be created to respond. He did say, however, that France would wait on conclusions from UN inspectors investigating the August 21 attack in a Damascus suburb before deciding to act.

    “We shall await the report of the inspectors just as we will await (US) Congress,” he told a news conference after a summit of G20 nations in St. Petersburg, in reference to US President Barack Obama’s decision to ask for Congressional approval before launching a strike.

    15:38 GMT: Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan said on Friday almost all of the leaders at the G20 summit in St. Petersburg accepted that an operation needed to be carried out against Syria in response to an alleged chemical weapons attack in  a Damascus Suburb on August 21.

    “Almost all the leaders who have attended the summit are closely following the massacre the Syrian regime carried out on its people and the leaders have expressed that an operation is extremely necessary against Damascus,” Reuters cites Erdogan as saying.

    15:20 GMT: The Russian Foreign Ministry has asked the world to consider claims made by Mother Agnes Mariam el-Salib – mother superior of St. James Monastery in Qara, Syria – who told RT there is proof the footage of the alleged chemical attack in Syria was fabricated.

    Mother Agnes Mariam el-SalibMother Agnes Mariam el-Salib

    “I maintain that the whole affair was a frame-up. It had been staged and prepared in advance with the goal of framing the Syrian government as the perpetrator,” she said.

    “The key evidence is that Reuters made these files public at 6.05 in the morning. The chemical attack is said to have been launched between 3 and 5 o’clock in the morning in Guta. How is it even possible to collect a dozen different pieces of footage, get more than 200 kids and 300 young people together in one place, give them first aid and interview them on camera, and all that in less than three hours? Is that realistic at all? As someone who works in the news industry, you know how long all of it would take.”

    15:15: GMT: US President Barack Obama refused to say directly what he would do if Congress doesn’t approve Syria strikes when asked the question at the press conference during the G20 summit.

    However he said that “given Security Council paralysis on this issue, if we are serious about upholding a ban on chemical weapons use, then an international response is required, and that will not come through Security Council action.”

    15:07 GMT: The alleged chemical weapons attack in Syria was “carried out by rebels as a provocation”to create the possibility for a foreign intervention, Russian President Vladimir Putin told reporters at a press conference during the final day of the G20 summit.

    While Russia, China, India, Indonesia, Argentina, Brazil, South Africa and Italy are among the major world’s economies which oppose the intervention, only Turkey, Canada, Saudi Arabia and France join the US in its call for military action in the war-torn country, adding that the UK Prime Minister’s position was not supported by his citizens.

    In case of intervention, Putin stressed that Russia will help Syria as “we are already helping, we send arms, we cooperate in the economic sphere, we hope to expand our cooperation in the humanitarian sphere, which includes sending humanitarian aid to support those people – the civilians – who have found themselves in a very dire situation in this country.”

    13:54 GMT: The discussion of the Syrian issue at the G20 summit in St Petersburg has not decreased the possibility of a military operation against the republic, says British Prime Minister David Cameron.  He said that although the talks were very helpful, the summit was never about making a decision on the matter.

    British Prime Minister David Cameron (AFP Photo / Yuri Kadobnov)British Prime Minister David Cameron (AFP Photo / Yuri Kadobnov)

    If the United Nations Security Council fails to agree on a resolution authorizing military intervention in the Syrian conflict, action without its approval can’t be ruled out either, Cameron said.

    The UK, along with several other members of the group, agreed to seek free access for humanitarian aid to Syria through the UN, he told a media conference at the end of the gathering.

    13:42 GMT: Russia President Vladimir Putin and US leader Barack Obama have discussed Syrian crisis on the sidelines of G20 summit in St Petersburg, says Russian presidential aid Yuri Ushakov. However, “there remains a difference in opinions” following the meeting, Ushakov said. Putin and Obama have agreed to continue discussing the settlement for the Syrian crisis on the level of their foreign ministers.

    13:03 GMT: A military strike on Syria will put an end to all the efforts made by the UN-Arab League envoy on Syria, Lakhdar Brahimi, to politically resolve the conflict, agreed the participates of the G20 summit breakfast meeting, said Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov.

