Tag Archives: syria

Kerry urges Abbas to restart peace talks


Kerry urges Abbas to restart peace talks

US Secretary of State John Kerry has met Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas as part of a fresh US bid to restart negotiations between Israel and Palestine.

Kerry is on a 10-day tour, which will also take him to Asia, and met Abbas in Ramallah on Sunday after holding talks earlier in the day with Turkish foreign minister Ahmet Davutoglu in Istanbul.

While in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories, Kerry will also meet with Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and other senior Israeli and Palestinian leaders.

Abbas told visiting Kerry that the release of prisoners held by Israel was a “top priority” for resuming failed peace talks.

“President Abbas stressed that the release of the prisoners is a priority that creates an appropriate climate for the possibility of moving the peace process forward,” his spokesman Nabil Abu Rudeina said.

Abbas told Kerry that releasing the 4,500 or so prisoners held in Israeli jails, a deeply sensitive issue on the Palestinian street, was a “top priority for creating the right atmosphere for the resumption of negotiations”.

Al Jazeera’s Nicole Johnstone in Ramallah reported that the priority for the US was for “both sides to return to talks without any preconditions”.

But, she said, “the Israelis are saying that they want the Palestinians to recognise Israel as a Jewish state, and the Palestinians want Israel to stop its settlement construction”.

Most Palestinians reject the idea of recognising Israel as a “Jewish-only” state because many still demand the right of return for refugees who decades ago were forced from their homes in what is now Israel.

Israel-Turkey relations

During earlier talks with Davutoglu in Istanbul, Kerry urged Turkey and Israel to fully normalise relations, after Israel’s US-brokered apology for a deadly 2010 raid on a Gaza aid flotilla organised by a Turkish charity.

“We would like to see this relationship that is important to stability in Middle East, critical to the peace process itself, we would like to see it back on track in its full,” Kerry said in a joint news conference with Davutoglu.

He said, however, that it was not for the United States “to be setting conditions or terms” for the reconciliation.

Israel apologised to Ankara on March 22 for the deaths of nine Turkish activists in a botched raid by Israeli commandos on a Gaza-bound aid ship, in a breakthrough engineered by US President Barack Obama during a visit to Jerusalem.

The apology ended a nearly three-year rift between Israel and Turkey – two key US allies in the region – and the two countries are due to begin talks on compensation on Friday.

But they have yet to exchange ambassadors and fully restore diplomatic ties.

“It is imperative that the compensation component be fulfilled, that the ambassadors be returned,” Kerry said. “I’m confident there will be goodwill on both sides.”

‘Oases of stability’

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan accepted the Israeli apology “in the name of the Turkish people” but said the country’s future relationship with Israel including the return of ambassadors would depend on Israel.

Al Jazeera’s Bernard Smith, reporting from Istanbul, said that Davutoglu had already spoken to Khaled Meshaal, the leader of the Palestinian group Hamas, which controls Gaza, and Mahmoud Abbas.

“We don’t know what they discussed, but its an indication that Turkey is taking some sort of interest in the Middle East peace process,” said Smith.

He added that Kerry “wants Turkey to normalise its relationship with Israel because it sees Israel, Turkey and Jordan as three oases of stability in a very turbulent region.”

The US top diplomat also commended Turkey’s efforts to provide for the tens of thousands of refugees who have entered the country during Syria’s two-year conflict.

He called Turkey “incredibly generous” for keeping its border open and doing “everything possible” to respond to the increasing humanitarian crisis in the neighbouring country.

“The US and Turkey will continue cooperating to reach the shared goal of a peaceful transition in Syria,” he said, repeating the US position that President Bashar al-Assad must leave power.

“Thousands of Syrians have lost their lives,” Davutoglu said. “The international community needs to act on this. The failure to do so would be interpreted by Assad as a weakness.

“The US position is important and so is Turkey’s.


