Posts Tagged ‘United Nations’

The Philippines: A Lesson in How Nation’s Lose Their Dignity (And Their Property)

March 23, 2018
 / 05:12 AM March 23, 2018

As a history teacher, I must object to President Duterte’s order to quit the International Criminal Court. With it, we lose our dignity as a nation.

The ICC is part of the United Nations, and the Philippines is part of the United Nations. Back in 1945 when the UN was founded, there were only three other Asian nations that participated. Our officials signed the original charter, hoping that we would become an upstanding member of this important organization. The UN and the Philippines both grew up together.

Since 1945, our soldiers have been actively involved in peacekeeping missions. Our dues have helped other nations, and during catastrophes, the UN has helped us. We have gotten advice from Unicef on Filipino child health and welfare. The United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea backed us up in the West Philippine Sea dispute with China.

Our government and nongovernment officials have become leaders in the organization. Carlos P. Romulo was elected president of the UN. We have been president of the Security Council seven times.

The UN and its judicial wing, the ICC, put pressure on nations to uphold human rights. We agreed to these human rights. We agreed to uphold the goals of this body. Yet now, President Duterte wants to pull out of the ICC, and put our good reputation in the trash bin. If he does not have anything to hide, why is he afraid? Why must we tear up our agreement with the rest of the world? Obligations are obligations and should not be thrown away, just because of the bad behavior of one president.


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All this makes one wonder: does the Philippines know what it is doing with China? In the South China Sea?  Benham Rise? Is Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, the ICC, and is Agnes Callamard  (Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions at the UN) correct in saying the Philippines is guilty of gross illegalities under international law? Is the Philippine government being run by people who don’t understand the law? Is the move for a “Federal form of Government” based upon any good thinking?

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China says it has sovereignty over all the South China Sea north of its “nine dash line.” On July 12, 2016, the Permanent Court of Arbitration  in The Hague said this claim by China was not valid. But China and the Philippine government then chose to ignore international law.




We’ve heard 白痴國家 (Means “Idiot Nation”)




Philippine police shoot dead 13 as Duterte quits ICC — police say they have killed roughly 4,100 suspects who fought back during arrest

March 22, 2018


© AFP | Philippine police have said they have killed roughly 4,100 suspects who fought back during arrest, but rights groups allege the actual number is three times higher and accuse the authorities of murder

MANILA (AFP) – Philippine police said Thursday they had shot dead 13 drug suspects, just days after President Rodrigo Duterte moved to take the country out of the International Criminal Court over its inquiry into his deadly drug war.The suspects were killed Wednesday in the northern province of Bulacan, an official statement said, an area where police have previously launched lethal crackdowns on illegal drugs.

“Bulacan police are continuously and relentlessly implementing their intensified campaign against illegal drugs,” the statement said, adding there had been more than 100 arrests.

The war crimes tribunal, based in The Hague, last month launched a preliminary inquiry into Duterte’s bloody crackdown on narcotics, amid allegations Philippine security forces may have committed crimes against humanity.

Philippine police have said they have killed roughly 4,100 suspects who fought back during arrest, but rights groups allege the actual number is three times higher and accuse the authorities of murder.

The tribunal opened in 2002 to try abuses in countries where national courts cannot or will not prosecute. Manila in 2011 ratified the Rome Statute that created the court.

Manila gave official notice to the United Nations last week that it would withdraw, days after Duterte announced his country would quit the court over alleged “baseless, unprecedented and outrageous attacks” against his government’s rights record.

Foreign Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano said last Friday the Philippines was pushing back against “the well-orchestrated campaign to mislead the international community, to crucify President Duterte… by distorting the human rights situation in the country”.

The tribunal has urged Manila to reconsider its decision, adding that officially quitting the court requires a year’s notice and does not preclude its preliminary inquiry into the drug war killings, which have drawn international concern.

Duterte, who is buoyed by high popularity ratings at home, has fiercely defended the drug war as a battle to bring safety to the nation’s 100 million people.

He has frequently urged authorities to kill drug suspects while promising to protect police from legal sanction.

India and China Have Learned to be “Frenemies” — “Perhaps others can learn from our relationship….”