    “I cannot say that this was the prevailing opinion, but many responsible states are coming to a very clear understanding that the use of force, bypassing the UN Security Council, will put an end to all efforts for a political resolution and carrying out the Geneva-2 peace conference made by Lakhdar Brahimi,” Lavrov said.

    “Our common conclusion is to do everything possible to prevent the military scenario in Syria,” Lavrov added. “There is still time for this.”

    The US did not participate, while Canada, Kazakhstan, South Korea, Senegal, Mexico, Brazil, Germany, Turkey, France and Russia were present at the meeting. 

    12:40 GMT: The Turkish Prime Minster Tayyip Erdogan has said that almost all leaders at the G20 summit in St Petersburg accept the need for a military operation against Syria.

    Turkey’s Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan attends a working meeting of the G20 summit of heads of state and government, heads of invited states and international organizations in Saint Petersburg (AFP Photo)Turkey’s Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan attends a working meeting of the G20 summit of heads of state and government, heads of invited states and international organizations in Saint Petersburg (AFP Photo)12:00 GMT: The U.S. has ordered its diplomats to leave Lebanon as Congress debates Syria military strikes, in a move that will be interpreted that the possibility of a military strikes has moved a step closer.The US State Department has ordered nonessential U.S. diplomats and family members to leave Lebanon due to security concerns. They have also urged US citizens to avoid all travel to Lebanon because of current safety and security concerns.“The Department of State drew down non-emergency personnel and family members from Embassy Beirut due to threats to U.S. Mission facilities and personnel,” a statement on the Beirut embassy’s website said.11:55 GMT: The Geneva II peace conference is under threat in the current situation, said UN-Arab League envoy on Syria Lakhdar Brahimi during the G20 summit held in St. Petersburg, Russia.11:50 GMT: The Syrian government has announced that it is offering a bounty to anyone who captures a“non-Syrian terrorist”, or helps to apprehend one, state television said. A bounty of 500,000 Syrian pounds (roughly $4,000) will be offered for capture, while 200,000 Syrian pounds (about $1,500) goes to anyone who gives information regarding terrorist locations.The statement said the identities of those who provided information would be kept secret and their“protection ensured”. Concerning Syrian rebels who informed on their comrades, state television added, that they would be granted amnesty and “their affairs will be settled.” 
    11:29 GMT: Moscow has warned Washington against staging attacks on Syria’s chemical weapons depots.“With particular concern, we perceive the fact that among possible targets for attacks are objects of military infrastructure securing the safety of Syrian chemical weapons arsenals,” according to a statement in the comment of the Department of Information and Media relations of the Russian Foreign Ministry, issued on Friday. 
    “In this regard, we would like to warn the US government and its allies from inflicting any assaults on chemical facilities and adjacent territories,” the document says.11:22 GMT: The crisis in Syria should be resolved through political means and not a military strike, Chinese President Xi Jinping told his US counterpart Barack Obama during the G20 summit in St. Petersburg in Russia.

    Chinese President Xi Jinping attends the first working session of the G20 summit in Saint Petersburg (AFP Photo)Chinese President Xi Jinping attends the first working session of the G20 summit in Saint Petersburg (AFP Photo)”A political solution is the only right way out for the Syrian crisis, and a military strike cannot solve the problem from the root,” Xinhua news agency quoted Xi as saying. “We expect certain countries to have a second thought before action,” he added.
    10:50 GMT: The UN nuclear watchdog has confirmed receipt of a request from Russia to estimate the impact if a missile were to hit a small Syrian reactor that contains radioactive uranium.“I can confirm that the IAEA has received a formal request from the Russian Federation. The agency is considering the questions raised,” IAEA spokeswoman Gill Tudor said in an email to Reuters.A military strike on Syria could have catastrophic effects if the research reactor near Damascus was struck “by design or by chance,” Russia said in a statement earlier this week.
    10:32 GMT: British scientists found traces of sarin gas in soil and fabric samples collected in Syria, the UK Ministry of Defence has confirmed earlier reports, BBC states.
    9:43 GMT: EU defense ministers have agreed that embattled Syrian President Bashar Assad used chemical weapons in an attack in a Damascus suburb on August 21, reports AFP.Meanwhile, US President Barack Obama told G20 leaders in St. Petersburg that the US was “confident” Assad’s forces had used chemical weapons. Obama urged the G20 leaders to support the international ban on chemical weapons and authorize the use of military force against Syria.
    7:55 GMT: A Russian parliamentary delegation will not travel to Washington to meet with Congress to discuss Syria, announced Russian lawmaker and State Duma representative, Sergey Naryshkin. 
    03:48 GMT: US President Barack Obama instructed the Pentagon to expand the list of potential Syria targets as a reaction to new intelligence that Syrian President Bashar Assad has been moving troops and chemical weapons equipment, military officials told the The New York Times. This means that the original list of at least 50 major sites will be further expanded.

