Lavrov Urges Caution Over Repeating “Iraqi scenario"

Any reports of the alleged use of chemical weapons in the Syrian conflict must be carefully investigated to avoid the repetition of the “Iraqi scenario,” Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Tuesday.

"We believe that any concrete reports that chemical weapons were used or that there are serious concrete suspicions that there was such use should be immediately investigated by experts on the spot," Lavrov said at a news conference after a meeting of the Russia-NATO Council in Brussels,according to RIA Novosti.

He said Syria should not face the repetition of the so-called “Iraqi scenario” .

 “The Syrian government has confirmed its readiness to receive experts investigating a particular incident and readiness to receive experts in any place in Syria if there is specific information that chemical weapons could have been used there,” Lavrov said.

The Russian minister described the delays in sending a UN mission to investigate the reports of the use of chemical weapons in Syria as “an attempt to politicize the issue” and force the “Iraqi scenario” on Syria.

 

M.D

Pope Francis is praying for the kidnapped Syrian bishops

The Syriac Orthodox bishop of Aleppo, Msgr. Youhanna Ibrahim, and the Greek-orthodox Metropolitan of Aleppo and Iskenderun, Msgr. Boulos al-Yaziji were kidnapped on Monday by a group of armed men on the road to Aleppo. The northern Syrian city has been the scene of clashes between rebels and regular soldiers for months,according to Vatican Radio.

Bishop Ibrahim, was travelling in his car with a deacon at the wheel and had collected Msgr. Yaziji from Bab al-Hawa, from a village near the Turkish border. Arriving at the outskirts of Aleppo, an armed group stopped the vehicle and forced the two prelates to get out of the car. After killing the deacon driver, they abducted the two bishops.

The identity of the kidnappers is not yet clear. State TV accuses "armed terrorist group" of having kidnapped the two leaders, who were carrying out "humanitarian work in the countryside outside Aleppo".

In a Statement the Director of the Holy See Press Office, Fr. Lombardi said "The Holy Father has been informed of this recent, extremely grave act, which comes on top of the increasing violence of the past days and a humanitarian emergency of enormous proportions. Pope Francis is following the events with deep participation and he is praying for the health and the liberation of the two kidnapped bishops. He is also praying so that, with the support and prayers of all, the Syrian people may finally see tangible responses to the humanitarian drama and real hopes of peace and reconciliation rise on the horizon.

M.D

Russia Slams EU Decision to Ease Syria Oil Embargo

A deputy Russian foreign minister has  criticized the European Union’s decision to ease its sanctions against Syria to support the country's opposition.

“We proceed from the fact that there is a legitimate government in Syria,” Mikhail Bogdanov told reporters. “That is why we believe such unilateral actions are out of line with the principles of international law and our common understanding… on how to act in the inter-Syrian dialog, "according to RIA Novosti.

The EU Council on Monday eased certain sanctions, including the oil embargo, against Syria. It said the move was designed to “help the civilian population and support the opposition” in Syria.

 “This leads the situation to a deeper deadlock, and does not contribute to a political solution of the problems that have accumulated,” Bogdanov said. “So we think this is a counterproductive decision.”

The deputy foreign minister also said Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov would discuss the EU’s move during his talks with US State Secretary John Kerry in Brussels on Tuesday.

M.D

Moscow Calls For Release of Syrian Priests

Moscow strongly condemned on Tuesday the abduction of two Christian bishops by Syrian rebels and demanded their immediate release.

The two bishops, Yohanna Ibrahim and Paul Yazigi, were kidnapped on Monday in the northern province of Aleppo as they were carrying out humanitarian work.

Syrian news agency SANA reported on Monday the bishops, from the Syriac Orthodox and Greek Orthodox Churches respectively, were kidnapped at gunpoint in the village of Kafr Dael.

The Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement posted on its website Russia is doing its utmost to secure their prompt release.

Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras on Tuesday instructed Foreign Minister Dimitris Avramopoulos, who is currently attending a NATO ministerial meeting, to do all he could to ensure the bishops’ release.

M.D

NATO chief warns regional spillover of Syria events

BRUSSELS- NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said on Tuesday that the military alliance must remain vigilant on the possible spillover of Syria conflict, according to the Chinese "Xinhua" news agency

"We can all see that the situation in Syria is getting worse. And we cannot ignore the risks of a regional spillover, with possible implications for allied security," Rasmussen said on his arrival for NATO foreign ministers' meeting.

NATO has deployed six Patriots systems in Turkey to protect the NATO country from what it described as "potential missile attacks from Syria".

We must continue to remain vigilant," the NATO chief said.

Besides Syria, NATO foreign ministers are expected to discuss the situation on Korean Peninsula, the war in Afghanistan, ties with Russia, etc.