March 22, 2018

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WASHINGTON: India and China are “frenemies” which are working with each other despite disagreements and the world can learn from their relationship, India’s top diplomat at the UN has said.
“In Hollywood there is a term, which has become quite popular. And that, I think, is called frenemies. That’s what we have with China. We engaged with them, we compete with them. In some areas we work with them together and in some areas we agree to disagree and move on,” India’s Permanent Representative to the UN, Syed Akbaruddin, said here on Tuesday.

Responding to a question after delivering the inaugural Ambassador Howard Schaffer Memorial Lecture at the Georgetown University, the senior Indian diplomat said India has engaged with China on its development initiatives like Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) but opposed it on its Belt and Road initiative.

“Belt and Road Initiative, to me, is not a normal multilateral or plurilateral approach…We are not party to that,” he said at the event organised by the Georgetown India Initiative.

India skipped China’s high-profile Belt and Road Forum last year due to its sovereignty concerns over the USD 50 billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), which passes through PoK.

Touted as Chinese President Xi Jinping‘s ambitious project, the One Belt One Road initiative focuses on improving connectivity and cooperation among Asian countries, Africa, China and Europe.

Asked about his views on India-Pakistan relationship and Islamabad raising the Kashmir issue on UN platform and seeking a plebiscite, he asserted that Pakistan has no internal support on this.

“Frankly to me, issues of India and Pakistan, the way you framed it are yesterday’s problems. This does not mean that we don’t need to address them,” he said, responding to a question.

“This does not mean that they are not of a serious nature. But in terms of where we look at ourselves 20 years from now or 25 years from now, we don’t see these as issues of a nature which will destabilise us in fundamental ways,” Akbaruddin said, adding that in the last one year not a single country joined Pakistan in raising the Kashmir issue at the UN General Assembly.

“How come, other than the 13 times, Pakistan spoke, not one other country spoke. So is this today’s issue? It’s clear that others are not bothered about. The world has too many other issues to focus on. India and Pakistan need to address these as neighbours,” he said.

While China and India are frenemies, he said, others can learn from the relationship between the two countries.

“Perhaps what others can learn from our relationship is that despite a border that is the longest undemarcated border in world, there hasn’t been casualties on that border since the last 40 years,” he said.

“If our western neighbour can also look at that as a model — we agree to disagree, we try and workout, if it doesn’t work, we continue to push out own interest. But the way of trying to resolve it through underhand death that by a thousand cuts is not going to help. We are a billion people. With thousand cuts, you would not reach a billion. So it’s best if we reconciled to each other,” he said.

Philippines May Have Pulled Out of the International Criminal Court By Mistake — “The President Did Not Read the Law.” — President’s lawyers do not understand international law — Is there a doctor (or a lawyer) in the house?

March 21, 2018


 / 05:09 AM March 21, 2018

Whoever gave President Duterte legal advice that led to his decision “withdrawing [the Philippine] ratification of the Rome Statute effective immediately” did both the country and the President a serious disservice.

In the first place, the escalating series of announcements — first a three-page “Statement of the President of the Republic of the Philippines” (from which the passage above is quoted), followed by varying explanations by Palace officials, then a 15-page “Statement of the President of the Republic of the Philippines on the Jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court,” then the formal notice to the secretary general of the United Nations — painted a revealing picture of rolling rationalizations, obvious to the nonpartisan eye.

The least the President’s lawyers could have done was to insist on strict message discipline. Instead, the cacophony that began blaring on Wednesday, March 14, showed to an unbelieving world that the Duterte administration was trying out different reasons.

The one justification that actually counts was the reason (the only one) advanced by Ambassador Teodoro Locsin Jr. in his notice to the office of Secretary General António Guterres, namely, the supposed politicization and weaponization of human rights.

Second, the phrasing itself (“withdrawing its ratification”) is thick with implication unfavorable to the President. By referencing the process of ratification, it creates an opening for those who were party to the process — namely, the Senate — to insist that they should have been included in any attempt to undo the ratification.

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Left: Rodrigo Duterte; Right: ICC prosecutor Fatou Bensouda

The President’s lawyers should have spent a little more time thinking about the legal language the President would use, to prevent potential problems.

In contrast, the official notice to the United Nations nuanced the matter in this way: “withdraw from the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court …” To be sure, regardless of which phrasing was used, we believe that because the Senate is involved in the ratification of treaties, it must also be involved in any attempt at deratification.

But why should the President’s lawyers use language that can be turned against him?