    US President Barack Obama (AFP Photo / Jewel Samad) US President Barack Obama (AFP Photo / Jewel Samad)

    03:20 GMT: The US State Department responded to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s remarks that US Secretary of State John Kerry “lied” about the influence of Al-Qaeda in Syria, saying that it is“preposterous” and a mischaracterization of what America’s top diplomat actually said.

    Kerry is “not losing sleep after such a preposterous comment that was based on an inaccurate quote and was completely mischaracterized,” State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki told reporters in Washington.

    Putin made his remarks on Wednesday, reportedly referring to the Secretary of State’s testimony before the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee a day earlier, where Kerry said that Al-Qaeda’s presence within the Syrian opposition has not been increasing.

    02:00 GMT: US Navy destroyers in the Mediterranean are “fully ready” to launch cruise missiles into Syria as part of a US military campaign that would not involve “extraordinary” monetary costs, a top admiral said Thursday.

    Greenert, a chief naval operations officer who focuses on preparedness of Navy forces, also seemed to confirm the rough estimate made by US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel on Wednesday in front of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, when he told Congress that a US campaign in Syria would likely cost“tens of millions” of dollars.

    “The numbers are nagging but they’re not extraordinary at this point,” Greenert said at an event held by the conservative think-tank American Enterprise Institute, though defense budget analysts say Hagel’s figure is a low estimate.

    Friday, September 6 

    20:51 GMT: The UN has drawn up emergency plans for a military strike on Syria, but at the same time will continue to deliver aid to the region, UN humanitarian chief Valerie Amos said after her trip to Damascus, AFP reported.

    “We continue to update and look at our contingency planning,” Amos stated, noting that the UN has great concern for its staff on the ground and still has “a commitment to continue our humanitarian operations.”

    Billboard with portrait of Assad and the text ...

    Billboard with portrait of Assad and the text God protects Syria on the old city wall of Damascus 2006 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

    Thursday, September 5

    23:50 GMT: Pope Francis called on world leaders attending the G20 summit in Russia to seek peace in Syria through diplomatic means, laying aside the “futile pursuit” of a military solution.

    In a letter to Russian President Vladimir Putin, who is hosting the G20 summit, Francis said that lopsided global interests have blocked a diplomatic course in the Syrian conflict and have led to the “senseless massacre” of innocent people.

    “To the leaders present, to each and every one, I make a heartfelt appeal for them to help find ways to overcome the conflicting positions and to lay aside the futile pursuit of a military solution,”
     Francis wrote.

    Pope Francis.(Reuters / Tony Gentile)Pope Francis.(Reuters / Tony Gentile)

    21:00 GMT: US Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power said Thursday there is “no viable path forward” in the UN Security council on Syria, accusing Russian leaders of holding the council hostage to protect President Bashar al-Assad’s government.

    I was present in the meeting where the UK laid down the resolution, and everything in that meeting, in word and body language, suggests that that resolution has no prospect of being adopted, by Russia in particular,” Power said. “In the wake of the flagrant shattering of the international norm against chemical weapons use, Russia continues to hold the council hostage and shirk its responsibilities, including as a party to the chemical weapons convention.”

