The Syrian Coalition called upon the United Nations to establish an inquiry into the involvement of UN staffers in Damascus in corruption cases with officials in the Assad regime.
A report published by the Guardian newspaper on Monday revealed that the UN aid program for Syria has paid tens of millions of dollars to the Assad regime via contracts with people closely tied to Assad. The UN has awarded expensive contracts to numerous individuals whose businesses are currently under US and EU sanctions.
In a statement released on Tuesday, the Coalition said that the Guardian’s investigation “represents only the tip of the iceberg of dubious relationships between UN staffers in Damascus and regime officials.”
“The awarding of multi-million dollar contracts to very close associates of Bashar al-Assad amounts to involvement in corruption and the subsidizing of Assad’s war machine,” the Coalition stressed.
The Syrian Coalition has already objected to the UN entrusting its head office in Damascus with the arrangement of logistics and meetings, including with opposition figures and defectors from the regime, allowing the Assad regime to keep under surveillance the activities of opposition officials and their meetings with UN officials in Damascus.
The Syrian Coalition has repeatedly called for the establishment of an inquiry into the discovery of aid items provided by the UN agencies inside the regime’s military bases. Verified photos and videos confirmed the discovery of UN aid items inside Almastuma army base in rural Idlib when it was overrun by rebel fighters in mid-2015.
“The United Nations is yet to set up any inquiry of this kind; therefore, it is imperative that the UN member states seriously intervene to tackle these grave policies that risk discrediting the United Nations and cast serious doubt about its role in Syria,” the statement said.
The Syrian Coalition underscored it would follow up closely on the issue until it is fully investigated and its details exposed. The Coalition pledged it would seek to expose any policies that may help the Assad regime war effort against the Syrian people and their revolution. (Source: Syrian Coalition + Agencies)
Member of the Syrian Coalition George Sabra said that the devious, atrocious tactics the Assad regime uses to force residents of Damascus suburbs and the district of Alwaer in Homs out of their homes are aimed at partitioning Syria by bringing about demographic change in many parts of the country.
It is lamentable that the Assad regime and its Iranian allies are executing their plans to replace residents of those areas, with explicit support from Iranian-backed mercenary groups, right under the nose of the international community, Sabra said.
Sabra pointed out that Bashar al-Assad made clear his plans when he said that a Syrian citizen is not the one who was born in Syria, but the one who defends the regime.
The regime first started employing his tactics in Homs province, then in Damascus suburbs, especially Daraya, Moadamiya and Zabadani, and most recently in the district of Alwaer in Homs, Sabra added. Sabra went on to say that the regime is now carving out what he called “useful Syria,” a plan the regime previously implied in many occasions as it realized it would not be able to regain control over the whole of Syria.
Sabra noted that the “useful Syria” the Assad regime seeks to carve out includes Damascus, Homs and the Syrian coastal areas. He added that Russia and Iran support the regime’s plan with the aim of consolidating their influence and further their interests in Syria, Iraq and Lebanon.
The forced mass displacement carried out by the Assad regime amounts to a crime against humanity and violates international humanitarian law and UN Security Council resolutions on Syria, Sabra said. He warned that these plans risk both jeopardizing the political process in Syria and fueling sectarian war threatening security and stability in the entire region. (Source: Syrian Coalition + Al-Jazeera)
Riad Hijab, General Coordinator of the oppositions’ High Negotiations Committee (HNC), reiterated the committee’s rejection of giving any role for Bashar al-Assad and his inner circle in the transitional period or future Syria.
Following a meeting with China's special envoy to Syria, Xie Xiaoyan and officials from the Chinese Foreign Ministry on Tuesday, Hijab pointed out that the Assad regime continues to violate UN Security Council resolutions on Syria. He added that Assad’s campaign on Aleppo aims to empty it of is residents with the help of foreign militias.
Hijab also reiterated the HNC’s commitment to Syria’s unity and territorial integrity, the establishment of pluralistic regime and maintaining state institutions. He also reaffirmed commitment to a political solution in accordance with the Geneva Communique of 2012 and the relevant UNSC resolutions, especially resolutions 2118 and 2254. Since inception, the HNC has dealt positively and seriously with efforts aimed at reaching a political solution, he stressed.
The launch of a new round of negotiations requires laying out a clear timetable for political transition; the enforcement of UN resolutions; allowing humanitarian access; the release of detainees; and facilitating the return of displaced persons to their homes, Hijab said.
Hijab went on to say that the Syrian people want to live in freedom and safety away from extremism, wars, tyranny, dictatorships and terrorist organizations. He called for the withdrawal of all foreign militias and forces from Syria.