Third, withdrawal could not have been immediate — and the President’s lawyers should have reminded him repeatedly of that central fact.

Whether the phrase was understood as referring to the date of transmittal of the official notice to the United Nations, or, more properly, as referring to the period when the withdrawal takes effect, the use of the phrase “effective immediately” only drew attention to the lawyers’ manifest lack of close reading of the basic documents.

Withdrawal takes effect only after a full year after notice is officially received.

Fourth, if the use of immediate effectivity was deliberate, it only showed that the President’s lawyers did not understand international law, or indeed the web of interconnections that bind all countries dedicated to following rules.

Regardless of the harrumphing we hear from the corridors in the Palace and in the Batasan, the ICC will continue to follow the clear provisions of the Rome Statute.

Regardless of the President’s insistence, perhaps fed by his lawyers and legal advisers, that the treaty never took effect in the Philippines and thus the ICC could not have acquired jurisdiction over him or any other Philippine official, the ICC will continue to follow the clear provisions of the law.

Even the pragmatic majority that now rules the Supreme Court will find it extremely difficult to justify a legal position negating the one-year withdrawal period. The justices would have to deem the long struggle to ratify the Rome Statute as constitutionally defective.

Fifth, and as columnist John Nery argued, the withdrawal only served to reinforce the position that holds that the ICC must intervene with an investigation of its own. Why? Because the withdrawal, and the legal advice that led to it, created the very condition that allows the ICC to conduct investigations into sovereign countries: the lack of genuine national proceedings.

Finally, as columnist Randy David observed, “What is upon us today is a global system that is evolving in ways never before seen. This system’s functional domains are, clearly, unevenly developed …. Being the last bastions of the nation-state, the legal and political systems are probably the slowest to evolve in their global form.”

The legal advice the President received reinforces this impression that the Philippine legal and political systems remain backward, to our collective misfortune.

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Duterte never had the chance to read the Rome Statute


By Genalyn Kabiling

Manila Bulletin

Never did President Duterte had a chance to read the Rome Statute that established the International Criminal Court (ICC) because it did not become a valid law in the country.

President Rodrigo Roa Duterte speaks before the mayors of municipalities during the League of Municipalities of the Philippines Convention at the Manila Hotel, Tuesday night. (CAMILLE ANTE / MANILA BULLETIN)


The President insisted that the treaty was never in effect since it was not published in the Official Gazette, the state’s publication. Such lack of publication, Duterte said, was his “legal excuse” in believing the  international court could never have jurisdiction over him.

“They never published it. Sila-sila lang ‘yan sa Senate, ‘yung Presidente nagpirma at ipinadala kaagad sa Rome [It was the Senate, the President who signed the Rome Statute],” he said during the Philippine National Police Academy (PNPA) graduation ceremony in Cavite.

“I never read the law. I was a mayor then. Wala akong nabasa [I did not read it]. I was not put on notice. It is a legal excuse? Yes. Eh bakit ‘di ko gamitin? Napakabobo ko namang abogado [Why shouldn’t use it? I’d be a stupid lawyer if I didn’t],” he added.

The President recently declared the country’s withdrawal from the ICC over violation of due process, constitutional presumption of innocence, among others. His decision came after the ICC opened a preliminary probe into the alleged crimes against humanity committed in the President’s war on illegal drugs.

In his remarks Wednesday, the President said “not in a million years” would the ICC acquire jurisdiction over his person.

He maintained that the treaty was not enforceable in the country since it was not published in the Official Gazette as required by domestic law.

He also rejected arguments by some groups that Rome Statute need not be published because it was immediately effective.

“Ikulong mo ako [You’ll throw me in jail] without due process of law? Anong due process ‘yan?  [What due process?] No person shall be deprived of life, liberty or property without due process of law,” he said.

“What is the due process involved here? Publication so that you will be put to notice kayong lahat pulis na may batas [all the police about the law] but they never published it,” he said.


All this makes one wonder: does the Philippines know what it is doing with China? In the South China Sea?  Benham Rise? Is Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, the ICC, and is Agnes Callamard  (Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions at the UN) correct in saying the Philippines is guilty of gross illegalities under international law? Is the Philippine government being run by people who don’t understand the law? Is the move for a “Federal form of Government” based upon any good thinking?

