Archive for Syria
Russia, the main military backer of the Syrian government, has summoned Israeli Ambassador Gary Koren for questioning over recent Israeli airstrikes on Syrian state forces, Russia’s Foreign Ministry said. Russia demands Israel more closely communicate its military plans in the region to avoid such incidents, Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov said in comments carried by state news agency RIA Novosti. Israeli warplanes conducted air raids in Syria on Friday, with Syrian state forces retaliating using anti-aircraft weapons, in one of the more serious exchanges of fire in the six years of Syria’s multi-sided civil war. Russia has maintained close relations with Israel despite the decades-long animosity between Syria and the neighbouring Jewish state, including over Israeli occupation of the Golan Heights. Israel has about a million Russian-speaking residents. Russian President Vladimir Putin hosted Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu earlier this month in Moscow for talks that focused on the Syrian conflict. Netanyahu warned Putin about Iranian involvement in the conflict. Like Syria’s regime, Iran is also a regional rival of Israel but an ally of Russia.
One of the buildings that belong to the Russian Embassy in Damascus was damaged as a result of a Sunday shelling by militants, Russian Ambassador to Syria Alexander Kinshchak said. “We have a building, which we temporarily do not use and it is located close to the epicenter of the yesterday’s armed clashes. As they told me, the blast wave had broken the window glass there. However, nobody is currently living there except for a local keeper,” Kinshchak told reporters. According to Kinshchak, this building was previously used and it was planned to station the consular office there, however, this building is located close to the district controlled by illegal armed groups. “We were forced to temporarily abandon the idea of using this building… all the employees moved to the main building of the embassy,” the ambassador added.
Iran has announced a new ambassador to Syria after three months of the role going unfilled due to reports of disagreements on who should fill the role, AlArabiya.net reported. Javad Turk Abadi was named to the role after the previous ambassador completed his mission three months ago. Turk Abadi was previously the ambassador to Sudan from 2011 to 2015 before Khartoum decided to shut down the office after cutting off ties with Iran. Before that, he was Iran’s ambassador to Bahrain, Nigeria and Kuwait. Iran’s parliament in recent weeks threatened to question their Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif over the role’s vacancy since Mohammad-Reza Raouf-Sheibani left his post in October 2016. Iran’s embassy in Damascus has played a major role in organizing meetings between political and military leaders of Syria and Iran since the conflict broke out in 2011.
Russia’s embassy in Damascus has come under mortar fire again, the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement Wednesday. “On December 28, at 13:00 and 13:19 Moscow Time, the Russian embassy in Syria was shelled by terrorists again. One mine, which luckily did not explode, fell in the courtyard of the compound of the Russian diplomatic mission’s administrative buildings. The second [fell] in the immediate vicinity of its territory. Sappers were involved to clear the unexploded ammunition,” the statement said. Expressing concern over the persistent terrorist threat to the Russian embassy and diplomats, the ministry said all terrorist groups entrenched around Damascus must be eliminated as soon as possible.
The Czech Republic will not withdraw from its embassy in Damascus because it effectively helps provide humanitarian aid for Syria, Foreign Minister Lubomir Zaoralek said after meeting Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka. Sobotka said humanitarian aid will be a Czech foreign political priority next year. “The embassy in Damascus will continue operating,” Zaoralek said. He recalled that the Czech embassy has helped U.S. citizens in Syria as well as several European countries that searched for their people in the country. A number of countries have withdrawn from their embassies in Damascus after the war conflict escalated in Syria. Zaoralek dismissed the idea that the Czech embassy’s continuing operation boosts the legitimacy of the Bashar Assad regime.
China will expand its involvement in political efforts to end the fighting in Syria, but limit its direct participation to providing humanitarian aid, a senior Chinese diplomat said. Special envoy to Syria Xie Xiaoyuan urged the United States and Russia to resume talks, less than a week after Russian officials said the political process would be “postponed indefinitely.” “China has expressed repeatedly that the issue can only be resolved through political settlement and that military means will lead nowhere,” Xie told reporters in Beijing. “We call on the United States and Russia to make efforts to resume their consultation on the cease-fire.” China’s growing engagement in the region attracted particular notice in August after a top People’s Liberation Army officer met with Syrian and Russian officials in Damascus to discuss Chinese cooperation. Although China has rejected the possibility of engaging militarily, it has consistently offered diplomatic support for Russia, an increasingly close strategic partner. China voted alongside Russia against a Western-backed United Nations cease-fire proposal last month and it has characterized Russia’s bombing offensive in Aleppo — condemned by the West as a series of deadly attacks on civilians — as a legitimate campaign against terror targets.
The Russian embassy in the Syrian capital Damascus was targeted with two mortars shells coming from an area controlled by the militants hitting the embassy compound. The Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement that “the source of the fire was in Jobar district, controlled by the anti-government forces.” “It was a lucky coincidence that the casualties were avoided,” the statement noted. The embassy building suffered “material damage” in the attack, with four of the Russian diplomats’ cars also being hit. Moscow stressed that the attack on the embassy in no way affected its commitment to eradicating terrorism. This is the third time in October that the Russian embassy, located in the central al-Mazra area of Damascus, is shelled from terrorist-controlled areas. Both previous attacks – on October 4 and 13 – saw the embassy building damaged, but caused no casualties.