Al Jazeera And Agencies



No peace for Syria unless opposition talks to Assad-Russia


Wed, Jan 23, 2013 at 14:22

No peace for Syria unless opposition talks to Assad-Russia

MOSCOW (Reuters) – Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Wednesday there could be no peaceful resolution of the conflict in Syria as long as opponents of President Bashar al-Assad demand his exit from power and refuse to negotiate with his government.


Lavrov’s comments at an annual news conference signalled no shift in the position of Russia, which says Assad’s exit must not be a precondition for a deal to end 22 months of violence in which more than 60,000 people have been killed.


“Everything runs up against the opposition members’ obsession with the idea of the overthrow of the Assad regime. As long as this irreconcilable position remains in force, nothing good will happen, armed action will continue, people will die,” Lavrov said.


Russia has been Assad’s most powerful foreign protector during the violence that started with a crackdown on protests but has escalated into civil war, vetoing three U.N. Security Council resolution aimed to push him out or pressure him to end bloodshed.


Russia flew 77 of its citizens fleeing the Syrian violence to Moscow via Lebanon on Wednesday but Lavrov said the situation in Syria did not require a mass evacuation of Russian citizens.


Speaking of large-scale naval exercises Russia is holding in the Black Sea and in the Mediterranean Sea, not far from Syria, Lavrov said the naval presence was a positive factor.


“Of course we have no interest in the Mediterranean region becoming even more destabilised. And the presence of our fleet there is undoubtedly a stabilising factor,” Lavrov said.


(Reporting by Timothy Heritage Writing by Gabriela Baczynska; Editing by Steve Gutterman and Janet Lawrence)




Syria conflict ‘will know no victors’ without peace -Pope


Syria conflict ‘will know no victors’ without peace -Pope

On January 7, 2013

VATICAN CITY (AFP) – Pope Benedict XVI called Monday for a ceasefire and “constructive dialogue” in Syria, warning that there will be no victors should the violent conflict drag on further.

“I renew my appeal for a ceasefire and the inauguration as quickly as possible of a constructive dialogue aimed at putting an end to a conflict which will know no victors but only vanquished if it continues, leaving behind it nothing but a field of ruins,” he said.


Give voice to refugees



Palestinian refugees: time to return NOW



Pictures from Khao I Dang refugee camp, Thailand 1980-82.


Warning : viewers must be above 18years old

Memories of the Khoa I Dang Refugee Camp 1986 to 1988


Cambodia Refugee Camp – Site2 (part1)


Umpium Refugee Camp in fire 23 02 2012


on fire in Umpiem Camp (MCA News)


Dadaab Refugee Camp – Kenya (Africa)


A song at Nu Po Camp



Displaced Karen Refugees in Jungle


23Kachin IDP/Refugee Camps – March-April-2012



Zaatari Refugee Camp Jordan – 31 Oct 2012.



Angelina Jolie in a refugee camp in Syria (09-13-2012)



Angelina Jolie Visits Syrian Refugees in Turkey


Syria: over 5,000 deaths forecast for September


Syria: over 5,000 deaths forecast for September

The death toll from fighting in Syria’s civil war has escalated sharply, as expectations grow that a foreign military intervention would be necessary to try and contain the bloodshed.

Conflict in Syria where more than 5,000 people were forecast to die this month alone. Photo: AFP

By , and Richard Spencer

7:51PM BST 27 Sep 2012

Activist groups that track death tolls said that more than 5,000 people were forecast to die this month alone, substantially above the 4,000 that died in August. By contrast, the worst month in the Iraq conflict – after the initial invasion – accounted for 3,028 lives, in July 2006.

The United Nations refugee agency meanwhile predicted that up to 700,000 Syrian refugees could flee abroad by the end of the year, nearly quadrupling its previous forecast.

Lord Owen, the former Foreign Secretary who oversaw peacekeeping efforts in Bosnia, warned on Thursday that the scale and nature of conflict would eventually demand a united response from Russia and the West.

“This is a full scale civil war and my experience is that only an enforceable ceasefire will end it,” he said. “Time is not on our side given the ghastliness of the fighting, the number of massacres and horrors of sectarian divisions becoming permanent facts on the ground.”

