U.N. warns of huge Syria battle, Syria claims right to fight terrorism

By Tom Miles GENEVA (Reuters) - The U.N.

Reuters June 28, 2018 01:07:32 IST
U.N. warns of huge Syria battle, Syria claims right to fight terrorism

UN warns of huge Syria battle Syria claims right to fight terrorism

By Tom Miles

GENEVA (Reuters) - The U.N. Syria envoy warned on Wednesday of a full-scale battle in the country's southwest, an area covered by a "de-escalation" ceasefire agreement, but President Bashar al-Assad's ambassador said it was the army's duty to fight terrorism anywhere.

Envoy Staffan de Mistura, briefing the United Nations Security Council on setting up a Syrian constitutional committee, said the modest political achievement risked being overtaken by the escalation in fighting.

"We see a full-scale ground offensive and aerial bombardment, as well as exchanges of fire from both sides," he said, speaking by videolink from Geneva.

He warned that the battle could affect a population and an area similar to the total affected by the battles for eastern Ghouta and Aleppo combined, naming perhaps the two biggest and bloodiest campaigns of the seven-year war.

The Security Council could not allow another battle of such magnitude, he added.

Syrian Ambassador Bashar al-Ja'afari accused de Mistura of making a dangerous statement by telling the Council what it would allow. "Is this within the mandate of the special envoy, your excellencies?" he asked diplomats in the chamber.

De Mistura had neglected the fight against terrorism, Ja'afari said, adding that Islamic State fighters were still present in Syria "under the protection of the Americans". The banned Nusra Front group was similarly still in Syria, protected by "the Americans, the Israelis and others", he said.

Ja'afari blamed terrorists for attacking residential areas in the south of the country, and said it was the Syrian army's duty to respond to the attack to protect hundreds of thousands of civilians.

Russian Ambassador Vasily Nebenzia supported him. "The cities of Deraa and Sweida, as well as residential areas that have embraced de-escalation, are being subjected to shelling by jihadis," he said.

U.S. Deputy Permanent Representative Jonathan Cohen said the predominant opposition force in the area was the Free Syrian Army, not terrorists and not a permitted target designated by the U.N.

Russia had launched air strikes in recent days, supporting Assad's forces in an offensive that was taking a significant toll on civilians, breaking a year-long calm due to a de-escalation agreement in the area, he said.

"To be clear, the unilateral operations underway by the Assad regime and Russia in southwest Syria represent a violation of the ceasefire arrangement reaffirmed by President Trump and President Putin," Cohen said.

(Reporting by Tom Miles, editing by Stephanie Nebehay and David Stamp)

This story has not been edited by Firstpost staff and is generated by auto-feed.

Updated Date:


also read

France, Germany to agree to NATO role against Islamic State - sources
| Reuters

France, Germany to agree to NATO role against Islamic State - sources | Reuters

By Robin Emmott and John Irish | BRUSSELS/PARIS BRUSSELS/PARIS France and Germany will agree to a U.S. plan for NATO to take a bigger role in the fight against Islamic militants at a meeting with President Donald Trump on Thursday, but insist the move is purely symbolic, four senior European diplomats said.The decision to allow the North Atlantic Treaty Organization to join the coalition against Islamic State in Syria and Iraq follows weeks of pressure on the two allies, who are wary of NATO confronting Russia in Syria and of alienating Arab countries who see NATO as pushing a pro-Western agenda."NATO as an institution will join the coalition," said one senior diplomat involved in the discussions. "The question is whether this just a symbolic gesture to the United States

China's Xi says navy should become world class
| Reuters

China's Xi says navy should become world class | Reuters

BEIJING Chinese President Xi Jinping on Wednesday called for greater efforts to make the country's navy a world class one, strong in operations on, below and above the surface, as it steps up its ability to project power far from its shores.China's navy has taken an increasingly prominent role in recent months, with a rising star admiral taking command, its first aircraft carrier sailing around self-ruled Taiwan and a new aircraft carrier launched last month.With President Donald Trump promising a US shipbuilding spree and unnerving Beijing with his unpredictable approach on hot button issues including Taiwan and the South and East China Seas, China is pushing to narrow the gap with the U.S. Navy.Inspecting navy headquarters, Xi said the navy should "aim for the top ranks in the world", the Defence Ministry said in a statement about his visit."Building a strong and modern navy is an important mark of a top ranking global military," the ministry paraphrased Xi as saying.