Rasmussen claimed that the DPRK's "provocative actions and threatening statements remain a serious challenge for regional and international stability and security."

On Afghanistan, NATO foreign ministers will discuss how to "support" Afghan forces after 2014 when the alliance are scheduled to end its combat mission.

H.M

 

Lavrov: Lifting EU Embargo on Arms Supplies to Syrian Opposition Violates International Law

MOSCOW- Russian Foreign Minister Sergi Lavrov has stressed that the lifting of the embargo on arms deliveries to the Syrian opposition by Western countries will constitute a crude violation of international law.

The Voice of Russia  quoted Lavrov as saying that "As for the embargo which the European Union imposed on the delivery of arms to the Syrian opposition, it should not have been declared, because that is prohibited by international law," Lavrov said at a Monday press conference in Moscow following his talks with Guinean Foreign Minister Francois Lonseny Fall.

In another context,  Lavrov told journalists that he would meet with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry on April 23 to discuss Syria.

"We had a very good conversation with John Kerry and agreed on the phone the day before yesterday to meet in Brussels tomorrow on the sidelines of the Russia-NATO Council meeting and discuss what we, Russia and the U.S., could do to encourage those who resisted the peaceful settlement that have yet to change their position," he said

The Russian minister said he got the impression that Washington has been "inclined" lately to move toward a political settlement of the Syrian conflict.

"When I spoke with John Kerry on the phone, I felt a confirmation to the inclination displayed at our earlier meetings, the inclination to search for the soonest political settlement and ways to direct the situation towards negotiations between the Syrian government and the opposition," Lavrov added

H. Mustafa

Lavrov, Kerry to discuss Syria During Russia-NATO Council Meeting

MOSCOW- Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said he would meet with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry on April 23 to discuss Syria, according to the Voice of Russia.

"We had a very good conversation with John Kerry and agreed on the phone the day before yesterday to meet in Brussels tomorrow on the sidelines of the Russia-NATO Council meeting and discuss what we, Russia and the U.S., could do to encourage those who resisted the peaceful settlement that have yet to change their position," he told a Monday press conference in Moscow.

The Russian minister said he got the impression that Washington has been "inclined" lately to move toward a political settlement of the Syrian conflict.

"When I spoke with John Kerry on the phone, I felt a confirmation to the inclination displayed at our earlier meetings, the inclination to search for the soonest political settlement and ways to direct the situation towards negotiations between the Syrian government and the opposition," Lavrov observed.

H.Mustafa

Rescuers search for China quake survivors as death toll rises

 A strong 6.6 magnitude earthquake has hit a remote, mostly rural and mountainous area of southwestern China's Sichuan province, killing at least 102 people and injuring about 2,200 close to where a big quake killed almost 70,000 people in 2008.

The earthquake occurred at 8.02am  (12.02pm New Zealand time) in Lushan county near Ya'an city and the epicentre had a depth of 12 km, the US Geological Survey said.

The quake was felt by residents in neighbouring provinces and in the provincial capital of Chengdu, causing many people to rush out of buildings, according to accounts on China's Twitter-like Sina Weibo microblogging service.

State television said 102 people had been confirmed dead with more than 2,200 injured, 147 of them seriously.

President Xi Jinping and Premier Li Keqiang said all efforts must be put into rescuing victims to limit the death toll.

Li arrived in Chengdu and was on his way to the disaster zone by helicopter, state media said.

"The current most urgent issue is grasping the first 24 hours since the quake's occurrence, the golden time for saving lives," Xinhua news agency quoted Li as saying.

Xinhua said 6,000 troops were heading to the area to help with rescue efforts. State television CCTV said only emergency vehicles were being allowed into Ya'an, though Chengdu airport had reopened.

Most of the deaths were concentrated in Lushan, where water and electricity were cut off. Pictures on Chinese news sites showed toppled buildings and people in bloodied bandages being treated in tents outside the hospital, which appeared only lightly damaged.

Rescuers in Lushan had pulled 32 survivors out of rubble, Xinhua said. In villages closest to the epicentre, almost all low rise houses and buildings had collapsed, according to footage broadcast on state television.

A resident in Chengdu, 140 km from Ya'an city, told Xinhua he was on the thirteenth floor of a building when he felt the quake. The building shook for about 20 seconds and he saw tiles fall from nearby buildings.

Ya'an is a city of 1.5 million people and is considered one of the birthplaces of Chinese tea culture. It is also the home to one of China's main centres for protecting the giant panda.

Shouts and screams were heard in the background while Reuters was on the telephone with the spokesman.

Sichuan is one of the four major natural-gas-producing provinces in China, and its output accounts for about 14% of the nation's total.

M.D