    20:45 GMT: President Obama has forgone a trip to California, instead remaining in Washington, “to work on the Syrian resolution before Congress,” the White House has announced. Obama was scheduled to speak at the AFL-CIO’s quadrennial convention in Los Angeles and attend a party fundraiser which has been postponed.

    The president departed Washington Tuesday night for a trip to Sweden before heading to the G20 summit in Russia. Obama will return to the US on Friday. Both chambers of Congress are scheduled to debate US military action in Syria on Monday.

    20:24 GMT: US Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said he is “guardedly optimistic” that the Senate will vote to authorize limited missile strikes against Syria, a Democratic aide said on Thursday, as cited by Reuters. The aide said the Senate will likely vote on President Obama’s use-of-force resolution on Wednesday, in an attempt to nullify an expected entanglement with Republicans.

    Reid did not attend the meeting with Obama earlier this week in which Democrat and Republican leaders were briefed on the details of the Syrian conflict. Reid told reporters that he has been in daily contact with the president and “has all the information he needs.”

    17:07 GMT: The UK has fresh evidence of use of chemical weapons in the Syrian capital, Damascus, British prime minister, David Cameron, told the BBC.

    He said evidence of the Bashar Assad regime’s use of chemical weapons was “growing all the time” and UK scientists were investigating the alleged attacks on 21 August.

    “We have just been looking at some samples taken from Damascus in the Porton Down laboratory in Britain which further shows the use of chemical weapons in that Damascus suburb,” Cameron said.

    The PM also denied claims he has “no hand to play” over Syria after losing a vote on UK military action in Syria, saying that Britain would lead calls for more action on aid for refugees and push for fresh peace talks.

    16:18 GMT: Moscow is puzzled by the Pentagon’s claims that Russia has been shipping chemical weapons or the means to develop them to the Syrian government of Bashar Assad, the head of the Kremlin’s administration, Sergey Ivanov, said.

    “I’ve heard this statement, spoken in diplomatic language, I was very surprised and even shocked by it,”Ivanov is cited as saying by the ITAR-TASS news agency.

    The official added that no matter how Congress votes on the use of force against Syria, the decision by the US lawmaker still won’t be “legitimate”.

    Ivanov also said that Russia has boosted its naval presence in the Mediterranean Sea in order to evacuate Russian citizens from Syria in case of an attack.

    15:22 GMT: Leaders of the BRICS countries expressed their concerns on Thursday that military action against Syria could damage the world economy, a spokesman for the Russian president said.

    “It was noted within the BRICS dialogue that among factors that could negatively affect the global economic situation are the consequences of the eventual foreign intervention into Syrian affairs. Such consequences can have an extremely negative effect on global economy,” the spokesman said.

    The BRICS association includes the emerging economies of Russia, China, India, Brazil, and South Africa.

    15:15 GMT: Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov is to hold talks with his Syrian counterpart Walid al-Moualem on September 9 in Moscow, according to Russian Foreign Ministry.

    “In accordance with an agreement reached, Moscow will host talks between Russia’s Foreign minister, Sergey Lavrov, and Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Syrian Arab Republic, Walid al-Moualem,” the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement on its website.

    The talks will focus on the comprehensive review of all aspects of the current conflict in Syria, according to the statement.

    “In Moscow, we remain convinced of the need for a speedy end to the violence and suffering of the civilian population in Syria and the path of a political settlement without external military intervention avoiding the UN Security Council,” the ministry’s statement said.

    14:40 GMT: Russia is not blocking the work of the UN Security Council, but “calls for all its partners for objective assessment of the situation” concerning Syria, Russian President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov said at the G20 briefing.

    “Russia is attempting to call on its partners, including partners in Washington, for an objective assessment of the situation, without taking decisions before the official verdict of the UN experts working in Syria,” Peskov said.

    Only after the UN experts announce their legitimate conclusion on if the chemical weapons were indeed used in Syria, “then it is necessary to sort out who was behind their use,” Peskov stressed.

    “We cannot accept the evidence that, in our view, does not represent any evidence, that is far from being convincing,” Putin’s spokesman said.