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Agnes Callamard, U.N. special rapporteur on extrajudicial executions


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China says it has sovereignty over all the South China Sea north of its “nine dash line.” On July 12, 2016, the Permanent Court of Arbitration  in The Hague said this claim by China was not valid. But China and the Philippine government then chose to ignore international law.




We’ve heard 白痴國家 (Means “Idiot Nation”)




US believes Russia is ‘responsible’ for UK spy poisoning

March 15, 2018

The United States has told the UN Security Council that Moscow was behind a nerve agent attack on former Russian double agent Sergei Skripal in Salisbury, England. Russia vehemently denies it was involved.

Nikki Haley

US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley told an emergency meeting of the Security Council on Wednesday that Washington believes Russia is to blame for the poisoning of an ex-spy and his daughter on March 4 in southern England.

“The United States believes that Russia is responsible for the attack on two people in the United Kingdom, using a military-grade nerve agent,” Haley said in New York.

Former spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia are in critical condition in the hospital after being poisoned in Salisbury with what British authorities have identified as the Soviet-era nerve agent Novichok.

Read moreSergei Skripal case adds to West’s ‘massive trust deficit’ against Russia

US President Donald Trump had pledged support to Britain and urged Russia to cooperate, but he did not suggest Russian culpability in the attempted murders.

Russia’s ambassador to the UN reiterated Moscow’s denial of any involvement in the attack. “Russia had nothing to do with this incident,” Vassily Nebenzia said. “We have nothing to fear, nothing to hide.”

Nebenzia said British Prime Minister Theresa May was creating a “hysterical atmosphere” when she said it was “highly likely” Russia was behind the attack and demanded information from Moscow about how a Cold War nerve agent was used in England.

“We do not speak the language of ultimatums,” Nebenzia said. He called on Britain to hand over samples of the nerve agent for analysis, and provide “material proof” of “the allegedly found Russian trace.”

‘No alternative conclusion’

During Wednesday’s emergency meeting, Haley called on the UN to hold permanent council member Russia accountable.

“It must account for its actions,” she said. “If we don’t take immediate, concrete measures to address this now, Salisbury will not be the last place we see chemical weapons used.”

Read moreRussian press slams UK , West in nerve agent attack coverage

British Deputy Ambassador Jonathan Allen appealed to Security Council members for support.

He said there was “no alternative conclusion than that the Russian state was responsible for the attempted murder of Mr. Skripal and his daughter.”

He added that Russia was in breach of the chemical weapons convention for not declaring the Novichok program. “This was a reckless and indiscriminate act that put at risk the lives of civilians.”

British Prime Minister Theresa May said this week it was “highly likely” Moscow was behind the attack. On Wednesday, May announced that the UK would expel 23 Russian diplomats after a Tuesday deadline for Moscow to provide an explanation was ignored.

nm/sms (Reuters, AFP)

Nikki Haley Calls Out Russia for “Chemical Assassination Attempt” — Says Russia Could Carry Out Its Next Operation in New York City if No Agreement To Stop

March 14, 2018
Nikki Haley at the UN Security Council
U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley speaks during a Security Council meeting on the situation between Britain and Russia at United Nations headquarters. Britain said Wednesday it would expel 23 Russian diplomats and sever high-level bilateral contacts after Russia ignored a deadline to explain how a Soviet-developed nerve agent was used against ex-spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia.
Mary Altaffer/AP

New York City could be the next site of a chemical assassination attempt if world leaders fails to punish Russia for its alleged role in poising of a former spy in the United Kingdom, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley warned Wednesday.

“If we don’t take immediate concrete measures to address this now, Salisbury will not be the last place we see chemical weapons used,” Haley told the United Nations Security Council. “They could be used here in New York, or in cities of any country that sits on this Council. This is a defining moment.”

Haley raised the specter of new attacks during an emergency council meeting, held at the request of British officials who have accused Russia of using “a military-grade nerve agent” to target a former military intelligence officer who committed treason. Russian diplomats have denied responsibility for the incident, but British investigators say they have identified the poison as a chemical weapon produced by the Soviet Union during the Cold War.

“Time and time again, member-states say they oppose the use of chemical weapons under any circumstance,” Haley said. “Now one member stands accused of using chemical weapons on the sovereign soil of another member. The credibility of this council will not survive if we fail to hold Russia accountable.”

