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Syrian opposition fighters killed an Iraqi freelance journalist in the rebel-held north of the country, the latest of dozens of reporters who have died in the country over the past three years, an activist group and an international media watchdog said Thursday.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said Yasser Faisal al-Jumaili was shot dead at a rebel checkpoint in the northwestern province of Idlib on Wednesday.
Soazig Dollet of the Paris-based Reporters Without Borders press advocacy group confirmed al-Jumaili was killed in Idlib, adding that his body was taken to Turkey in order to be sent home later. She said she doesn't know how al-Jumaili was killed.
The Committee to Protect Journalists said that Syria was the most dangerous country in the world for journalists in 2012. According to the group, 28 reporters were killed in that year alone.
The Secretary started the day in the NATO-Russia Council Meeting today. This is all NATO allies plus Russia sitting in 29-country format. They covered the full agenda of issues on which NATO and Russia work together, but in particular, most speakers talked about the importance of the deal to – agreement to remove Syria’s chemical weapons and how that is progressing, and the need to finish with that on time
They then did – there was then the bilateral meeting with Foreign Minister Lavrov, which ran for about 30 minutes. First subject was Syria, particularly the need – the preparations for Geneva II, all of the work that’s going on with the various neighbors and partners to prepare the ground for Geneva II, and then a very – another strong discussion with the Secretary urging Foreign Minister Lavrov to increase the pressure on the Assad regime to allow full humanitarian access for humanitarian aid and real concern about starvation being used as a weapon of war, and about the rise of extremism on both sides making it a much tougher environment in Syria.
A unit of Russian security forces is training to fight Islamist militants battling in Syria on fears they may migrate from the Middle East conflict to join an insurgency in the North Caucasus, Chechnya's Kremlin-backed leader said.The Kremlin is worried that Russian-born militants will return to join insurgents who want to carve out an Islamic state in Chechnya and other mostly Muslim provinces in the mountains on Russia's southern fringe.Officials have said 400 Russians are fighting with al Qaeda affiliated groups in Syria, but experts estimate the numbers are much higher. Some Chechens, veterans of two post-Soviet wars against Russian rule, have emerged as leaders among Syrian rebels."These bandits post videos daily claiming that after Syria they will migrate to the North Caucasus and engage in terrorist and subversive activities," Chechnya's leader Ramzan Kadyrov said in a statement posted on the regional government's website late on Wednesday.
"Yasser Al-Joumaili is the first foreign journalist killed by an armed group" opposition "in the said areas" liberated "northern Syria. This murder shows the importance of the mobilization of the international community, Syrian and international organizations defending freedom of the press and all the players information to fight against all those who intend to muzzle the media and silence their employees, "said Reporters Without Borders. The organization is a partner of the "Campaign for Free press Syria ", launched on December 2, to denounce the" deliberate strategy (ISIS) to stifle press freedom and impose a new widespread censorship of the Syrian people ".
According to reports, Yasser Al-Faysal Joumaili was ten days in northern Syria, where he was reporting on behalf of a Spanish media. Several sources indicate that he was abducted Dec. 4, 2013 by the jihadist group ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Sham) in the Idlib region before being executed. The exact circumstances of this murder is still unknown. His body is now in Turkey.
Lakhdar Brahimi, the Syria envoy for both the UN and the Arab League, is urging that Iran and Saudi Arabia be invited to the conference, in realpolitik recognition of the key roles that both are playing in the conflict – Iran on the side of Mr. Assad, and Saudi Arabia in the opposition's corner.
But even if Mr. Brahimi can persuade the United States to OK Iran's participation – the US has long said that Iran should be allowed to attend only if it supports the conference goal of a political transition in Syria to a new, democratic government – some crucial players in the conflict would still be outside the tent.
Under no circumstances will the Islamist extremist groups gaining ground in Syria be part of the international negotiations. So the challenge they present to both Syria and to the region will remain, no matter what happens at the conference, regional experts note.
