Member of the Syrian Coalition George Sabra criticized remarks made by Patriarch Mar Bishara Boutros Alraa’i of Lebanon who said that Syrian refugees are “snatching the source of living from the mouths of the Lebanese.”
In an open letter posted on his Facebook page on Wednesday, Sabra pointed out that Bkerké, the see of the Maronite Catholic Patriarchate in Lebanon, should not distance itself from its heavenly mission and the cause of man. Sabra asked Alraa’i: “Is it the mission of the Maronite Church to fuel hatred and force the oppressed back into the hands of the oppressor?”
"It hurts me as a Christian to hear from the head of the Maronite Church, which has endured and resisted decades-long injustice and persecution, a position that does not only lack sympathy with the oppressed, but stands against them and echoes that of the tyrants and murderers," said Sbara, who is also member of the opposition’s High Negotiations Committee (HNC).
Sabra went on: “As a Syrian, it bitterly hurts me that Syrian refugees in Lebanon, including my 87-year-old mother, are accused of having come to Lebanon only to steal the source of living of the Lebanese out of their mouths."
“My mother did not come to Lebanon because she was hungry, but to seek safety and dignity for what remained of her lifetime.”
"Syria has bountiful resources and its good is known everywhere. At times of famine and crisis, Syria used to be the destination for those who wanted to escape for their lives and to live a dignified life, especially for the Lebanese people during the many wars and crises that their country went through,” Sabra said.
Sabra went on addressing Alraa’i: "We have not heard from you a single word defending the Lebanese people during the Assad family’s occupation of Lebanon."
Sabra slammed the silence of the Maronite Church over “the countless grievances suffered by the Lebanese at the hands of the Assad regime, such as tyranny, looting, human rights abuses, and assassinations that affected the Lebanese people from all denominations and regions. The vile Assad regime even tried to extend its violations Bkerké and its own churches."
Sabra recalled how an elite group of the Syrian opposition declared their opposition to the Assad regime’s intervention in Lebanon since day one and how they exposed all the violations against the Lebanese people and state. As a result, they spent many years in the prions of the Assad regime for defending the Lebanese’s right to freedom.
Sabra’s letter came in response to a letter Alraa’i sent to the Lebanese President Michel Aoun to warn of “consequences of the presence of Syrian refugees in Lebanon.” Alraa’i blamed the Syrian refugees for the deteriorating economic situation of the Lebanese people. (Source: Syrian Coalition’s Media Department + Agencies)
President of the Syrian Coalition Riad Seif reiterated calls for allowing residents of Raqqa to administer their city after it has been liberated from the ISIS extremist group. He also reiterated rejection of other terrorist groups staying in the city once it is freed from ISIS.
Seif made these remarks during a teleconference with civil bodies of Raqqa province on Monday. Vice President Abdul Basset Hamo, head of the Coalition’s legal committee Haitham Maleh, and member of the political committee Salah Hamawi participated in the teleconference.
Representatives of the province of Raqqa gave an overview of the tragic situation of civilians as a result of the ongoing military operations in the province. They referred to inhumane treatment by militates of the so-called Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) against the civilian population.
Hamo mentioned sustained efforts by the Coalition, the Syrian Interim Government (SIG) and the Assistance Coordination Unit (ACU) to provide relief aid to the people who have been displaced from their homes in Raqqa province.
Maleh called on representatives of the civil bodies to document all violations against the people of Raqqa, whether by the SDF militias or the international anti-ISIS coalition.
According to reports by the Syrian Network for Human Rights, nearly 1,953 people have so far been killed in airstrikes by the international coalition, including 1,008 in 2017 alone. (Source: Syrian Coalition’s Media Department)
Mu'taz Bellah Ahmed Ali won a bronze medal in the Marmaray international Karate Tournament for the children category after he came third in the individual kata.
The Syrian Olympic Committee, which was formed by the Syrian Coalition in 2016, supervised the participation of Ali. A total of 1,650 athletes from across the world competed in the tournament, which was held in the Turkish city of Sakarya.