Hijab also called upon China, as a permanent member of the UN Security Council, to play a more active role in Syria to reach a political transition. (Source: Syrian Coalition)
President of the Syrian Coalition Anas Alabdah on Monday sent a letter to foreign ministers of the International Syria Support Group (ISSG) calling for immediate and decisive action to ensure that civilians trapped in Alwaer district in western Homs are protected and their right to stay in their homes guaranteed.
Alabdah warned of the Assad regime’s plans to use in Alwaer the tactic it employed to empty the Damascus suburb of Daraya of its residents.
“The mass displacement that took place in Daraya several days ago contravenes international law and is a dark stain on the conscience of international community which simply stood by as the murderous regime emptied the district of its residents,” the letter said. “A potential recurrence of this tactic in Alwaer district seems highly likely and it would risk jeopardizing international efforts to resume the political process,” it added.
On August 24, the Coalition sent a letter to ISSG warning of the regime's attempts to force residents of Daraya to agree to a local truce which was unfair and illegal.
Alabdah called for taking immediate and decisive action to ensure that barbaric attacks on civilians trapped in the besieged areas across Syria and attacks on vital civilian facilities are stopped by forcing the Assad regime to abide by the terms of the cessation of hostilities agreement.
The Coalition president also urged the ISSG to take measures to ensure that unfettered and immediate humanitarian access and medical aid to Alwaer is allowed and the safe evacuation of the ill and wounded guaranteed. He also called for conducting an investigation into the use of napalm by the Assad regime and its allies as well as into the mass forced displacement of civilians. (Source: Syrian Coalition)
Riad Hijab, General Coordinator of the opposition’s High Negotiations Committee (HNC) warned of plans by the Assad regime to bring about a demographic change through the forced mass displacement of civilians in many cities and towns across Syria.
In a letter sent earlier on Tuesday to the foreign ministers of the International Syria Support Group (ISSG), Hijab referred to the regime’s dangerous plans that began to unfold and materialize on the ground in many parts across Syria, especially in the towns of Daraya, Madaya, and Moadamiya in rural Damascus as well as in the district of Alwaer in Homs. Hijab said that the Assad regime plans to bring about a demographic change in Syria by forcing civilians en masse out of their homes.
Hijab pointed out that all these areas observed so-called local truce agreements signed earlier between the residents and the Assad regime with the mediation of the United Nations. However, the Assad regime reneged on all these agreements.
The residents of Daraya were forced out of their homes after over three and half years of suffocating siege and constant bombardment by various types of weapons, especially napalm, barrel bombs and rockets, Hijab said. He added that the regime forced the residents of these areas to agree to the so-called local truces under the threat of total annihilation. The regime then used these local truces as a ploy to execute its plans of cleansing civilians from their towns and villages.
Hijab warned that Alwaer has lately been subjected to an unprecedented fierce onslaught by the Assad regime which has also started to ramp up forces around the district to force its residents out of their homes.
Hijab referred to the town of Qazhal in northern rural Homs whose residents were forced out of their homes by regime forces who over the past month pillaged the village.
Hijab condemned the regime’s violations of the UN Security Council resolutions reiterating the importance of maintaining the unity and territorial integrity of Syria, namely UNSCR resolutions 2254 (2015) and 2268 (2016).
The Assad regime’s policies risk fomenting lengthy and bloody conflicts with very dire consequences. Assad’s policies also fuel violence and terrorism; cause further flows of refugees towards Europe, and jeopardize the entire political process and the cessation of hostilities agreement in Syria, Hijab warned.
Hijab concluded his letter by urging the ISSG to take immediate, concrete action to foil the regime’s plans and to exercise pressure on the Assad regime and its allies to abide by UN resolutions to lay the groundwork for achieving a real political transition as was set out in the UN Security Council resolutions, especially resolutions 2118 and 2254.
The HNC on Monday sent a letter to the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to warn of the regime’s plans to bring about demographic change in Syria using the UN as a cover for such plans. (Source: Syrian Coalition)
Riad Hijab, head of the opposition’s High Negotiations Committee (HNC), earlier on Monday sent a letter to the Secretary-General of the United Nations Ban Ki-moon to warn of the dire consequences of the forced mass displacement the Assad regime is carrying out in Syria. The letter said that the Assad regime uses the UN as a cover for this forced mass displacement which is aimed at bringing about a demographic change in Syria.
Hijab called upon the UN to ensure “full implementation of UN Security Council resolutions on Syria and to force the Assad regime and its allies to abide by international law.” He pointed out that “the suffering of the Syrian people, which is increasing with each passing day, has become the greatest tragedy the civilized world has witnessed in our modern times. However, the world just stood idly by doing nothing to put an end to this tragedy, which is undoubtedly a permanent stain on the conscience of the international community."
