As aid is rushed into Turkey, Syria could be left behind

Abu Dhabi

Analysts have warned that Syrian victims of Monday’s devastating earthquake in their country and Turkey could become hostages to the politics that have divided Syria for more than a decade.

A 7.8-magnitude earthquake hit southern Turkey on Monday morning, followed by more than 100 aftershocks and a second 7.5-magnitude quake. More than 11,000 people have been killed in Syria and Turkey, and hundreds more are feared to be buried under the rubble.

While Turkey has received support and aid from dozens of countries, access to Syria has been less enthusiastic, raising concerns that victims on one side of the Turkish-Syrian border may be ignored while others are provided. is done

“Syrians must not be forgotten,” said Aya Majzoub, Amnesty International’s deputy regional director for the Middle East and North Africa. “Often, the worst hit during such disasters are the people who were already vulnerable.”

Observers say the blame is politics.

Turkey is a NATO member whose international stature has increased in recent years. Syria, on the other hand, is ruled by several different factions. His government, sidelined and under heavy sanctions internationally for its brutal suppression of a rebellion that began in 2011, counts Iran and Russia as its closest allies — both global pariahs.

Most Western countries shun the Syrian regime. But leader Bashar al-Assad has begun to forge ties with former enemies as regional states welcome him back. Last year, the United Arab Emirates welcomed Assad to Abu Dhabi, and last month Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said the pair could meet soon for peace talks.

Some of the areas of Syria most affected by the earthquake are controlled by the government, while the rest are controlled by Turkey-backed and US-backed opposition forces, Kurdish rebels and Sunni Islamist fighters. Idlib, one of Syria’s last opposition strongholds, is controlled by the Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) organization, an armed Sunni Islamist group.

“This is still an area of ​​active conflict, the crisis in Syria is far from over,” said Charles Lister, senior fellow and director of the Syria and Counterterrorism and Extremism Program at the Middle East Institute in Washington, DC. ” “A UN aid mission is a complex setup.”

Erdogan said on Tuesday that 77 countries and 14 international organizations, including the United States, United Kingdom, United Arab Emirates, Israel and Russia, have offered aid to Turkey after the earthquake.

The international aid situation in Syria is less clear. So far, the United Arab Emirates, Iraq, Iran, Libya, Egypt, Algeria and India have already sent aid directly to government-controlled airports. Others such as Taliban-ruled Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Oman, China, Canada and the Vatican have pledged aid. However, it is not clear whether this aid will be sent directly to the government.

The government insists that all aid to the country, including aid to areas outside its control, be sent to the capital, Damascus.

“We are ready to work with all those who want to provide Syria from inside Syria, so the Syrians are ready to work together,” Bassam al-Sabbagh, Syria’s representative to the United Nations, told a news conference in New York on Monday. There is also access from within.” “So, anyone who wants to help Syria can contact the government and we are ready to do so.”

According to the United Nations, it has not been well received by activists and observers, who fear the government could hinder timely aid to thousands of earthquake victims in rebel-held areas, many of them women and children. There are children, according to the United Nations.

“The Assad regime has systematically withheld aid and/or prevented it from reaching ungoverned areas (in the past).” Mai Alsadani tweeted., a Washington-based human rights lawyer and managing editor of the Tahrir Institute for Middle East Policy. “The international community must urgently find ways to ensure that emergency aid and assistance can reach the people of northwestern Syria.”

Syria’s foreign ministry did not respond to a request for comment.

In northwestern Syria, where the United Nations says more than 4.1 million people are already dependent on humanitarian aid, the political and military stalemate between Assad and opposition forces is only expected to halt international aid.

“There may be less international aid to opposition areas because it’s also complicated,” Lister said. “It is not a sovereign government-controlled area and makes it difficult for aid operators.”

The United Nations has said that damage to roads from the earthquake has already disrupted UN aid in the region. The damaged Bab al-Hawa crossing is the only humanitarian aid crossing between Turkey and Syria.

“We are exploring all avenues and assessing feasibility to reach people in need,” Madevi San Suwon, spokeswoman for the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Assistance (OCHA), said on Tuesday. ” “We have assistance but this road issue is still a big challenge.”

Residents of the northwest “live in dire conditions, with little access to adequate shelter, water, sanitation and health care” due to the Syrian government’s denial and obstruction of access to essential services, Majzoub said.

The rebel-held region is also suffering from severe cold and deadly cholera outbreaks.

“They are completely dependent on humanitarian aid provided by Turkey through the UN Cross-Border Mechanism, which allows the UN and its partners to deliver aid without the permission of the Syrian government,” he said. allows.”

