ON the occasion of the International Day of Persons with Disabilities, Asma al-Assad, wife of President Assad, participated last Monday in a celebration held by the Syrian Organisation for Persons with Disabilities (AAMAL).
The celebration included video selections and drama shows about the necessity of integration and cooperation between the families and organisations concerned in order to diagnose the problems of hearing at children in early stages. They also included glimpses about the psychological and functional rehabilitation offered by specialists and trainers with the organisation.
The show also concentrated on the high percentage of successes achieved by the treatment operations after the early detection of the hearing problems and there were selections about emotive moments for children while they were restoring hearing after completing their surgery operations.
Graduation certificates were distributed to a new batch of Master students of Language and Speech. They are the 5th batch of graduated students within this programme launched by AAMAL in cooperation with Damascus University to feed the institutions concerned with new cadres.
On the sidelines of the event, Asma al-Assad visited a special exhibition held by AAMAL children under the title ‘Crossing’ showcasing the works of 10 children and 10 plastic artists who completed pictures which were painted by the children.
The pictures show hope and optimism in future.
• Syrian government forces have discovered Israeli-made weapons as well as a considerable amount of Israeli and US-made medicine and medical supplies from two positions of foreign-sponsored Takfiri militants in the country’s southwestern provinces of Rif Dimashq and Quneitra.
Local sources, speaking on condition of anonymity, told Syria’s official news agency SANA that Syrian army troopers launched large-scale operations in the two provinces as they were combing the area for hidden ordinance and improvised explosive devices, which Takfiri militants had planted there.
The sources added that the munitions included Israeli- and US-built anti-tank guided missiles, 23mm anti-aircraft twin-barrelled autocannons, 14mm-calibre heavy machine guns, telecommunication devices as well as medicine, medical equipment and food.
The development came only a day after Syrian government forces uncovered large amounts of munitions and highly explosive materials from militant hideouts in Tell Silmo village of the north western province of Idlib.
Elsewhere in the southwestern province of Dara’a, Syrian troops found weapons belonging to Takfiri militants in Nasib village. Syria has been gripped by foreign-backed militancy since March 2011. The Syrian government says the Israeli regime and its Western and regional allies are aiding Takfiri terrorist groups, wreaking havoc in the country.
Separately, more than 1,000 Syrian refugees returned last Thursday to their homeland from different areas in Lebanon, including Nabatieh, Bekaa, Tripoli and Shabaa areas.
Arabic-language Elnashra online independent newspaper reported that the return of refugees took place under the supervision of Lebanon’s General Security in cooperation with the Lebanese army.
‘Lebanon’s General Security is keen on continuously securing a voluntary return of Syrian refugees to their towns,’ Colonel Khattar Nasreddine, head of the Public Security Information Division in northern Lebanon, said.
Nasreddine said that the voluntary return of refugees to their homeland was in the interests of both the Syrian and the Lebanese nations. More than one million Syrian refugees are registered with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Lebanon. The Beirut government estimates that the true number of Syrians in Lebanon stands at 1.5 million.
• Ankara and Moscow have censured US Special Envoy for Syria James Jeffrey’s recent call for an end to peace talks on Syria in the Kazakh capital, Astana, emphasising that the process – mediated by Iran, Russia and Turkey – contribute to a political resolution of the conflict in the Arab country.
Speaking at a US State Department press briefing last Monday, Jeffrey suggested that the international community should abandon the Astana process if its participants fail to set up a Syrian constitutional committee by December 14th. ‘Our suggestion …. is that we do not continue with this rather strange Sochi/Astana initiative, for them to take over the job of putting together a constitutional committee and presenting it on a platter to (UN Special Envoy for Syria Staffan) de Mistura,’ he said.
He claimed: ‘They tried and they failed, or at least up to this point they failed. And if they are still failing by the 14th, the US view … is let’s pull the plug on Astana.’
In response, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu described Jeffrey’s statement as ‘wrongful’ and ‘unfortunate’.
The Astana format – which has brought the parties to the Syria conflict to the negotiating table – has so far made numerous achievements both on the battlefield and the political stage. The talks have helped significantly decrease the violence gripping Syria by creating de-escalation zones there. They have also paved the way for the formation of a constitutional committee.
This is while a parallel UN-backed peace process in Geneva, Switzerland, has failed to deliver any breakthrough. The top Turkish diplomat highlighted the failure of the UN-backed Geneva talks and said: ‘If the ceasefire in Syria is still preserved, even despite the violations, if today we can still talk about a political process, if we can discuss the constitutional committee … they have been achieved thanks to the Astana process and Sochi talks.
‘Turkey never allowed Astana and Sochi to become alternatives to the Geneva process,’ he noted. ‘But nothing happened in Geneva, no steps were taken in Geneva on the issues referred to, not even a real meeting.’
Separately last Wednesday, Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova criticised Jeffrey’s remarks as ‘unconstructive’, saying they play into the hands of those who oppose the peaceful settlement of the Syria crisis.
She further stressed that the Syria political settlement process is still underway, and that setting timeframes for the formation of the constitutional committee is ‘destructive’.
‘Such broad statements that if (progress on the Syrian constitutional committee is not achieved) by December, then that’s the end, are inappropriate here. For experts, this is a sign that those people who make these assessments are not professionals,’ Zakharova said.
The guarantor states of the Astana peace process have ended their 11th round of talks, reiterating their commitment to Syria’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. The Astana process began in January 2017 on the back of a Syria-wide ceasefire between the Syrian government and armed groups. Iran and Russia are allies of the Damascus government in the talks, while Turkey backs armed opposition groups.
The 11th round of the Astana talks concluded in late November. Following that round, the three guarantor states of the Syria truce reiterated their strong commitment to Syria’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.
The discussions mainly focused on the creation of a constitutional committee in Syria and the situation in the de-escalation zone set up in Idlib Province, the last major terrorist stronghold in the country.