“Aleppo is just a single episode of the Syrian tragedy," Hijab said, adding that developments in this city “took a serious turn as the Assad regime made plain its intent to change the demographic composition in the city through the forced mass displacement of its inhabitants." He stressed that the United Nations bears legal and ethical responsibility for the implications arising from this policy, warning that "the same applies to Alwaer district in Homs, Daraya and Madaya in Rural Damascus as well as all parts of Syria."
Hijab said the UN resolutions on Syria “have not been enforced, and are instead being exploited by the regime to serve its plans that have already begun to materialize on the ground.” He said that the United Nations “is being used as cover for these plans acting as a sponsor for local truces in Syria that were basically favorable to the regime. These truces were imposed in violation of UN Security Council resolution 2268 (2016) and 2254 (2015) and were against principles and values set out in the UN Charter.”
Hijab warned that the latest developments in Syria, especially the forced mass displacement policy pursued by the Assad regime and the lukewarm response by the UN will further foment extremism; lead to further bloodshed; make the world less safe; and fail to preserve the unity and territorial integrity of Syria.
Hijab warned that "the mass displacement of innocent civilians and uprooting them from their towns and villages by the force of arms would fuel terrorism." He reiterated the HNC’s support for the full implementation of UN Security Council resolutions on Syria which were drafted based on the Geneva Communique of 2012.
Hijab concluded his letter by calling for the full implementation of articles on the humanitarian situation set out in UNSC resolutions. He also called for the expansion of the cessation of hostilities agreement to cover all Syria. (Source: Syrian Coalition)
Member of the Syrian Coalition George Sabra said that the Turkish support for the Free Syrian Army offensive in and around the town of Jarablos in northern rural Aleppo "will contribute to the fight against terrorism and will foil plans to partition the country.”
Sabra, who is also vice president of the opposition’s High Negotiations Committee (HNC) said that the aim of the FSA offensive in the Jarablos area is “to clean it of ISIS whose terror actions have affected both Syria and Turkey.”
Member of the Syrian Coalition Ahmed Ramadan said that the FSA offensive dubbed “Operation Shield of the Euphrates” will press on until the threat of terrorism in the area is completely removed. He pointed out that no group or party representing cross-border terrorism will be allowed to take over Syrian cities to establish a terrorist or separatist entity.
The Free Syrian Army is now fighting to preserve the unity of Syria and to remove the threat of terrorism, Ramadan stressed, adding that no military, political or legal cover should be provided to terrorist organizations seeking to partition Syria.
The FSA offensive in northern rural Aleppo continues to gain ground as the FSA fighters on Sunday captured around 15 villages south and southwest of the border town of Jarablos after clashes with militants of ISIS and the pro-PYD Syrian Democratic Forces.
The FSA groups said they have killed and injured dozens of the pro-PYD militants in an ambush south of Jarablos. Light and medium weapons and ammunition have also been seized. (Source: Syrian Coalition + Agencies)
An official in the Syrian Coalition said that the systematic forced displacement of the civilian population in Damascus suburbs by the Assad regime is aimed at bringing about a demographic change in Syria and, consequently, dividing the country along sectarian lines.
Member of the Syrian Coalition Khatib Badlah condemned forcing the remaining civilian population of Daraya out of their homes. The Assad regime has significantly escalated bombardment of the Damascus suburb with barrel bombs and incendiary napalm over the past few months. The regime’s bombardment has laid the farmlands surrounding the district to waste, thus depriving the residents of their only source of food.
Moreover, regime forces have been hindering the introduction of humanitarian aid to the rebel-held district, under siege by regime forces and allied foreign militias for nearly four years.
The suffocating siege on Daraya is a stark example of the “kneel or starve” policy the Assad regime has pursued against rebel-held areas across Syria.
Badlah stressed that any project designed to partition Syria will be foiled by the Syrian people who will adamantly defend the unity and territorial integrity of Syria.
Meanwhile, spokesman for the local council in Darya Fadi Mohammed said that the UN special envoy to Syria, Staffan de Mistura, was fully aware of the situation in the besieged district. Mohammed emphasized that, contrary to de Mistura’s claims, the council had regularly informed the UN envoy about the latest developments in Daraya.
Mohammed pointed out that the statement de Mistura released on Friday night regarding the evacuation of Daraya is aimed at evading responsibility to protect the people of Daraya and preventing their forced displacement by the Assad regime.
Muhammad said that the United Nations and de Mistura bear responsibility for the safety of civilians of Daraya whom the Assad regime is currently evacuating to areas under its control in the Damascus outskirts.