[The Syrian government and the opposition] have agreed to attend – although kicking and screaming. The Syrian government says it will send a delegation but has no intention of accepting any outcome that includes Assad's departure from power. The main moderate opposition group, the Syrian National Coalition, says it will attend, but it insists that a transitional government cannot include Assad, and it sees no place for Iran at the conference table.
At the same time, the Free Syrian Army (FSA) – the principal opposition fighting force that is a member of the national coalition but doesn't always work in tandem with it – says it will not attend.
Despite UN efforts to secure a cease-fire in the run-up to the conference, FSA troops will not stop fighting, lest government forces take advantage of a truce to advance military, says the group's leader, Gen. Salim Idriss.
"If anyone thinks we are going to Geneva 2 to hand the keys to Damascus over (to the opposition), then he might as well not go," he told SANA news agency. "The decision rests with President Assad. He will lead the period of transition, if there is one. He is the leader of Syria... And he will remain the president of Syria."
"The functional destruction of critical facilities and weaponry has taken place… We're in full swing to prepare for the removal of the most critical chemical agents out of the country," Special Coordinator Sigrid Kaag told the UN News Service just prior to briefing the Security Council on the latest developments.
"There are deadlines that are set that are quite ambitious. They're very stringent, but we are getting as ready as we possibly can so the Syrian Arab Republic – the Government – can fulfil its commitments under the Chemical Weapons Convention."
Ms. Kaag said preparations are under way for 'Phase III,' namely the removal of chemical agents out of the country. The plan is to transport the chemical agents to the Syrian port city of Latakia, where they will be shipped on commercial vessels provided by some Member States. They will then be loaded onto a United States ship and destroyed at sea using hydrolysis.
The Syrian exodus has become one of the gravest global refugee crises of recent decades. More than two million people have fled Syria’s civil war, most resettling in neighboring Jordan, Turkey and Lebanon. But since this summer, refugees have also started pouring into Europe in what became for many weeks a humanitarian crisis in the Mediterranean. Over five months, Italy’s Coast Guard rescued thousands of Syrians, even as hundreds of other migrants, including many Syrians, died in two major shipwrecks in October.Joe Burgess/The New York Times
For many, reaching Europe was merely the beginning of another difficult journey. Having risked their lives in hopes of settling in prospering Northern Europe, many Syrians found themselves trapped in the south, living illegally in Italy, hiding from the police, as they tried to sneak past border guards and travel north to apply for asylum.
Healthcare has also become a 'weapon of war' for the government, which has targeted doctors and withheld vaccinations from children in opposition-held areas, said Rola Hallam, a volunteer with the medical charity Hand in Hand in Syria.
She said women and girls who had been raped during the conflict then found they were being stigmatised by their relatives, adding to their misery.
"If they are married they are (being) divorced. Their families do not want them. There are lots of honour killings going on," she told an international women's rights conference in London hosted by Thomson Reuters Foundation and the International New York Times.
Women and minors in Syria are being raped by government and paramilitary forces, Hallam said.
"My dad is a gynaecologist and he was referred an 11-year-old and a 14-year-old pregnant girl as a result of that," she said. Their fathers had threatened to kill them, and they had been abandoned by their families.oth Saudi Arabia and Israel are highly critical of embattled Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
“We need to start talking to the Assad regime again” about counterterrorism and other issues of shared concern, said Ryan C. Crocker, a veteran diplomat who has served in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan. “It will have to be done very, very quietly. But bad as Assad is, he is not as bad as the jihadis who would take over in his absence.”
Rockets fired into a government-controlled district of Aleppo killed at least 17 people in the northern Syrian city on Wednesday, state media and a monitoring group said.
Photographs from the incident in Meridien and Furqan, two adjacent neighborhoods in western Aleppo, showed pools of blood on the pavements and a crater in the road where one of the rockets appeared to have landed.
