Media coverage of Syria

Orient Net 2016-05-06 16:21:00

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Today international and European media extensively covered the bombing of a camp for internally displaced people in Syria’s Idlib province, near the Turkish border. The media argue that warplanes operating over the province are typically those of the Assad regime and Russia, and a spokesman for the US State Department reportedly said that it would be ’totally in keeping’ with their past operations. The Syrian Civil Defense reported that more than 30 people were killed in attacks on the camp.


The US strongly condemned the attack and White House spokesman Josh Earnest was quoted as saying that there is “no justifiable excuse for carrying out an air strike against innocent civilians who have already once fled their homes to escape violence.”


The strike on the camp came after the US and Russia managed to broker a 48-hour cease-fire in and around the city of Aleppo. The media report that, however, the details and duration of the partial truce are not entirely clear. The New York Times writes that the US State Department said the truce had begun at 12:01 a.m. on Wednesday, while the Assad regime television said it would take effect at 1 a.m. on Thursday. Moreover, there is disagreement over which rebel groups can be targeted by Russian and Assad regime; in particular, the position of Nusra Front fighters remains unclear.


French media report extensively on the 48 hour truce put in place in Aleppo, following pressure from Russia, the US and the UN. It has brought relative calm to the city, after 285 people were killed since April 22, 2016. 

Various media outlets are reporting that 28 civilians have been killed in a refugee camp in the north of Idlib province. 

L’Obs has written a piece on the strategic and political importance of Aleppo for the Assad regime, as it is the economic capital of the country, and would allow the regime to advance towards other cities such as Latakia and Hama. 

Le Figaro is reporting that John Kerry is planning on returning to Europe next week, to Paris and London, where he will meet French and British officials to principally discuss the issue of Syria, as well as Ukraine and corruption. 

German media report mainly on the ceasefire agreement for Aleppo. Primary focus of the reporting is on the meeting of Steinmeier, Ayrault, Hidschab and de Mistura in Berlin. In addition, the agreement between the US and Russia gained further attention.


Süddeutsche Zeitung reports in a very detailed manner that Moscow and Washington forced a ceasefire after weeks of fierce fighting around the city of Aleppo. While the US exercised especially pressure on the opposition, they were convinced that Moscow would concede the regime in Damascus to agree to the agreement.


Furthermore, Süddeutsche Zeitung reports that Riad Hijab, the coordinator of the HNC, is under intense pressure to abandon the negotiations. Many of the numerous opposition groups consider it cynical and therefore impossible to speak in Geneva with a regime that continues to release barrel bombs in Syria.


With a view to the meeting in Berlin, the newspaper reports that the meeting should serve as an opportunity to evacuate the tensions between Hijab and de Mistura. Hijab had recently attacked de Mistura verbally and reproached him that nothing has changed on the aggressiveness of the regime in the two years of its mediation efforts. The fact that the agreement on the ceasefire was announced during the meeting in Berlin has helped to relax the relationship between de Mistura and Hijab a little bit.


Frankfurter Rundschau focuses on the positions of Germany and France, reporting that the countries pressed for an immediate ceasefire for Aleppo and its surroundings. Jean-Marc Ayrault, French Foreign Affairs Minister, said on Wednesday: "If there is no ceasefire in Aleppo in the next few hours, everything will collapse." Frank-Walter Steinmeier, German Foreign Affairs Ministers, added that there would be “no return to Geneva” without a ceasefire in Aleppo.


Moreover, Handelsblatt quotes Hijab saying: “We do not see any possibility of a political solution as long as Bashar Assad is still present in Syria.” After three rounds of negotiations, he conceded, one has arrived at an impasse. Hijab said that new initiatives with a clear agenda and a clear timetable for a political transition are necessary. Instead of several local firebreaks, a nationwide ceasefire is an absolute precondition. In addition, the humanitarian situation must be improved.


Finally, Die Zeit, Deutsche Welle and Die Welt limit their reporting about the Berlin meeting by quoting only several statements of Hijab. First, he does not see any great opportunities for new negotiations in the near future. According to Hijab, the talks had "arrived at an impasse." He called for the resignation of Assad as a basic condition for a peaceful solution. He declined a national unity government. Deutsche Welle adds a statement of Hijab: “We do not see any possibility of a political solution as long as Assad is still present in Syria. The terror and extremism will not end as long as Assad and his gang are in power with their blood-stained hands.”


The media in Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg largely focus on the air strike against a Syrian refugee camp. Belgian media quote a US official who stated that the attack is in line with previous attacks on innocent civilians by the Assad regime. Dutch media further report that forces of the regime are preventing the delivery of aid, food and medical supplies to opposition-controlled areas, resulting in the UN warning for a humanitarian catastrophe. Dutch media further point out that Russia has announced that it will withdraw 30 fighter jets from Syria, adding that Putin has already in the past threatened to withdraw military support if Assad refuses to negotiate.