He added that the many appeals the local council sent to stop the Assad regime’s violations of the “cessation of hostilities” agreement and its brutal onslaught on the district fell on deaf ears.
The UN and Staffan de Mistura chose to remain silent about the regime’s torching of Daraya farmlands, its deliberate bombing of its only field hospital, and its use of incendiary napalm against residential neighborhoods in the district, Muhammad added.
Spokesman of the local council confirmed that UN staff members and a delegation from the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) were aware of negotiations between rebel fighters in Daraya and the Assad regime. The forced displacement of Daraya residents was carried out under the watchful eye of the UN and under its supervision, he stressed.
Muhammad went on to say that the regime’s barbaric onslaught on Daraya has left its people with no other option but to leave their homes. He pointed out that the Assad regime openly threatened it would annihilate the district if the trapped rebel fighters and civilians refused to pull out of Daraya. The Russians and the Americans oversaw negotiations between the Assad regime and rebel fighters, he added.
The Assad regime at dawn today transferred around 400 rebel fighters and their families toward rebel-held areas in Idlib province. Around 700 civilians have been moved to regime-controlled areas northwest of Damascus, according to the agreement whereby Daraya is to be evacuated of its residents. (Source: Syrian Coalition + The New Arab)
Vice-president of the Syrian Coalition Muwaffaq Nyrabiya called upon the UN Security Council to refer those who were proved to be responsible for chemical attacks in Syria to the International Criminal Court (ICC) in line with international law and international humanitarian law.
He warned that blocking this move will encourage the culture of impunity prevalent in Syria and will give a green light to perpetrators to carry out more crimes using internationally banned weapons.
At a meeting between members of the Syrian Coalition’s political committee and representatives of Syrian civil society organizations in Istanbul on Friday, Nyrabiya pointed out that the latest UN report on the use of chemical weapons in Syria suggests that the Assad regime is responsible for other attacks, most notably the sarin attack on eastern Ghouta in August 21, 2013.
The meeting discussed mechanisms to put pressure on the international community to hold accountable those responsible for war crimes in Syria.
Tabled for discussion were also the Syrian opposition’s vision for negotiations and the transitional process in Syria.
The team from the UN and the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) that was mandated to investigate chemical attacks in Syria found that the Assad regime was behind the chlorine attacks in the towns of Talmenes on April 21, 2014 and Sarmin on March 16, 2015.
According to the report released by the joint UN-OPCW team on Wednesday, ISIS was responsible for a mustard gas attack on Marea in northern Aleppo on August 21, 2015. The report said that ISIS “was the only entity with the ability, capability, motive and the means to use sulphur mustard.” (Source: Syrian Coalition)
The Syrian Coalition called for holding the Assad regime to account after a report published on Wednesday by the United Nations concluded that the Assad regime has carried out two chemical attacks in Syria during 2014 and 2015.
The team from the UN and the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) said the Assad regime has used chlorine gas in two attacks in Idlib province in northwestern Syria.
In a statement released earlier on Thursday, the Syrian Coalition stressed that the latest UN report highlighted the importance of bringing to light massacres committed by the Assad regime against civilians in Syria using chemical weapons and other prohibited weapons.
The Syrian Coalition repeated its call for referring the chemical weapons dossier in Syria to the International Criminal Court (ICC) to determine those who ordered and carried out these attacks so as to make sure they are not repeated.
According to the UN and OPCW report, the Assad regime was found to be behind the attacks in the towns of Talmenes on April 21, 2014 and Sarmin on March 16, 2015 in violation of UN Security Council resolutions 2118 (2013) and 2209 (2015).
Although the two attacks took place during 2014 and 2015, multiple reports indicated that the Assad regime has repeatedly used chemical weapons, including sarin and chlorine, in many attacks across Syria since the revolution started in 2011. Over 1,500 civilians were killed and thousands more injured in these attacks.
“Letting criminals commit such horrible crimes with impunity is a dark stain on the international community and humanity as a whole. By letting perpetrators of such heinous crimes off the hook, the international community risks creating a world where war crimes are carried out and internationally banned weapons are used with criminals not ever having to worry about the consequences of their actions; it poses a real threat to international peace and security,” the Coalition said.
ISIS was responsible for a mustard gas attack on a town in northern Aleppo, the report also found. The report said ISIS “was the only entity with the ability, capability, motive and the means to use sulphur mustard” in an attack on the town of Marea in northern Aleppo on August 21, 2015.
The UN Security Council established a joint UN-OPCW investigative team a year ago to identify those responsible for chemical attacks in Syria. The team examined nine cases in seven towns where chemical weapons were believed to have been used. (Source: Syrian Coalition)