Free Syrian Army fighter scans for targets from a building in Aleppo, Syria

In an article for the Daily Telegraph, Lord Owen today calls on Nato to use its formal ties with Russia to start talks on enforcing a no-fly zone in joint arangement that would not target the regime of President Bashar al-Assad.

Vladimir Putin, Russia’s president escalated the “blame game” with the West, accusing the US and others of sowing chaos in Syria.

“The most important thing is that our partners cannot stop themselves,” he said. “They have already created a situation of chaos in many territories and are now continuing the same policy in other countries – including Syria.”

Michael Clarke, the head of the Royal United Services Institute thank tank, predicted Syria’s neighbours would be sucked into choosing sides in what is likely to be a drawn-out battle.

“As this becomes a fully-fledged sectarian war in the next couple of months the whole fabric of the Levant will be torn apart and what you will have is a Saudi Arabia vs Iranian proxy war involving elements in Syria, Lebanon, Iraq and Jordan,” he said.

“The West is going to find it harder and harder to resist calls to intervene to contain the problem rather than stop the killing.”

David Cameron condemned the Russian and Chinese government for blocking UN-backed action to stop the conflict in a speech to the UN on Wednesday.

Douglas Alexander MP, the shadow foreign secretary, said: “The sheer scale of the suffering being endured in Syria demands that the

international community renews its efforts to achieve unity and action.”

Arab states have endeavoured to end the conflict but are publicly divided over regional military intervention, with comments at the UN exposing sharp divisions between major Muslim nations.

Mohammad Morsi, Egypt’s new president opposed calls from the Emir of Qatar for a military intervention by Arab League states, while a meeting he had called of the Middle East “quartet” – Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Iran – was cancelled after the Turkish prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, decided not to travel to New York.

Prince Turki al-Faisal. a former Saudi Arabian ambassador to America, told CNN that “Nato and some combination” of other states would eventually be forced to intervene to quell fighting. “That requires military force,” he said. “For somebody to deny this at this time is, I think, deluding themselves.

Wednesday was the most lethal day of the Syrian civil war yet, according to activist support groups inside and outside the country as the killing reached 343, according to one count.

Scores of bodies were discovered in the southern Damascus suburb of Dhiyabiyah, men of all ages who had apparently been shot in cold blood.

While Syrian opposition groups put the overall death toll in the 18-month war above 30,000, Amnesty International puts the toll at 21,000-plus.



Why haven’t the 2011 protests hit Russia?



Why haven’t the 2011 protests hit Russia? 

If mass unrest hits Russia, it won’t be in the form of ‘Occupy’ protests – it will be nationalist.
Last Modified: 21 Nov 2011 08:11


Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania – A spectre is haunting the globe – the spectre of the indignant. From New York to Hama, London to Tripoli, Madrid to Athens, a zone of revolt has descended. The year 2011 will one day be entered into the pantheon of revolutions – 1848, 1917, 1968 and 1989/91. Will Russia join the fray? Will it topple like in 1917 and 1991, or will it remain impervious to the revolutionary waves, like in 1848 under Nicholas I, the Gendarme of Europe? As it now stands there doesn’t appear to be a mass movement, let alone a revolution in the stars. Like the other BRICs, Russia is a model of political and economic stability. It weathered the Coloured Revolutions in its periphery in the mid-2000s; now it appears that it will survive 2011 in a similar way. Why has Russia not shaken? And if there is a potential mass movement in the making, why would it be a movement no sensible person in Russia or abroad would want?

There are a variety of reasons why mass protests haven’t hit Russia. Some say that the Kremlin is so repressive that any attempt to set up tents in central Moscow would be instantly squashed. Advocates of this view seem to forget the even more repressive regimes of Egypt, Tunisia, Libya, Syria and Yemen. Others point to the fact that Russians have “revolution fatigue”. After a century that witnessed three revolutions, Russians know that another one will not hold the keys to the promised land. Some even suggest that something much harder has to hit Russia to provoke a popular reaction. “Our society has completely different problems and different means to solve them,” Boris Nadezhdin, a member of Right Cause’s political council, recently told Voice of America. “People would survive the destruction of something like the housing market. For them it’s not a catastrophe. A catastrophe for them is war and famine.”