    13:33 GMT: Heavy clashes between Syrian government forces and militants of the Al-Qaida affiliated group, Jabhat al-Nusra (Al-Nusra Front), have been going on in the mountains surrounding the UNESCO-listed Christian village in western Syria after the insurgents attacked and held it overnight, AP reports, citing the UK-based Observatory for Human Rights.

    Militants reportedly left the village of Maaloula early on Thursday, with locals saying they saw them patrolling the streets on foot and in vehicles at night, as well as surrounding the village church and mosque. According to AP speaking with witnesses over the phone, the villagers fear the rebels will return.

    12:34 GMT: Iran will support Syria “to the end” in the face of a possible US-led military strike, Iran’s elite Quds Force unit commander Qassem Soleimani has said.

    “The aim of the United States is not to protect human rights … but to destroy the front of resistance [against Israel],” Soleimani was quoted as saying by AFP citing local media.

    “We will support Syria to the end,” he added in a speech to the Iranian Assembly of Experts, without elaborating.

    However, Iran’s Defense Minister, Hossein Dehqan, ruled out sending troops or weapons to Syria.

    “The Syrians do not need us to provide them with weapons because they have a defensive anti-aircraft system themselves,” Dehqan was quoted as saying.

    12:20 GMT: The UN inspectors will not reveal the preliminary results of the probe into alleged chemical weapons use in Syria on August 21 near Damascus until the probe is completed, Martin Nesirky, a spokesman for UN Secretary General, has said.

    “There will be no disclosure of the preliminary findings. There will only be final results after all the samples are analyzed,” Ban Ki-moon’s spokesman was quoted as saying by Interfax.

    European Council President Herman van Rompuy said earlier on Thursday he expected the UN Secretary General to share the tentative findings of the UN chemical weapons inspectors on the sidelines of the G20 summit.

    11:48 GMT: The international community should focus on a political solution for the Syrian crisis, said the President of the European Commission, Jose Manuel Barroso.

    “The European Union is certain that the efforts should be aimed at a political settlement,” Barroso told reporters at the G20 briefing.

    11:39 GMT: Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, slammed the US for using the alleged chemical weapons use as a “pretext” for intervention in Syria.

    “In the case of Syria, the chemical attack is a pretext… The Americans try to play with words and pretend that they’ve become involved in this case for humanitarian aims,” Khamenei said, at a meeting of the Iranian Assembly of Experts.

    Khamenei then warned the US would “suffer loss” in Syria, should they launch a military strike.

    “I believe the Americans are making mistakes in Syria and they have felt the impact and will certainly suffer loss,” he said.

    11:09 GMT: Seventy percent of Germans are against military intervention in Syria. However, 65 percent consider it a possibility, according to a survey ordered by the ZDF TV channel.

    10:15 GMT:  UN special envoy to Syria, Lakhdar Brahimi, will push for an international conference to find a political solution to the conflict in Syria during the G20 summit.

    “While the world is focused on concerns about the possible use of chemical weapons in Syria we must push even harder for the International Conference on Syria to take place in Geneva,” said Brahimi in a statement.

    05:12 GMT: Russia has sent an official request to meet the US lawmakers with the aim of lobbying them on Syria. It’s after earlier speculations that Russia will send a delegation to Washington, DC.

    02:52 GMT: While calling for reconciliation and denying his government used chemical weapons, Syrian Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal al-Mekdad told the Wall Street Journal if the US attacks Syria, Damascus would strike back not only at Israel, but also neighbors Jordan and Turkey if they participate in hostilities.

    “Once the war starts nobody can control what will happen,” he said. “We believe that any attack against Syria will definitely result in chaos in the entire region if not beyond.”

    He also said US strikes would strengthen rebel groups affiliated with Al-Qaeda rather than the moderate opposition forces the US has supported.

    02:41 GMT: The Vatican will host a day of fasting and a four-hour prayer vigil Saturday in St. Peter’s Square in opposition to US military strikes in Syria, the AP reported. The Vatican has invited bishops’ conferences the world over to host local version of the vigil.

    In recent speeches, tweets and remarks, Pope Francis has called for a negotiated settlement to the Syrian conflict while condemning use of chemical weapons. “War never again! Never again war!” he tweeted earlier this week.