United Nations: U.S. Amb. Nikki Haley Blasts Russia for Use of Chemical Weapons, Destabilizing Behaviour

March 14, 2018

The U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, on Wednesday blamed Russia for the recent concern on chemical weapons use in Syria and the nerve agent attack in the UK on former Russian spy Sergei V. Skripal and his daughter.

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FILE photo — Nikki Haley

From The Drive

This latest downturn in the Russian government’s relations with the United States and other Western countries began with the poisoning of Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia in the British city of Salisbury on March 4, 2018. Authorities in the United Kingdom subsequently said that they had a high level of confidence that the Kremlin, or third parties acting directly on its behalf, were responsible for the attempted murders. More than 20 other individuals suffered ill effects, as well, in what the U.K. government has called a “brazen and reckless” attack and military chemical weapons defense teams had to help secure and decontaminate various sites. At the time of writing, both Skripals remain in critical condition.

Spy games in the United Kingdom

“Either this was a direct act by the Russian State against our country,” U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May told members of the country’s parliament in a public address on March 12, 2018. “Or the Russian government lost control of this potentially catastrophically damaging nerve agent and allowed it to get into the hands of others.”

Skripal, who had previously been a member of the Russian military’s Main Intelligence Directorate, or GRU, went to prison in 2006 on charges of espionage. The U.K. government requested he be included in a 2010 multi-national spy swap in exchange for a group of Russian agents that the United States had arrested, seeming to confirm his conviction for working as a double agent for Britain’s Secret Intelligence Service, or MI6.

Today, Haley’s remarks included criticism of Russia’s role in supposedly eliminating chemical weapons in Syria. Haley said Russian failed in its mission to assist Syria in the destruction of its chemical weapons, lied to the international community, protected Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad and used its UN veto six times to protect the Syrian regime.

Haley said the Russian had been engaging in destabilizing behaviour.


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Above: Children in eastern Ghouta, Syria, get medical assistance after suffering the symptoms associated with chemical weapons use.


Investigators set up a tarpaulin sheet on Wednesday at the London home of Nikolai Glushkov, a Russian exile who was close to Boris Berezovsky, once a leading Putin opponent. The police said that they had no reason to believe the death of Mr. Glushkov was suspicious. CreditChris J Ratcliffe/Getty Images

Duterte announces Philippines’ withdrawal from International Court’s Rome Statute — This is Not An Attempt To Avoid Prosecution — ICC is “being utilized as a political tool against the Philippines.”

March 14, 2018
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Audrey MoralloAlexis Romero ( – March 14, 2018 – 2:35pm

MANILA, Philippines — Citing “outrageous” attacks on him and his administration and the supposedly illegal attempt by an International Criminal Court prosecutor to place him under its jurisdiction, President Rodrigo Duterte on Wednesday announced that he is withdrawing the Philippines from its ratification of the Rome Statute effective immediately.

Early in February, International Criminal Court special prosecutor Fatou Bensouda, announced that she was initiating a preliminary examination into allegations of extrajudicial killings in the Philippines to see if these fall into the court’s jurisdiction and if a full-blown investigation is needed.

President Rodrigo Duterte (left photo) delivers a speech during the 120th founding anniversary of the Department of Justice at the Philippine International Convention Center in Pasay City on Sept. 26, 2017. International Criminal Court chief prosecutor Fatou Bensouda (right photo) has been hailed by The Guardian as the “woman who hunts tyrants.” She is seen in this February 2013 photo.

PPD/Ace Morandante and Heinrich-Böll-Stiftung/Stephan Röhl

Duterte since then has lambasted several United Nations officials and stressed that the ICC would not have jurisdiction over him. The Palace was quick to point out then that the examination was not the same as an investigation. Bensouda’s office has yet to determine whether it does have jurisdiciton.

The Rome Statute is the international treaty that established the International Criminal Court and was adopted in 1998. The Philippines ratified the treaty in 2011.

‘ICC being used vs Philippines’

Duterte said it was apparent that the ICC is “being utilized as a political tool against the Philippines.”

“The very considerations upon which the Philippines agreed to be a signatory to the Rome Statute have not been observed, not complied with, hence the rescission of such agreement or the withdrawal of our country’s ratification of the Rome Statute is in order,” Duterte said in a statement.