Russia is far from a brutal war or famine. In fact, it lacks many of the social and economic conditions plaguing Arab states and Western liberal democracies. Despite declining polls, Putin and Co. still remain popular. Russia has successfully weathered the global economic crisis, has no sovereign debt problem, no mortgage crisis, and no widespread household debt. According to Rosstat, overall unemployment is low, around six per cent, but joblessness among young people 16-25 years old is quite high, 26.1 per cent, and comparable to that in Arab states and the West.

Yet this has not caused many young people to lose faith in capitalism or the Putin system. “In Russia everyone knows the emperor wears no clothes, even when he’s dressed in Armani and Brioni. Yet we don’t have “occupiers”, writes Malor Sturua in Moskovskii komsomolets. “The ideals of our youth are Putin and [the oligarch Roman] Abramovich, power and money. They aren’t drawn to occupy Moscow’s ‘Wall Street’. They prefer to be a part of it.”

Moreover, Sturua continues, Russia is “submerged in a pool of social passivity and civic apathy. Civil society has not ripened in it. Authoritarian society has ripened where they chose the Presidents and nominate the Prime Ministers several years before the elections in secret from the people. And the people who do this are a million times less than one per cent of the Russian population. ‘Stability’ plays the role of progress. And as they explain not long ago, the Brezhnev stagnation was damn good for the Soviet Union.”

Sturua’s pessimism and sarcasm is typical of the Russian intelligentsia. The Russia people, the narrative goes, are too naturally inclined toward gentle patronage of the tsar-batiushka (little father). They all know that the entire system is a joke, but yet they do nothing. 

Authoritarian personalities aside, the fact is though dissatisfaction in Russia exists, people are willing to weather whatever comes their way. Thus, while a study conducted by the Zircon research group shows that the 20 per cent of Russians who considered themselves “middle class” in 2008 has dropped to 12 per cent, other indicators demonstrate that Russians’ overall outlook on their personal and national economy reveals a growing sense of stability. A poll just released by the Levada Centre shows that about half of Russians see their life as “difficult but possible to endure”, and a majority sees their personal and the country’s economic situation as “average”. At the same time, a third see protests against falling living standards as “completely possible”. This is no small number. Yet nothing of the sort has happened because when asked whether they would hit the streets, an overwhelming majority, 73 per cent, said “No”.

Dizziness without success

Still, whatever social and economic discontent exists in Russia, established opposition forces seem reluctant to harness it. The Russian Left has been marginalised and fragmented. Trade unions are atrophied. The Communist Party speaks the rhetoric of socialism and worker’s rights but is unwilling to break with electoral politics. This leaves Russia’s liberals as the most potent force for change: that is, if you read the New York Times or New York Review of Books.

Russian liberals, however, seem wholly uninterested in the social and economic lives of most Russians. Instead, they hold protests around abstract issues like free and fair elections, freedom of assembly and human rights. Russian liberals have lionised a one-percenter – Mikhail Khodorkovsky – as the archetypical hero to Putin’s villainy. On the whole, Russian liberals are more neo-liberal than liberal. Their problem with Russian capitalism is that it’s not capitalist enough. The magic of the invisible hand, they argue, keeps getting slapped down by the interventionist bureaucratic state. Perhaps this is why the Occupy Wall Street has received a lukewarm response. It took weeks before Russia’s three main liberal outlets – Novaya Gazeta, New Times, and Ezhednevnyi zhurnal – to cover OWS, though the rest of the Russian media was providing extensive coverage and opinion. Igor Aidman, a sociologist and oppositionist, offered this diagnosis:

The revolutionary wave in the West places a question before the Russian opposition: Who is with you in your fight against the regime? What is more, this question is, in fact, not one of positioning, protests, or appeals. This, first and foremost, is about the purpose of the opposition. What are its principles? For us to have capitalism “like in America”? Or is it for the formation of a new and more modern and just society?

