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Reconstruction ongoing in war-scarred Ancient City of Aleppo

by admin   |   Posted on Thursday, December 27th, 2018


Citadel of Aleppo | Reuters

Post-war reconstruction has been ongoing in the Ancient City of Aleppo since the Syrian government recaptured the city from opposition forces in December 2016.

It has been two years since fighting ended in Aleppo, once Syria’s economic hub, and the previous war zone has been recovering, albeit slowly, since reconstruction efforts were launched in the city.

The Citadel of Aleppo in the center of the Ancient City, which used to be on the front line, has now opened to tourists after renovation, and when weather permits, it even hosts cultural events.

“It’s actually beautiful and it’s really an achievement we really did that we took it back,” said a local of Aleppo, adding “It’s actually really beautiful and a real beautiful feeling that we can come here and visit it again.”

Around the citadel, many stores have reopened and street vendors have also started selling.

“I sell sweet corn around here and the business is good. I can sell a lot in summer and business is also quite good in winter,” said a local street vendor.

However, walking deeper into the historical heart of Aleppo, there still lie signs of destruction, with gutted buildings, walls pockmarked with bullet holes, and piles of rubble along the streets.

The reconstruction is ongoing, but it is expected to be a long process.

According to a deal reached between Russia and Turkey in September, a demilitarized zone has been set up on the border of the opposition-controlled area of Idlib. With Aleppo remaining a target of the militants, it is unlikely that a highway linking to Idlib will open by the end of the month.

But locals are still hopeful that peace will finally return to Aleppo and other parts of the country.

“I hope that Aleppo will never see any war again. We all hope so and we hope that Idlib will be also liberated as soon as possible,” said a vendor. — Reuters

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Oil tanker bound for Syria seized in Gibraltar for sanctions-busting

by Robie de Guzman   |   Posted on Friday, July 5th, 2019

British Royal Marines seized an oil tanker in Gibraltar on Thursday (July 4) accused of bringing oil to Syria in violation of EU sanctions, a dramatic step that could escalate confrontation between the West and Iran.

The Grace 1 tanker was impounded in the British territory at the mouth of the Mediterranean Sea, after sailing around Africa from the Gulf.

Shipping data reviewed by Reuters suggests it had been loaded with Iranian oil off the coast of Iran, although its documents say the oil is from neighboring Iraq.

The Gibraltar authorities who seized it did so under the authority of European sanctions against Syria that have been in place for years, with no reference to the source of the oil.

But the likelihood that the cargo was Iranian draws a link between this incident and a new U.S. effort to halt all global sales of Iranian crude, in what Tehran has described as an illegal “economic war” against it.

European countries have tried to stay neutral in that confrontation, which saw the United States calling off airstrikes against Iran just minutes before impact last month, and Tehran amassing stocks of enriched uranium banned under a nuclear deal.

In a statement, the Gibraltar government said it had reasonable grounds to believe that the Grace 1 was carrying its shipment of crude oil to the Banyas refinery in Syria. (REUTERS)

(Production: Lisa Giles-Keddie)

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71 million people have fled their home or their country in 2018, UNHCR says

by Robie de Guzman   |   Posted on Wednesday, June 19th, 2019

Courtesy : Reuters

Despite populist rhetoric in the West, the real refugee crisis is playing out in developing countries, which hosts most of the record 70.8 million displaced people who have fled war and persecution, the United Nations said on Wednesday (June 19).

Half of the world’s forcibly displaced are children and the 2018 total is the highest in nearly 70 years, doubling that of 20 years ago, the U.N. refugee agency said in its annual flagship report, Global Trends.

But the figure is “conservative,” as it does not include most of the 4 million Venezuelans who have fled abroad since 2015, it said.

This is because Venezuelans do not need visas or to lodge asylum claims to stay in most host countries. If the outflow continues, a total of 5 million Venezuelans could have left by year-end, it added.

Filippo Grandi, U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees urged for a political solution in the country.

“If the situation is not solved politically in Venezuela, with a political agreement, we will see a continuation of this exodus. I know that the government of Venezuela has complained that our figures are inflated, well, these are the figure that we get from governments in the region,” Grandi said.

Venezuelans arriving mainly in Colombia, Peru, and Ecuador formed the second biggest flow of newly displaced abroad last year, after Syrians fleeing to Turkey after eight years of war, the agency said.

U.S. President Donald Trump has made reducing illegal migration along the border with Mexico one of his signature policy pledges.

“If there is any help that we can provide to the U.S. administration in dealing with this matter, we are ready to do it. We have a dialogue with the Department of Homeland Security in this respect,” Grandi said.

“Yes, and it is not just in the United States, in Europe as well and Australia. It started earlier in Australia than in other places. This is the crisis of solidarity that I have mentioned. It is identifying refugees and migrants with the problem instead of people that are fleeing from a problem,” he added. (REUTERS)

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Palace: Duterte’s war threat vs Canada just a figure of speech

by Robie de Guzman   |   Posted on Monday, April 29th, 2019

MANILA, Philippines – Malacañang clarified on Monday that President Rodrigo Duterte’s threat to wage war against Canada over the garbage shipped to the Philippines was just a figure of speech.

Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo made the statement after Duterte issued a stern warning against Canada if it fails to take back their garbage that was shipped to the country nearly six years ago.

During a Palace press briefing, Panelo said the President was not serious in engaging Canada in war, but emphasized that Duterte was serious in sending the trash back.

The Palace official added that Duterte was just expressing his anger over Canadian government’s inaction on the waste issue.

“No, bakit naman irresponsible eh apat na taon mong tinapon ‘yung basura sa bansa natin, hindi ka magsasalita ng ganoon? That’s an expression of outrage, couched in a very strong term,” he said.

Last week, Duterte said he wanted the trash shipload from Canada be returned to its shores, even raising the possibility of going to war against the North American country.

The President was referring to the more than 100 containers of mixed waste shipment that arrived in Manila in batches from 2013 to 2014.

“The instruction is kunin nila. Kung hindi niyo kukunin, kami ang mag-babalik sa inyo,” Panelo said.

Following Duterte’s strong remarks, Canada in a statement reaffirmed its commitment to working with the Philippine government “to ensure the material is processed in an environmentally responsible way.”

READ: Canada vows to resolve trash dumping issue after Duterte’s war threat

The embassy added that the relationship between the two countries “is built on strong people to people ties, common interest in strengthening political, economic and cultural relations, and in mutual commitment to peace” and is highly valued as the two countries celebrate their 70 years of diplomatic relations this year.

During his visit to the Philippines to attend the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Summit in 2017, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau vowed to cooperate with the Philippine government in resolving the offending shipment.

Trudeau, however, said the Philippines and Canadian governments need to settle issues including who will pay for the shipment of the illegal trash to the country. – Robie de Guzman (with reports from Rosalie Coz)

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