“Given the baseless, unprecedented and outrageous attacks on my person as well as against my administration, engineered by officials of the United Nations as well as an attempt by the International Criminal Court special prosecutor to place my person within the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court…I therefore declare and forthwith give notice. as president of the Republic of the Philippines, that the Philippines is withdrawing its ratification of the Rome Statute effective immediately.”

Duterte previously said that the ICC would “never never never” have jurisdiction over him and maintained that his controversial crackdown on narcotics would continue until he steps down.



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Agnes Callamard, U.N. special rapporteur on extrajudicial executions

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Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda at the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague, Netherlands.


© AFP/File | President Rodrigo Duterte’s crackdown on drugs has stoked controversy in the Philippines and abroad

Eastern Ghouta: Mattis warns Syria over ‘weaponised gas’

March 11, 2018

BBC News

Shelling in DoumaImage copyrightAFP/GETTY
Image captionThe Syrian army says it has completely surrounded the town of Douma, which has been under heavy bombardment

US Defence Secretary Jim Mattis has warned Syria it would be “very unwise” to use poison gas in Eastern Ghouta amid reports of chlorine attacks.

Mr Mattis did not say President Trump would take military action, but the US struck Syria last April after a suspected gas attack in northern Syria.

Fierce fighting is continuing and the Syrian army says it has surrounded a major town in the rebel-held enclave.

More than 1,000 civilians have been reported killed in recent weeks.

White Helmets claimed that volunteer Bilal Bayram was among the victims who was suffocated [Courtesy: White Helmets]

FILE Photo: White Helmets claimed that volunteer Bilal Bayram was among the victims who was suffocated by some kind of chemical gas in Eastern Ghouta in February 2018 [Courtesy: White Helmets]

The Syrian military has been accused of targeting civilians, but it says it is trying to liberate the region – the last major opposition stronghold near the capital Damscus – from those it terms terrorists.

What did Mr Mattis say?

Mr Mattis said Mr Trump had “full political manoeuvre room” to respond to chlorine use.

Rescue workers and activists in Eastern Ghouta say the Syrian government has used chlorine during its assault, but the government denies this.

Mr Mattis did not say he had conclusive evidence gas had been used, but added: “It would be very unwise for them to use weaponised gas. And I think President Trump made that very clear early in his administration.

He was referring to the US cruise missile strike on a Syrian government air base after more than 80 people were killed in a sarin gas attack in the town of Khan Sheikhoun. Last October a UN report said the Syrian government had been behind the attack.

Mr Mattis also criticised Russia, a key ally of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, which had agreed to oversee the destruction of Syrian chemical weapon stockpiles under a 2013 deal.

“Either Russia is incompetent or in cahoots with Assad. There’s an awful lot of reports about chlorine gas use or about symptoms that could be resulting from chlorine gas,” he said.

What’s happening on the ground?

The Syrian army says it has completely surrounded the town of Douma and cut the remaining rebel-held area into two, according to a statement made by the Lebanese Hezbollah militia, which is fighting on the side of the Syrian government.

But a spokesman for one of the main rebel groups earlier told Reuters that neither Douma nor the western town of Harasta had been cut off. That followed reports that the Syrian army had captured the central town of Misraba, which is on a road linking Douma and Harasta.

The BBC’s Arab Affairs editor Sebastian Usher says the army’s strategy is to divide the enclave into isolated sections and so cut off rebel support and supply networks.

Some of the fiercest fighting has been on the eastern edge of the area still under rebel control – the stronghold of one of the two main rebel groups, Faylaq al-Rahman, which is part of the Free Syrian Army.

Some reports say local leaders have been negotiating an evacuation deal for one of the towns, but Faylaq al-Rahman has denied this, vowing to fight on.

A map showing Eastern Ghouta, Syria

What is the situation for civilians?

Civilians have been sheltering in basements amid continuing government strikes.

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) told the BBC that some residents were going weeks without seeing sunlight because they were too frightened to go out.

“They go out only whenever they want to bring some food for their children,” said ICRC spokeswoman Ingy Sedky.

“And this is when they basically lose their life because it’s becoming very, very dangerous to stay outside basements.”

Bombardment of the town of Kafr Batna in the south of Eastern GhoutaImage copyrightAFP/GETTY
Image captionContinuing air strikes are forcing residents to stay in basements

On Friday a UN convoy was able to successfully deliver aid to Eastern Ghouta, after previous deliveries were halted by shelling.