Currently, our opposition trails behind events. Moreover, it doesn’t allow itself to associate with the global movement for democracy, but with the most idiotic conservative Western elites. Several Russian oppositionist leaders are not squeamish by their association with such mastodons like Hillary Clinton and even a degenerate [John] McCain. It’s clear that many Western politicians are no better than Putin. They are similar to the henchmen of oligarchic capital and bureaucracy in our country.

Our opposition has no reason to depend on the help of the Western elite. The West, will actively cooperate with Putin and his Myrmidon-esque [Vladislav] Surkov as long as they are in power … That said, any contact with people like McCain discredits the opposition in the eyes of the Russian citizens.

As Aidman’s provocation suggests, events have shown that the West also wears no clothes. Russian liberals often cite the US as the model for the rule of law, free speech and free assembly. But the Occupy movement has shown that the American state is less tolerate when protests against the rich are concerned. Are the images of police firing tear gas and stun grenades into crowds of peaceful protests, the raiding Occupy camps with clubs, and harassing and arresting journalists, causing vertigo among Russian liberals?

The revolution will be nationalist

If there is any threat of an emerging mass movement in Russia, it is the nationalist right. Anti-immigrant sentiment garners popular sympathy. A study by the Levada Centre found that 60 per cent of Russians support the nationalist slogan, “Russia for the Russians”, and about 50 per cent of Moscow residents support curtailing migrants from the Caucasus and Central Asia to the city. The concern, says Lev Gudkov, director of the Levada Centre, is not that xenophobia is spreading, but that “social resistance to [it] is weakening”.

You can see this growing tolerance for intolerance in political parties’ attempt to tap nationalist sentiment among the electorate. As part of its Duma campaign, the Communist Party is proposing a return to the Soviet practice of stating a citizen’s nationality in their passport, while the LDPR is putting “We’re for Russians” on its campaign posters. Even Russian liberals have thrown their hat into the nationalist ring.

Most prominently, Alexey Navalny, Russia’s premiere anti-corruption fighter, and liberal activist Vladimir Milov, “the Russian opposition’s fresh face“, recently promoted the “Stop Feeding the Caucasus” campaign. Navalny went even further and joined the organising committee of the Russian March, a nationalist potpourri that rallies ever year on November 4, Unity Day. Amid the gold, black and white tricolor of the Romanov Dynasty and Nazi salutes, you can hear such slogans as “Russia for Russians”, “Fuck the Jews” and Navalny’s own anti-United Russia battle cry, “Down with the party of crooks and thieves”. Navalny’s nationalist sympathies are well known, but until now, conveniently forgotten. Nevertheless, his and Milov’s move has caused a rift in the liberal camp, and in some cases, calling for some to ignore the inherent contradictions between liberal values and extreme nationalism for the larger strategy of Liberal-Nationalist front.

Russian nationalism has a long history, though its present manifestation is coded in similar sentiments found in Europe and the US. The sense that immigrants, particularly the Muslim variety from the Caucasus and Central Asia, are taking over the country, stealing jobs, spreading crime and benefitting at Russians’ expense are all hallmarks of nationalist rhetoric. Russians’ perception that they are victims despite their dominance in Russian political and cultural life stems from the belief that they are a people without a nation. The official title of Russia is the Rossiiskii Federation, not the Russkii Federation. It’s difficult to render the difference in English, but Rossiiskii is akin to a civic identity like “American”, while Russkii is an ethno-cultural identity. Historically, the latter had to be subordinated for the former to prosper.

The power of “Russian victimhood” has reared its head in two incidents in the last year. The first was in December 2010 when 5,000 football fans and nationalists rioted on Manezh Square in central Moscow over the murder of Yegor Sviridov by a Caucasian men. The second occurred in July in the village of Sagra when a firefight between residents and a criminal gang of Azeris led to the death of Faig Musaev, an illegal immigrant. To nationalists, both Manezh and Sagra and several other ethnic clashes, in the words of one commentator, “have become proper nouns and symbols of this molecular war”.