The British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the casualties included nine civilians and five members of President Bashar al-Assad's security forces.
It put the death toll at 18, one more than was reported by state news agency SANA which called the rocket fire a "terrorist attack ...on residential districts" of the disputed city.
Assad's forces have gained ground to the southwest of Aleppo and carried out air strikes, dropping improvised barrel bombs from helicopters on the town of al-Bab to the northeast.
1. Meeting in Brussels on 4 December 2013, we, the Foreign Ministers of the NATORussia Council affirm our support for the full implementation of the United Nations Security Council Resolution 2118 (UNSCR 2118), the Framework for the Elimination of Syrian Chemical Weapons between the Russian Federation and the United States of America and the decision adopted by the Executive Council of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) on 27 September 2013, and for the significant work undertaken by the OPCW-UN Joint Mission in the elimination of Syrian chemical weapons.
2. We recall all elements of UN Security Council Resolution 2118 which inter alia condemns in the strongest terms any use of chemical weapons in the Syrian Arab Republic in particular the attack on 21 August 2013, in violation of international law.
3. We welcome work done so far and note that important progress has been made in implementing the OPCW Executive Council decisions and UNSCR 2118. We urge all parties to fully cooperate with the OPCW-UN Joint Mission and underscore the importance of the complete and verifiable elimination of all chemical weapons, material and equipment, in the soonest and safest manner in accordance with the decisions of the Executive Council of the OPCW on 27 September 2013 and 15 November 2013 and the Framework for the Elimination of Syrian Chemical Weapons between the Russian Federation and the United States of America of 14 September 2013.
4. Noting that UNSC resolution 2118 recognises the primary responsibility of the Syrian Government to ensure safety and security for the OPCW-UN Joint Mission, we urge all Syrian parties to cooperate with the OPCW-UN Joint Mission staff in the fulfilment of its mandate, including by providing unfettered access and a secure environment for its activities.
5. We recall UNSCR 2118 which stresses that the only solution to the current crisis in Syria is through an inclusive and Syrian-led political process based on the Geneva Communiqué of 30 June 2012 and we welcome the decision to convene the International Conference on Syria (Geneva II) on 22 January 2014.
6. We welcome all support provided by the NRC member states to the OPCW-UN Joint Mission and stand ready to consider further assistance to the OPCW-UN Joint Mission if requested.
The NATO Russia Council (NRC) also exchanged views on global security issues including Afghanistan, Iran and Syria. The NRC adopted a statement supporting the work of the joint United Nations-Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) mission which is overseeing the destruction of Syria’s chemical weapons stockpiles and production facilities. The Foreign Ministers urged “all Syrian parties to cooperate” with the joint UN-OPCW mission. Ministers urged all Syrian parties to ensure unfettered access and a secure environment for the joint mission. The statement added that NRC member states stand ready to consider further assistance to the mission, if requested. Ministers also made clear that the only solution to the Syrian crisis was an inclusive and Syrian-led political process and they welcomed the decision to convene the International Conference on Syria in Geneva in January 2014.
The US and its allies have held direct talks with key Islamist militias in Syria, Western officials say, aiming to undercut al-Qaeda while acknowledging that religious fighters long shunned by Washington have gained on the battlefield.
At the same time, Saudi Arabia is taking its own outreach further, moving to directly arm and fund one of the Islamist groups, the Army of Islam, despite US qualms.
Both the Western and Saudi shifts aim to weaken al-Qaeda-linked groups, which Western officials now concede are as great a danger in Syria as President Bashar al-Assad's regime.
The Saudis and the West are pivoting toward a newly created coalition of religious militias called the Islamic Front, which excludes the main al-Qaeda-linked groups fighting in Syria — the Nusra Front and the Islamic Army of Iraq and the Levant.
Over the past two months, the militias, which command the loyalty of tens of thousands of fighters driving the conflict in Syria, have begun to consolidate their ranks. In late November, they announced they were banding together and forming the Islamic Front.