    With utmost firmness I condemn the use of chemical weapons.

    — Pope Francis (@Pontifex) September 3, 2013

    Hagel BioGuide

    Hagel BioGuide (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

    Wednesday, September 4th 2013

    23:58 GMT: Russian lawmakers have announced plans to meet with US congressional leaders to discuss Syria, according to CNN. Previous reports speculated that Russia would send a delegation to Washington but it is not clear whether they will arrive before Monday, when the Senate and House of Representatives are scheduled to debate a bill authorizing military force in Syria.

    House Speaker John Boehner, however, has already declined the invitation, according to Boehner spokesman Michael Steel, who did not provide a reason.

    At this particular point, my understanding has been that relations between members of Congress and the Russian parliament have been very sour,” Dick Lugar, the former head of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, told CNN. “I don’t think a delegation from Russia will make any difference in terms of congressional votes. But at the same time there may be the possibility that dialogue could lead to other positive things.”

    23:35 GMT: The Pentagon has issued a clarification to US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel’s assertion Wednesday that Russia had supplied chemical weapons to Syria.

    During the House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing on potential use of force against Syria, Hagel alluded to Syria’s stockpile of chemical weapons. When asked where they came from, Hagel said, “Well, the Russians supply them. Others are supplying them with those chemical weapons. They make some themselves.”

    Pentagon spokesman George Little explained in a statement Hagel was referring to the “well-known conventional arms relationship between Syria and Russia.”

    The full statement from Little:

    “In a response to a member of Congress, Secretary Hagel was referring to the well-known conventional arms relationship between Syria and Russia. The Syrian regime has a decades-old largely indigenous chemical weapons program. Currently, Russia provides the Syrian regime a wide variety of military equipment and support, some of which can be modified or otherwise used to support the chemical weapons program. We have publicly and privately expressed our concern over the destabilizing impact on the Syrian conflict and the wider region of continued military shipments to the Assad regime.”

    22:00 GMT: The White House praised the Senate Foreign Relations Committee for passing an authorization of military force against Syria hours after questioning top administration officials on potential strikes.

    “We commend the Senate for moving swiftly and for working across party lines on behalf of our national security,” White House press secretary Jay Carney said in a statement.

    The resolution now goes to the full Senate for debate. The bill needs 60 votes to ultimately pass.

    21:53 GMT: Former Syrian Defense Minister Ali Habib has not fled the country, state television reported Wednesday.

    “There is no truth to what the media has reported on the travel of former defence minister Ali Habib Mahmoud outside of Syria and he is still in his home,” Syrian state television quoted an official source as saying.

    A top member of the opposition Syrian National Coalition had previously told Reuters Habib had defected to Turkey.

    21:43 GMT: Probes from Khan al-Assal show chemicals used in the March 19 attack did not belong to standard Syrian army ammunition, and that the shell carrying the substance was similar to those made by a rebel fighter group, the Russian Foreign Ministry stated.

    A statement released by the ministry on Wednesday particularly drew attention to the “massive stove-piping of various information aimed at placing the responsibility for the alleged chemical weapons use in Syria on Damascus, even though the results of the UN investigation have not yet been revealed.”

    By such means “the way is being paved for military action” against Damascus, the ministry pointed out.

    But the samples taken at the site of the March 19 attack and analyzed by Russian experts indicate that a projectile carrying the deadly nerve agent sarin was most likely fired at Khan al-Assal by the rebels, the ministry statement suggests, outlining the 100-page report handed over to the UN by Russia.

    21:23 GMT: US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel insisted that any military strike on Syria for use of chemical weapons would significantly reduce President Bashar Assad’s military might.

    “The president has said … this would not be a pin prick. Those were his words. This would be a significant strike that would in fact degrade his capability,” Hagel said during a hearing in front of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, which will consider authorizing use of military force in the coming days.

    Hagel and Secretary of State John Kerry agreed that “likelihood is very high” Assad would use chemical weapons again should the US not use force.

    Hagel added during the hearing that a limited military strike campaign in Syria would likely cost “tens of millions” of dollars.