Head of the Committee Ahmed Ali said that the work of the committee is developing. He referred to efforts being made to Syrian teams comprising all age groups to participate in international tournaments.
Ali pointed out that the Committee is working to incorporate hundreds of talented Syrian athletes in the liberated areas and in the diaspora. He pointed to "advanced consultations to prepare those with talents for the future."
The Coalition formed the Syrian Olympic Committee with the purpose of regularizing all Syrian sports and sports bodies inside and outside Syria under this committee to represent Syria in Arab and international sports tournaments.
Mu'taz Bellah won three medals in previous various international competitions. (Source: Syrian Coalition’s Media Department)
President of the Syrian Coalition Riad Seif said that the preservation of Syria’s unity without Bashar Assad and his clique is the only way to put an end to the continued suffering of the Syrian people.
Seif made his remarks during the opening speech he delivered at the third meeting of the General Assembly of the Syrian Islamic Council. He stressed that the interest of the Syrian people today is to preserve the unity of Syria and prevent division as well as the establishment of a democratic system of rule in which all citizens are equal before the law.
Seif called on everyone to work to raise awareness of the importance of tolerance among all Syrians and the need for people of different faiths and cultures to accept each other and work together to get rid of tyranny and regain freedom and dignity.
Seif vehemently denied reports being circulated about the opposition accepting the survival of Bashar al-Assad in a transitional period and the future of Syria, stressing that Assad’s survival in power will only lead to further killing and destruction.
Seif underscored that the Assad regime must be held accountable for the killing and displacement of millions of Syrians and for committing war crimes against the Syrian people. He rejected attempts to work with the regime or to rehabilitate it. (Source: Syrian Coalition’s Media Department)
The Syrian opposition will not give up the demand for the departure of Bashar al-Assad and his inner circle who committed crimes against the Syrian people, said Riyad Hijab, General Coordinator of the opposition’s High Negotiations Committee.
In comments published on Twitter on Sunday, Hijab categorically denied claims made by the Russian envoy to the seventh round of talks that the opposition negotiation delegation made concessions to the Assad regime. Hijab described these claims as unsubstantiated lies that lack credibility.
The Syrian people have very clearly expressed their position on the Assad regime and his clique, Hijab stressed. He added that the opposition’s HNC does not have the right to waive the Syrian people’s basic demands.
In an interview with al-Hayat newspaper on Sunday, Hijab warned that Assad remaining in power risks exacerbating chaos solidifying the role of terrorist organizations and causing more sectarian militias to be brought to Syria. Furthermore, Hijab emphasized that the survival of Assad would fuel sectarian tensions and hatred, especially that Assad lost legitimacy after he has been proven responsible for the use of chemical weapons against the Syrian people.
Hijab pointed out that during his meeting with President Emmanuel Macaron, Hijab said that he made it clear that the most effective way to defeat terror and resolve the conflict in Syria is to bring Assad and all those who are involved in violations against the Syrians to justice and ensure that they do not escape punishment.
With regards to the Geneva process, Hejab said that the talks have so far failed to achieve any significant progress. He pointed out that the UN mediation has reached a dead end given the refusal of the Assad regime to negotiate in good faith, its continued violation of international law, its refusal to implement UN resolutions on Syria, and its continued attempts to undermine the efforts of the UN envoy to Syria. (Source: Syrian Coalition’s Media Department)
Mohammed Sabra, chief negotiator in the delegation of the opposition’s High Negotiations Committee (HNC) to Geneva talks said that the aerial attacks the Assad regime has launched using chemical weapons against civilians, including the attack on the town of Khan Sheikhoun in rural Idlib constitute war crimes. He added that the UN set up an International Commission of Inquiry to investigate these crimes.
In a teleconference by members of the HNC mission to the Geneva talks and representatives of civil bodies in Idlib province, Sabra underscored that the Assad regime is using chemical weapons to make political gains and to cling on to power.
