Pedersen in Syria to Give Momentum to Stalled Political Process

UN special envoy for Syria Geir Pedersen, left, meets with Syrian Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad, in Damascus, Syria Sunday, Sept. 10, 2023. (AP Photo/Omar Sanadiki)
UN special envoy for Syria Geir Pedersen, left, meets with Syrian Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad, in Damascus, Syria Sunday, Sept. 10, 2023. (AP Photo/Omar Sanadiki)
TT

Pedersen in Syria to Give Momentum to Stalled Political Process

UN special envoy for Syria Geir Pedersen, left, meets with Syrian Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad, in Damascus, Syria Sunday, Sept. 10, 2023. (AP Photo/Omar Sanadiki)
UN special envoy for Syria Geir Pedersen, left, meets with Syrian Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad, in Damascus, Syria Sunday, Sept. 10, 2023. (AP Photo/Omar Sanadiki)

The UN special envoy for Syria Geir Pedersen met in Damascus on Sunday with Syrian FM Faisal Mekdad, Syrian government representative Ahmad Kuzbari, Special Representative of the Russian President for the Development of Relations with the Syrian Arab Republic Alexander Efimov, and Iranian Ambassador to Syria Hossein Akbari.

Mekdad discussed with Pedersen and the accompanying delegation the latest developments pertaining to his mission in Syria, an official Syrian statement said.

Mekdad highlighted the major challenges facing Syria, and the catastrophic impact that terrorism has left on the country. He also highlighted the “illegal” presence of US and Turkish forces on Syrian territory, according to the statement.

Unnamed sources in Damascus told Asharq Al-Awsat that Pedersen seeks to set a new date for the stalled talks to reach a political settlement in Syria — including Syrian government representatives rewriting a constitution with a delegation representing opposition groups and civil society activists.

Days before his visit to Damascus, Pedersen discussed the Syrian matter via a video call with Ali Asghar Khaji, the Iranian foreign minister's senior advisor for special political affairs.

The two sides stressed the need to find a solution for the crisis in Syria through political dialogue, and the need to solve humanitarian matters and to return the displaced Syrians back to their homeland.

The Iranian minister said that economic sanctions on Syria must be lifted as soon as possible, and international assistance must be provided to the war-torn country and to the Syrian refugees through humanitarian aid.

In August, Pedersen, at the Security Council meeting, expressed concern about the economic situation in Syria.

“The tragic reality is that, for as long as violent conflict continues, and the political process is blocked, the suffering of the Syrian people will simply get worse. Syria cannot fix its economy while it is in a state of conflict. And this applies to the many other crises that ravage Syria,” he had said.

He stressed that moving towards implementing Security Council resolution 2254 is the only way to begin addressing the many crises afflicting Syria.

Syrian President Bashar Assad’s decision last month to double public sector wages and pensions further skyrocketed inflation and fueled ongoing protests that shook the southern Druze-majority province of Sweida and nearby Daraa.

Initially sparked by deepening economic misery, angry residents in greater numbers began to call for the fall of Assad, similar to that of the country's 2011 uprising that turned into an all-out civil war.

The UN estimates that 90% of Syrians in government-held areas live in poverty and that over half the country's population struggles to put food on the table.



Yemen's Houthis Say to Escalate Military Operations in Support of Gaza

A Houthi military helicopter flies over a cargo ship in the Red Sea. (Reuters)
A Houthi military helicopter flies over a cargo ship in the Red Sea. (Reuters)
TT

Yemen's Houthis Say to Escalate Military Operations in Support of Gaza

A Houthi military helicopter flies over a cargo ship in the Red Sea. (Reuters)
A Houthi military helicopter flies over a cargo ship in the Red Sea. (Reuters)

Yemen's Houthis will continue their military operations and escalate them "in quality and quantity" in support of Palestinians in Israel's war in Gaza, the Iran-backed group's leader Abdulmalik al-Houthi said in a televised speech on Thursday, Reuters reported.

The group have been attacking ships in the Red Sea region since November, forcing shippers to re-route cargo to longer and more expensive journeys around southern Africa.

The group later expanded the scope of its attacks to the Indian Ocean and said it would also target any ships heading towards Israeli ports in the Mediterranean Sea.