Some 400,000 people are still thought to live in the area, seven years into Syria’s civil war. It has been besieged by government forces since 2013.

Who are the rebels?

The rebels in Eastern Ghouta are not one cohesive group. They encompass multiple factions, including jihadists, and in-fighting between them has led to past losses of ground to the Syrian government.

The two largest groups are Jaish al-Islam and its rival Faylaq al-Rahman. The latter has in the past fought alongside HTS.

A short guide to the Syrian civil war

Eastern Ghouta is so close to Damascus that it is possible for rebels to fire mortars into the heart of the capital, which has led to scores of civilian deaths.

The Syrian government is desperate to regain the territory, and has said its attempts to recapture it can be attributed directly due to the HTS presence there. HTS was excluded from a ceasefire agreed at the UN that has yet to come into effect.

The group is an alliance of factions led by the Nusra Front, which sprang from al-Qaeda.

Includes video:



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Above: Iranian foreign minister Zarif shares some fun with his co-equal from Russia Mr. Lavrov.

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Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani, Russia’s Vladimir Putin and Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdogan meet in Sochi, Russia, on November 22, 2017

Syria: The first aid convoys reach Eastern Ghouta

March 5, 2018

After two weeks of intense siege in Eastern Ghouta, the first aid convoy is on its way. But Syrian authorities have reportedly stripped the trucks of any medical supplies.

A Russian solider stands guards as Syrian Arab Red Crescent vehicles carrying aid wait at the al-Wafideen checkpoint on the outskirts of Damascus neighbouring the rebel-held Eastern Ghouta region before delivering aid to the rebel-held enclave

An aid convoy of 46 trucks finally entered Syria’s Eastern Ghouta on Monday, but aid authorities have said they are concerned about ongoing shelling and the confiscation of medical supplies.

The 400,000 civilian residents of the region have spent the past two weeks seeking shelter as Russian-backed government forces engage in one of the most intense sieges in the civil war’s seven-year history.

Read more: Syria: US accuses Russia of killing civilians in eastern Ghouta

Syrian Arab Red Crescent vehicles carrying aid wait at the al-Wafideen checkpoint on the outskirts of Damascus neighbouring the rebel-held Eastern Ghouta region before delivering aid to the rebel-held enclaveThe Red Cross reported trucks were on their way to Eastern Ghouta

Stripped of supplies

  • A convoy of empty buses and aid-laden trucks from the International Committee of the Red Cross Syrian (ICRC), the Syrian Arab Red Crescent (SARC) and the United Nations (UN) trucks arrived in Wafideen camp, the ICRC said. Witnesses later reported seeing it cross the checkpoint.
  • Syrian officials rejected 70 percent of the supplies the World Health Organization (WHO) had prepared for the convoy, including “all trauma (kits), surgical, dialysis sessions and insulin,” a WHO spokesman told Reuters news agency.
  • Senior UN official Ali al-Za’tari, who is accompanying the convoy, told Reuters he was “not really happy hearing the loud shelling that is around us” and that “we need to be assured that we will be able to deliver the humanitarian assistance under good conditions.”
  • He also said it would take “many hours” to unload the trucks and that it might be “well after nightfall” before it could return.

HAPPENING NOW @UN @SYRedCrescent @ICRC_sy aid convoy to moving towards from Wafideen checkpoint. I am with my colleagues. We are determined to bring life saving assistance for stranded civilians

Read more: UN says Syrian actions in Eastern Ghouta may amount to crimes against humanity

Stalled attempts: For nearly three weeks aid agencies have been trying to enter the besieged rebel-held enclave since the opening of daily so-called “humanitarian corridors” but have been hampered by ongoing shelling and stringent time constraints.

Ongoing siege: Syrian government forces lost control of the semi-rural region in 2012 and recently launched a major offensive to regain control from Islamist and jihadi groups. As of Monday the Syrian regime control a third of the rebel enclave, a monitor said. It is home to 400,000 people.

War crimes: The UN has accused Syrian forces of perpetrating war crimes in its bloody push into Eastern Ghouta. On Monday the UN human rights body launched an investigation into attacks on civilians trapped in the area, and strongly condemned the bombardment of hospitals, the blockade of aid convoys and the alleged use of chemical weapons.

Read more: What foreign powers want from the Syrian war

aw/rt (Reuters, dpa, AFP, AP)