    “We have looked at the different costs, depending on the different options,” Hagel said. “It would be in the tens of millions of dollars, that kind of range.”

    U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel (Alex Wong / Getty Images / AFP)

    21:00 GMT: During Wednesday afternoon’s hearing before the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel suggested that the Assad regime received some of their alleged chemical weapons arsenal from Russia.

    There’s no secret that the Assad regime has had chemical weapons, significant stockpiles of chemical weapons,” Hagel said.

    When asked by Rep. Joe Wilson (R-South Carolina) to elaborate, Hagel responded, “The Russians supply them, others are supplying them with those chemical weapons, they make some themselves.”

    18:13 GMT: Rep. Brian Higgins (D-New York) questioned the United States’ potential involvement in the Syrian civil war by insisting that the US should concentrate on its domestic endeavors, not efforts abroad.

    The American people are sick and tired of war,” Higgins told Secretary of State John Kerry. “It’s time to nation build — in America.”

    18:07 GMT: Answering critique from Rep. Ted Deutsh (D-Florida) about America’s potential role in the Syrian civil war, Secretary of State told the committee, “The United States of America is not being the world’s policeman.”

    17:23 GMT: Senator Robert Menendez, chairman of the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee, told reporters that a meeting and potentially a vote could occur as early as 2 p.m. local time, or 1800 GMT, today.

    16:48 GMT: According to Reuters, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee is expected to vote later today on the draft resolution presented on Tuesday which would authorize the use of military force in Syria

    16:36 GMT: Secretary of State John Kerry is again the lead witness during a Congressional hearing in Washington, this time one hosted by the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

    During Wednesday afternoon testimony, Kerry said that new evidence has surfaced only hours earlier linking Assad’s regime to the August 21 attack near Damascus that the White House says killed over 1,400 people.

    Meanwhile, anti-war protesters with the group Code Pink assembled during the hearing seated behind Kerry. International television cameras captured the demonstrators with symbolic “blood” on their hands.

    During Tuesday’s hearing in the Senate, Code Pink co-founder Madea Benjamin was ejected from the facility during an outburst that occurred moments into the meeting.

     

    14:58 GMT: Russian President Vladimir Putin criticized remarks made by the US Secretary of State John Kerry at the Congressional debate, saying Kerry “lied” by claiming there was no Al-Qaeda militants fighting in Syria and that the military strike against President Assad will not boost the terrorist network’s presence in the region.

    “Well, he [Kerry] lies. And he knows that he lies. This is sad,” Putin remarked as he spoke to human rights activists on Wednesday, saying that the Al-Nusra Front terrorist organization, which pledged allegiance to Al-Qaeda, has been at the forefront of the rebel groups fighting Assad’s forces, and that the US is well aware of that.

    Speaking of Kerry’s confidence in that Assad’s forces used chemical weapons, Putin recalled former US Secretary of State Colin Powell’s rhetoric on the eve of American invasion in Iraq. It later turned out that all Powell’s arguments that Iraq had chemical weapons “did not hold water,” the Russian President stressed.

    13:40 GMT: President Barack Obama said the credibility of the US Congress was on the line regarding the need to uphold a ban on chemical weapons in Syria.

    “My credibility is not on the line. The international community’s credibility is on the line,” he told a news conference in Sweden. “America and Congress’s credibility is on the line, because we give lip service to the notion that these international norms are important,” Obama added.

    13:16 GMT: US President Barack Obama urged the international community to respond effectively to chemical weapons’ use in Syria during his statement at a press conference in Sweden.

    A “real strong message” to Assad must be sent to ‘degrade’ his ability to use chemical weapons again, the President added.

    Obama stated that he was not required to submit proposals for military action to Congress for approval, but also said that not doing so was no empty exercise.

    10:20 GMT: Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan reiterated on Wednesday that Turkey would take part in nay international coalition against Syria but didn’t say whether that would include military action.

    00:47 GMT: A new US Senate draft resolution for authorizing use of military force in Syria sets a 60-day deadline, with one 30-day extension possible, while barring ground forces.