The question is: Will this war remain molecular or will it eventually expand into a molar conflagration? One thing is clear: If it does, youth will be its spearhead. Nationalism is most popular among Russia’s working class and provincial youth, the very people who see fewer and fewer future prospects and are in direct competition with immigrant labour for jobs.

However, these youths share little by way of ideology, tactics or vision to their counterparts in the Middle East, Europe and America. While the latter looks for a more inclusive world where power is deployed horizontally, the former wants to establish a strict hierarchy of peoples with Russians on top. Yet despite their vast differences, Russian nationalism, the Arab Spring, the indignado protests in Spain, the encampments on Tel Aviv’s Rothschild Avenue, the London student protests and ghetto riots and the occupants of numerous parks and squares around the United States Wall Street share one undeniable quality: youth. Youth predominate in all these movements, and their sense of marginalisation and anger is growing. And that makes for a ticking time-bomb.

Sean Guillory is a postdoctoral fellow at the Centre for Russian and East European Studies at the University of Pittsburgh. He blogs about Russia at Sean’s Russia Blog and can be followed on Twitter @seansrussiablog.

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent Al Jazeera’s editorial policy.


Syria: No Peace Without Mutual Economic Development

Syria: No Peace Without Mutual Economic Development
February 8, 2012 • 11:08AM

by Jacques Cheminade, French Presidential Candidate

Over the night of February 4-5, when a new resolution against Syria was put before the UN Security Council, with the capability of leading to a chain-reaction global conflict, including thermonuclear war, China and Russia had the foresight to veto it. A majority of Western leaders violently denounced this position, surrendering to Anglo-American geopolitics aimed at fanning the flames of the conflict.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy and his Foreign Minister Alain Juppé in particular, have thus buried the “French exception” when it comes to foreign policy which had more or less survived up to the war against Iraq in 2003. They have aligned France along a direction which aims to replace a regime whose anti-democratic nature could have been identified much earlier, with the most backward elements of this region associated with Qatar and Saudi Arabia.

Hence, Alain Juppé, who abandoned Colbertism in the 1980s and betrayed the traditional alliance of Gaullism with the French people with his 1995 health care reform, ends up betraying here and now the Gaullist policy of “peace through development” of the people. For nothing has either been proposed or done to actually develop Southwest Asia and Syria, just as nothing has been done in this direction for Libya and Tunisia.

From myself, I call for the immediate halt of the economic and military offensive led by NATO and its allies in the Near East against Syria and Iran. I demand the immediate halt to all build-up by American, British and French air, sea and land forces, underway in the Gulf of Oman, the Persian Gulf, and Indian Ocean, in preparation for armed interventions against these countries. Those who claim to not want armed intervention, yet impose sanctions that strike at the people are no more than the hypocritical face of the same thing.

Our perspective for peace must be an alliance of nations from the Atlantic to the China Sea, in view of great projects in the common interest. In October 2011, Dmitri Rogozin, then-Russian Ambassador to NATO, proposed NATO member-states to jointly launch a Strategic Defense of Earth (SDE) with the aim to defend all countries against both missile launches, and also against asteroids capable of threatening the Earth. Since then, other Russian proposals of the same type have been made in an attempt to avoid all military escalation. Vladimir Popovkin of the Russian space agency Roskosmos proposed immediate U.S.-Russian collaboration together with nine other space agencies, for the creation of a lunar base, and the former Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov has invited Russians and Americans to form a joint initiative for the exploration and development of the Arctic.

It is only by the common sharing of our resources to take up the great challenges of humanity that we can avoid the escalation towards war in this crisis. Aiming to impose regime change from the outside can only lead to a disaster under the appearance of humanitarianism. Allowing a situation to degenerate to the point that a territory becomes a battlefield and then to propose to intervene intervention is nothing but a modern version of 19th-century British imperialism.

There can be no peace without mutual economic development, and that is a policy that France should be an indefatigable instigator and catalyst for.