A recent report by a fact- finding mission (FFM) of The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) concluded that "a large number of people, some of whom died, were exposed to sarin or a sarin-like substance” in the attack on Khan Sheikhoun.
Hanadi Abu Arab, member of the HNC advisory board, pointed to a continuous push to hold the Assad regime accountable for the war crimes it has committed against the Syrian people over the past six years. Rights groups have recently asked the International Commission of Inquiry on Syria to identify those responsible for the use of chemical weapons in Syria after the Commission obtained compelling evidence proving that Bashar al-Assad is behind these attacks.
In December 2016, the UN General Assembly set up an independent panel to assist in the investigation and prosecution of those responsible for the most serious violations of international law in Syria.
The UN Secretary-General António Guterres in early July announced the appointment of Catherine Marchi-Uhel of France as the head of the independent panel which will be based in Geneva, Switzerland. Marchi-Uhel was previously a judge in France and an international judge at the UN Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo, and at the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia.
A joint UN-OPCW panel charged with assigning responsibility for chemical weapons attacks Syria on July 5 was facing heavy political pressure as it was preparing to present its findings on the sarin attack on Khan Sheikhoun, head of the panel said.
After meeting behind closed doors with the UN Security Council, Edmond Mulet complained of a "highly-politicized environment" in which unidentified "interested parties" were seeking to influence the panel.
"We do receive, unfortunately, direct and indirect messages all the time from many sides telling us how to do our work," Mulet said. "Some of these messages are very clear in saying that if we don't do our work according to them... then they will not accept the conclusions of our work," he added.
Civil society groups in the town of Khan Sheikoun in rural Idlib on Thursday organized a sit-in to mark 100 days since the deadly chemical attack launched by Assad's forces on the town and which left around 400 civilians killed and wounded.
Survivors of the attack and families of the victims as well as members of the local council participated in the sit-in. Participants raised placards condemning the silence of the international community over the massacre and banners that read “Assad is a war criminal" and "you only killed the fear in us." (Source: Syrian Coalition’s Media Department)
General Coordinator of the opposition’s High Negotiations Committee (HNC) Riad Hijab said that the political process is proceeding very slowly because of the lack of desire on the part of the Assad regime and its allies to reach a political solution and their attempt to block all roads leading to it.
Speaking during a meeting with the HNC mission in Geneva after arriving in the Swiss city on Thursday afternoon, Hijab stressed that the HNC is committed to the political process even though it is moving slowly.
"We have laid out many proposals that have been met with positive response and helped push the political process forward,” Hijab said.
In addition to the lack of seriousness on the part of the other side in the talks, the main reason behind the glacial pace of the political process is the “the lack of a decisive international will to put an end to the suffering of the Syrian people; restore stability to the region as a whole; and bring about a political transition away from those who have committed war crimes against the Syrian people."
"We are fully engaged in the political process and see ourselves as partners in the shaping of the future of our country and maintaining the unity of Syria and its social fabric," Hijab stressed.
Moreover, the former Syrian PM stressed that focusing on the political solution and an organized transfer of power aims to prevent “the spread of chaos, the portioning of Syria, and the establishment international spheres of influence in our country.” He went on to say that “we want our country to have a fair law, equal citizenship, and true democracy."
Hijab stressed that the Assad regime and its allies have committed major war crimes against the Syrian people with the sole aim of “breaking their will and dissuading them from their demands for freedom and dignity." (Source: Syrian Coalition’s Media Department + Agencies)
President of the Syrian Coalition Riad Seif sent letters to the United Nations and its Secretary-General António Guterres as well as to Lebanese President Michel Aoun and Prime Minister Saad Hariri to stress the need to protect the Syrian refugees in Lebanon, especially in the town of Arsal.
Seif said that the killing, arrest and physical abuse of Syrian refugees is "disgraceful violation of human rights laws and the Lebanese law." He added that "these acts cannot be justified whatsoever by the fight against terrorism, our common enemy, or to preserve Lebanon's security."
