German leader renews call for Syria no-fly zone

DAMASCUS, Syria -- German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Wednesday reiterated her proposal for a no-fly zone in Syria where civilians would be protected, a suggestion that was promptly rebuffed by Moscow, which said it can only be done with the Syrian government's consent.

See Full Article

In Damascus, over 100 trucks loaded with humanitarian aid were expected to head out to five besieged areas in in the country, part of an effort described by a Russian official as a first step toward implementation of an agreement reached among world powers in Munich last week.

UN envoy Staffan de Mistura has been trying to secure aid deliveries to improve the chances of restarting peace talks before the end of February. But those efforts have been clouded by the intense fighting north of Aleppo, where various forces backed by regional and international rivals are clashing over a crucial strip of land linking Syria's largest city to the border with Turkey.

The violence in Aleppo and lack of improvement on the humanitarian front led to the collapse of indirect talks between the Syrian government and its opponents in Geneva earlier this month.

It appears also to have revived a long-standing proposal to establish a no-fly zone in northern Syria -- an idea that has been repeatedly floated by Turkey and other opponents of Syrian President Bashar Assad throughout the five-year-old war.

A no-fly zone would potentially create a safe haven for tens of thousands of displaced Syrians. But Washington has long rejected the idea, fearing it would draw U.S. forces further into the civil war.

Merkel expressed support for the idea on Tuesday, and repeated it again on Wednesday. She said it could be done by agreement between Assad, his backers and the coalition fighting the Islamic State group.

At a news conference, she said such an agreement would be "a sign of good will" and would put many people at ease.

Enforcing a no-fly zone has become considerably more difficult since Russia began its air campaign in Syria late last year. A senior Russian diplomat, Deputy Foreign Minister Gennady Gatilov, shrugged off Merkel's proposal, saying it would require Damascus' consent and Security Council approval.

The U.S., Russia and other world powers agreed last week on ceasing hostilities within a week, the delivery of urgently needed aid to besieged areas of Syria and a call to return to peace talks in Geneva.

Gatilov said that "the implementation of the Munich agreements on Syrian settlement has started."

He said a working group on humanitarian access to the besieged areas has met and is set to again meet Thursday. He said it will discuss practical issues related to the aid delivery.

"It's important that the Syrian government has officially declared that it would provide access to seven besieged cities," Gatilov said, according to Interfax.

In Damascus on Tuesday, de Mistura suggested that humanitarian aid would be allowed into several besieged areas Wednesday, calling it the "duty of the government of Syria."

"Tomorrow we test this," he said after meeting with Syria's foreign minister. The UN later said the Syrian government has approved access to seven such areas across the country and that convoys would head out in the coming days.

The Syrian foreign ministry hit back Wednesday, saying "we do not wait for anyone to remind us of our duties toward our people."

"In fact, the Syrian government is the one that needs to test the credibility of the UN envoy," a statement said.

Still, the convoys appeared to be preparing to head to besieged areas Wednesday. At least 16 trucks were parked on the side of the highway at the entrance to Damascus, waiting to leave for the besieged rebel-held towns of Madaya, Zabadani and Moadamiyeh near the capital.

According to the agreement, aid would simultaneously be delivered to two communities in the northern Idlib province that are besieged by rebels.

The convoys represent the third humanitarian aid delivery to the besieged communities after two similar efforts last month.

The UN estimates that 18 Syrian communities are besieged, affecting around half a million people.

Associated Press writers Vladimir Isachenkov in Moscow, Zeina Karam in Beirut and David Rising in Berlin contributed to this report



Advertisements

Latest Canada & World News

  • Violent brawl near Ottawa high school leads to suspensions

    Canada News CTV News
    Several students have been suspended after a violent brawl near an Ottawa high school on Monday. Video shared on social media shows several students throwing punches in a park near St. Pius X Catholic high school, while dozens more looked on and recorded the fight on their cellphones. Source
  • Lawmakers to vote on Quebec's controversial religious neutrality bill today

    Canada News CTV News
    Quebec politicians are expected to vote today on the provincial government's controversial religious neutrality bill. The bill, tabled by Justice Minister Stephanie Vallee in 2015, applies primarily to giving and receiving public services. It would require citizens giving and receiving state services to do so with their face uncovered. Source
  • Trump: Lawmaker ’fabricated’ account of his talk with widow

    World News Toronto Sun
    WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump on Wednesday said a Florida congresswoman “fabricated” an account of the commander in chief telling the widow of a soldier killed in an ambush in Niger that her husband “knew what he signed up for. Source
  • Elderly widow allegedly bilked out of $500k by New York City diner waitress

    World News Toronto Sun
    New York City prosecutors say a diner waitress who befriended an 84-year-old Brooklyn widow is accused of scamming her out of nearly a half-million dollars. The Brooklyn District Attorney’s Office says 46-year-old Alicia Legall met the woman more than a decade ago, building trust and eventually gaining access to her money. Source
  • 'Canadian original': Politicians pay tribute to Gord Downie

    Canada News CBC News
    Politicians are paying tribute to Canadian icon Gord Downie following his passing, praising him as a musical legend, loving man and strong advocate for reconciliation with Indigenous people. The Tragically Hip frontman died Tuesday night at age 53. Source
  • 'We are less as a country': Politicians pay tribute to Gord Downie

    Canada News CBC News
    Politicians are paying tribute to Canadian icon Gord Downie following his passing, praising him as a musical legend, loving man and strong advocate for reconciliation with Indigenous people. The Tragically Hip frontman died Tuesday night at age 53. Source
  • Donald Trump blasts NFL over players kneeling: 'Total disrespect for our great country!'

    World News Toronto Sun
    WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump is again criticizing the NFL over players kneeling during the national anthem. Trump said on Twitter Wednesday that the “NFL has decided that it will not force players to stand for the playing of our National Anthem. Source
  • George Soros donates $18B US to charity Open Society Foundations

    World News CBC News
    Investor George Soros has transferred about $18 billion, the majority of his estimated fortune, to his Open Society Foundations, making them the second largest philanthropic grant-making group in the United States, according to media reports on Tuesday. Source
  • Blind woman robbed of $800 by newfound 'friend' she was trying to help

    Canada News CTV News
    A blind woman's attempt to regain her independence ended in a hotel room roughly 400 kilometres from home -- betrayed by a stranger, her faith in humanity badly shaken. The woman, who wished to be identified only as "Sally," took a bus from her home in Sudbury, Ont. Source
  • ISIS may have lost Raqqa, but its ideology is likely to live on

    World News CBC News
    The militia tanks and armoured vehicles that paraded through the streets of Raqqa on Tuesday marked the symbolic demise of ISIS rule in the Syrian city where militants had established their de facto capital. Source