RCC Official Speaks on Reconstruction, Investment

People's Protection Units Flag in the center Raqqa ... In the framework RCC co-chair Leila Mustafa, Asharq Al-Awsat
People's Protection Units Flag in the center Raqqa ... In the framework RCC co-chair Leila Mustafa, Asharq Al-Awsat
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RCC Official Speaks on Reconstruction, Investment

People's Protection Units Flag in the center Raqqa ... In the framework RCC co-chair Leila Mustafa, Asharq Al-Awsat
People's Protection Units Flag in the center Raqqa ... In the framework RCC co-chair Leila Mustafa, Asharq Al-Awsat

Syria’s Raqqa, dubbed the Euphrates bride, is nestled just off the northeast bank of the Euphrates River with a sweeping 20 km area.

Raqqa makes up to 11 percent of Syria’s gross land mass and is twice the area of the neighboring sovereign nation, Lebanon. As the events of the devastating Syria war unfolded, the city’s name spread like wildfire.

Terror group ISIS had controlled the city for almost three and a half years, using it as a self-styled caliphate and a militiamen outpost. Not so long ago, on Oct 18 the terror group was completely driven out of its stronghold, liberating Raqqa from ISIS’ horrendous oppression.

Raqqa’s civil council is preparing to be handed over the city’s local administration by the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces that liberated the area from ISIS grasp. However, according to UN estimates, the destruction ravaging the area is over 80 percent and has left it uninhabitable.

The RCC was established back in April and is co-chaired by Engineer Leila Mustafa, born in Raqqa in 1988, where she also received her degree in civil engineering at Al-Furat University.

The RCC is a diverse team co-led by Arab tribal leader Sheikh Mahmoud Shawakh al-Bursan, who wears tribal robes, and Kurdish civil engineer Leila Mustafa, dressed in a green shirt and jeans.

Mustafa was forced to move with her family to the northeastern al-Hasaka governorate. After Tell Abyad’s liberation, in rural Raqqa, she moved to live there and joined RCC last April.

“The liberation campaign for Raqqa began 134 days ago. Since that time, the world has been looking forward to the day the terrorist organization (ISIS) is eliminated,” said Mustapha in her interview with Asharq Al-Awsat.

“ISIS posed a direct threat not only to the people of the province, but also a real threat to the security of the city—and the stability of all the capitals of the world,” said Mustapha.

"We do not have a timetable for taking over the city's administration from SDF units, as they are engaged today in conducting operations in search of hidden terror ISIS members and sleeper cells,” Mustapha told Asharq Al-Awsat on the RCC’s plan for reconstruction and the return of those displaced.

“SDF units dismantle mines planted by extremists across the city’s infrastructure-- we are working for a safe return.”

In a statement, the SDF said that "the future of Raqqa will be determined by its people within the framework of a democratic, decentralized, federal Syria in which the people will manage their affairs by themselves."

Further commenting on reconstruction, Mustapha said that a meeting in Rome a few weeks ago which included 11 countries, two of which were Arab states: the United Arab Emirates and Kuwait, delivered a serious desire for cooperation with the RCC for Raqqa rebuilding efforts.

The United States, Britain, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Italy, Canada and Sweden, United Nations and European Union representatives attended the meeting.



White House: Qatar and Egypt Plan Talks with Hamas on Gaza Ceasefire

National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan speaks during a press briefing at the White House in Washington, US, May 22, 2024. REUTERS/Leah Millis/File Photo Purchase Licensing Rights
National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan speaks during a press briefing at the White House in Washington, US, May 22, 2024. REUTERS/Leah Millis/File Photo Purchase Licensing Rights
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White House: Qatar and Egypt Plan Talks with Hamas on Gaza Ceasefire

National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan speaks during a press briefing at the White House in Washington, US, May 22, 2024. REUTERS/Leah Millis/File Photo Purchase Licensing Rights
National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan speaks during a press briefing at the White House in Washington, US, May 22, 2024. REUTERS/Leah Millis/File Photo Purchase Licensing Rights

White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan said on Saturday that mediators for Qatar and Egypt plan to engage Hamas militants soon to see if there is a way to push ahead with a Gaza ceasefire proposal offered by US President Joe Biden.

Sullivan spoke to reporters on the sidelines of a Ukraine peace summit and was asked about diplomatic efforts to get an agreement for Hamas to release some hostages held since Oct. 7 in exchange for a ceasefire lasting at least six weeks.

Sullivan said he had spoken briefly to one of the main interlocutors, Qatar's Prime Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani, and that they would speak again about Gaza on Sunday while both are in Switzerland for the Ukraine conference, Reuters reported.

Hamas has welcomed the ceasefire proposal, but insists any agreement must secure an end to the war, a demand Israel still rejects. Israel described Hamas's response to the new US peace proposal as total rejection.

Sullivan said that US officials have taken a close look at Hamas's response.

"We think some of the edits are not unexpected and can be managed. Some of them are inconsistent both with what President Biden laid out and what the UN Security Council endorsed. And we are having to deal with that reality," he said.

He said US officials believe there remains an avenue to an agreement and that the next step will be for Qatari and Egyptian mediators to talk to Hamas and "go through what can be worked with and what really can’t be worked with."

"We anticipate a back-and-forth between the mediators and Hamas. We’ll see where we stand at that point. We will keep consulting with the Israelis and then hopefully at some point next week we’ll be able to report to you where we think things stand and what we see as being the next step to try to bring this to closure," he said.