One of the reasons why Syrian refugees are in Lebanon is “the intervention of the Hezbollah militias in Syria and its alliance with the regime which practiced violence and terrorism against its people."
Seif called for the protection of Syrian refugees in Lebanon. "We hope you will provide proper protection to the guests of the Lebanese Republic," he said. “The Syrian Coalition fully respects and supports the security and safety of Lebanon and the Lebanese people."
Syrian activists on Thursday staged a protest in front of the United Nations headquarters in Geneva where a new round of negotiations is taking place. Protestors called on the Lebanese authorities to put an end to Hezbollah's human rights violations against Syrian refugees.
Last week, camps housing Syrian refugees were violently raided, especially in and around the town of Arsal. Around 19 Syrian refugees were killed during the violent raids by the Hezbollah militias and Lebanese army units. Ten more Syrian refugees reportedly died under torture while in the custody of the Lebanese army. Over 350 refugees were detained, mostly from the refugee camps in the Arsal area. (Source: Syrian Coalition’s Media Department)
Nasr Hariri, Head of the delegation of the opposition’s High Negotiations Committee (HNC) to the Geneva talks, stressed that the protection of Syrian civilians from the military operations being carried out by the Assad regime and the Iranian militias is still at the top of the list of demands submitted to the United Nations by the Coalition.
Speaking at a teleconference with members of the local council in the town of Mahja in rural Dara’a on Thursday, Hariri said that reaching a comprehensive ceasefire and the establishment of mechanisms to monitor violations and ensure accountability would be the only way to rein in the Assad regime.
Secretary-General of the Syrian Coalition Nazir Hakim and member of the Coalition’s political committee Yasser Farhan also participated in the teleconference.
Members of the council said that the Assad regime and Russian army officers are exerting immense pressure on residents of the town to force them to surrender.
Head of the council pointed out that neither civilians nor the FSA fighters want to negotiate with the regime, expressing concern that the Assad regime may carry out the threats it made of imposing a complete siege and shelling the town. He indicated that the Assad regime made these threats “with the full knowledge of the Russians."
Hariri pointed out that the HNC delegation will inform the United Nations, the US administration, and the Jordanian government about the developments and violations being committed by the regime. He stressed that the HNC delegation will spare no effort to communicate and work with concerned parties in order to prevent the regime from carrying out its threats against the town.
Secretary-General of the Syrian Coalition, Nazir Hakim, said that the town of Mahja has strategic importance, which explains the regime’s attempts to capture it. He noted that the Russians wanted to negotiate with residents of the town to enable the Assad regime establish a foothold in the strategic town. (Source: Syrian Coalition’s Media Department)
Nasr Hariri, Head of the delegation of the opposition’s High Negotiations Committee (HNC) to the 7th round of Geneva talks, stressed that the regime continues to refuse to engage in the political process, calling on the United Nations to fulfill its obligations to implement international resolutions on political transition in Syria.
Speaking after a meeting with UN envoy Staffan de Mistura on the third day of the latest round of talks in Geneva on Wednesday, Hariri said: “We held the first meeting with the UN envoy today. The meeting discussed the framework of the political process."
“We participated in very useful technical meetings in June and July about baskets 2 and 3 [governance and the constitution]. Today the discussions were focused on the essence of the political process to implement the UN Security Council resolutions relating to political transition,” Hariri added.
"What we see is the refusal of the regime to participate in political negotiations. It will not get involved in political discussions or negotiations.”
Hariri went on: “The international community and the UN Security Council, which have passed resolutions to bring about political transition in Syria, must fulfill their obligations and fully assume their roles and name the side impeding a political solution.”
The HNC, Hariri said, has delivered to the UN a memorandum about detainees in the prisons of the Assad regime “especially as no progress in this issue has been achieved in the Astana meetings.” (Source: Syrian Coalition’s Media Department+ Agencies)