    The resolution was drafted by Sens. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) and Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), the chairman and ranking member of the Foreign Relations Committee. The resolution needs 60 votes in the Senate to overcome a filibuster by opponents.

    The draft follows Tuesday’s hearing on Syria featuring testimony from US Secretary of State John Kerry, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Martin Dempsey and Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel.

    00:30 GMT: Though not yet in session, members of the US House of Representatives have released two separate draft resolutions on potential US military action in Syria, Politico reported.

    Rep. Devin Nunes (Calif.), a top Republican on the House Intelligence Committee, offered a resolution calling for President Obama to consult with Congress within 60 days to provide information on nine fronts to justify the use of military force.

    The resolution would require a summary of “attempts to build a coalition; a ‘detailed plan for military action in Syria, including specific goals and military objectives;’ what would qualify as degrading the chemical weapons supply; an explanation how a limited military strike would encourage regime change, prevent terrorists from taking control of power or weapons, secure the chemical weapons and deter their future use; how a strike would prevent Iran and Russia from keeping Assad in power; information about Al Qaeda’s access to weapons; an explanation of whether weapons from Libya are being used by the Syrian opposition and an estimation of the cost.”

    The other resolution, offered by Democrats Rep. Gerry Connolly (Va.) and Rep. Chris Van Hollen (Md.), is also supportive of a Syria attack but seeks to narrow the scope of any such action. Their resolution bars use of ground forces, limits attacks to 60 days while prohibiting a second series of attacks — unless the Obama administration has proof Assad used chemical weapons again — and says an attack on Syria can only happen to prevent use, not stockpiling, of chemical weapons.

    Tuesday, September 3rd 2013 

    Syria

    Syria (Photo credit: ewixx)


    18:24 GMT: Russia’s missile defense system “proved its effectiveness” after it was put on high alert following the Israeli-US test launch of a ballistic missile in the Mediterranean, said Russian Deputy Defense Minister Anatoly Antonov.

    Russia is ready for “any actions, in any circumstances” Antonov stressed, praising the Russian defense reaction as “prompt and adequate.” The missile was launched in the direction of Russia’s borders, he said, adding it was “self-evident” that President Putin was immediately informed as the Commander-in-Chief.

    Describing the Mediterranean as a modern “powder keg,” Antonov called for the US “not to play with fire,” and said it should show more responsibility for both regional security and world peace.

    He reminded that the US and the USSR signed an agreement binding both parties to give notification of missile launches in advance, which is still valid between the US and Russia.

    17:26 GMT: UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon on Tuesday said he intends to bring the issue of the escalating Syrian crisis to the top of the G20 summit’s agenda.

    Ban stressed that the use of military force is only legal in self-defense, or with the authorization of the UN Security Council. He also called for holding the Geneva-2 peace conference on Syria as soon as possible.

    The UN Chief also reminded that UN investigators are set to return to Syria to investigate several other cases of alleged chemical weapons use.

    16:10 GMT: Democratic leader in the US House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi, said she believes Congress will support a resolution authorizing the use of military force against Syria.

    Pelosi made her remarks after meeting the president and congressional leaders at the White House.

    http://rt.com/news/syria-crisis-live-updates-047/

     
    • Ace News Group 18:00 on October 9, 2013 Permalink | Reply

      Foreign Office Minister for the Middle East Hugh Robertson today met with campaigners from Oxfam to discuss shared concerns about the conflict in Syria.

      Like

    • Ace News Group 15:16 on October 6, 2013 Permalink | Reply

      SYRIA: JOINT UN TEAM PREPARING FOR ONSITE INSPECTIONS ‘WITHIN THE NEXT WEEK’
      New York, Oct 4 2013 4:00PM
      The Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) is reviewing additional information received from Syria in connection to its chemical weapons stockpiles, a United Nations spokesperson said today, ahead of onsite inspections and initial disabling of equipment which could start as early as next week.
      Later that day, the UN Security Council unanimous adopted resolution 2118 (2013), calling for the for the speedy implementation of procedures drawn up by the OPCW

      Like

    • John Balter 22:07 on September 5, 2013 Permalink | Reply

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