The Syrian government has also used this opportunity to demand lifting of sanctions against it. Its UN envoy Sabbagh said on Tuesday that planes refused to land at Syrian airfields because of US and European sanctions. “So even the countries that want to send humanitarian aid, they can’t use the air cargo because of the sanctions,” he said in New York.

The Damascus-based Syrian Arab Red Crescent made a similar appeal on Tuesday, saying it was ready to send aid to rebel-held areas.

In November, the UN-appointed human rights expert called for the immediate lifting of unilateral sanctions against Syria, saying they were exacerbating the destruction and trauma of civilians there.

However, the US has refused to change its stance on the government.

“It would be quite ironic, if not counterproductive, for us to reach out to a government that has oppressed its own people for a dozen years now – gassing them, slaughtering them, for their suffering. Most are responsible. Tolerated,” US State Department spokesman Ned Price said at a media briefing on Monday.

Some analysts agree that the government could use the tragedy to its advantage.

“It’s a very easy time for the government to make that argument because if sanctions are lifted, the implications for the broader geopolitical situation will be game-changing,” Lister said.

Additional reporting by Chris Liakos

Iran Reveals Underground Air Force Base

According to official IRNA news, Iran on Tuesday revealed an underground air force base called “Eagle 44”, which is big enough to house the country’s first fighter jets. The “Eagle 44” base is capable of storing and operating fighter jets and drones, IRNA said. The report did not specify the location of the base.

  • background: In May, Iran’s military detailed another underground base, which houses drones, as the country seeks to protect military assets from potential airstrikes by regional foe Israel.
  • Why this is important: The announcement came less than 10 days after a drone attack on a military plant in the central Iranian city of Isfahan was attributed to Israel by US media. IRNA said the new underground base was one of the country’s most important air bases, built deep underground, housing fighters armed with long-range cruise missiles.

The Swedish prime minister is ready to resume talks with Turkey when Ankara is.

Swedish Prime Minister Alf Kristersen said on Tuesday that he is ready to resume stalled talks with Turkey on Sweden’s bid to join NATO.

  • background: Finland and Sweden applied for NATO membership shortly after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine last year, and while most member states have ratified the applications, Turkey has yet to approve it, making one There should be a consensus process. Turkey said last week that it views Finland’s request positively, but does not support Sweden, even though the two Nordic neighbors are trying to join at the same time.
  • Why this is important: The three countries reached an agreement on the way forward last year, but Ankara suspended talks last month as tensions rose after protests in Stockholm, where a far-right politician displayed a copy of the Koran. The recipe was burnt. Elections are being held in Turkey in May.

The foreign ministers of Qatar and Bahrain discussed starting negotiations to end the unresolved issues.

According to Bahrain’s official news agency, Bahrain’s foreign minister met with his Qatari counterpart in the Saudi capital Riyadh on Tuesday to discuss ways to start dialogue on outstanding issues between the two countries. .

  • background: Saudi Arabia, UAE, Bahrain and Egypt ended their three-year political and economic boycott of Qatar in January 2021. But since then there have been no bilateral talks between Doha and Manama to resolve the remaining differences. All but Bahrain restored travel and trade links in 2021.
  • Why it matters: The move comes amid an apparent thaw in relations. Bahrain’s crown prince spoke with Qatar’s emir last month in a phone call, signaling that the two Gulf states may be moving toward normalizing ties two years after the end of the Arab boycott. The talks came as the Qatari emir and Bahraini king attended a mini-Arab summit hosted by the UAE president in Abu Dhabi.

Egypt and Saudi Arabia: #حم_هين_ال_المسحف

Muslim Twitter users are furious that a very popular Twitter account has been suspended.

Al-Musaf (Quran), an account that tweeted excerpts from the Islamic holy book, had more than 13 million followers before Twitter took action against it.

An Arabic hashtag showing solidarity with the account was trending in Saudi Arabia and Egypt.

Many users saw this as an attempt to silence Muslims, and called on Twitter and its owner Elon Musk to reconsider the decision.

One user addressed Musk, saying: “I don’t think he violated Twitter’s rules because his tweets are quotes from the Holy Quran. We request that the suspension of this account be lifted.

Not all users were upset with the suspension. Some have condemned the use of incomplete Qur’anic verses which they say are taken out of context and thus change the meaning of the text.

The owner of the account appears to run sister accounts in English, French and German, on which he posts translations of Quranic verses. Another sister account that shows Quranic videos is campaigning to block the original account.

Twitter’s communications account did not respond to a request for comment.

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