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UNSG concerned about military developments in Syria
14 October 2019, 9:08 PM

The United Nations Secretary-General has expressed grave concern over the military developments in northeast Syria, which have already reportedly resulted in many civilian casualties and the displacement of at least 160 000 civilians.

Reports of heaving fighting continue in the region as Turkey continues its military operation against Kurdish fighters, who were formerly allied to United States troops until President Donald Trump ordered their surprise withdrawal.

In a statement, the Secretary General continues to urge for maximum restraint and stresses that any military operation must fully respect international law, including the UN Charter and international humanitarian law.

His spokesperson Stephane Dujarric, “The Secretary-General calls for immediate de-escalation and urges all parties to resolve their concerns through peaceful means. The Secretary-General emphasizes that civilians not taking part in hostilities must be protected at all times. Likewise, civilian infrastructure must be protected in accordance with international humanitarian law.”

Reports from the region suggest that Syrian forces under President Bashar al Assad are now moving into the Kurdish territories in the northeast of the country after a deal brokered by Russia afforded the Kurds protection against the Turkish offensive in exchange for handing over key cities to Damascus. If the reports are true, the US withdrawal of its troops has provided an opportunity for a realignment of alliances in the country with the Kurds now partnering with Syria and Russia and thereby opening up a new chapter in the eight-year war. Meaning a critical US alliance partner against ISIS in the region will now fight alongside Syria’s army that is opposed to the United States.

Dujarric adds,”He recognizes in particular the vulnerabilities of internally displaced persons. He further stresses that sustained, unimpeded and safe humanitarian access to civilians in need must be guaranteed, including through the cross-border modality, in order to allow the United Nations and its humanitarian partners to continue to carry out its critical work in northern Syria. He also notes with serious concern that the current military operations could lead to the unintended release of individuals associated with ISIL, with all the consequences this could entail.”

In an exchange with the Spokesperson SABC News correspondent Sherwin Bryce-Pease raised specific points in the Charter, particular Article 2 that says the organisation is based on the principle of sovereign equality of all its members, that international disputes be settled by peaceful means and that all members shall refrain from threat or use of force against the territorial integrity of another state.

Sherwin: Why then can the UNSG not then call on Turkey to stop its actions.

Stephane: I appreciate the reading of the Charter but again I would refer you to what I’ve said, that we have in light of this current military operation, it bears reminding that any military operation going on needs to respect the charter and international humanitarian law.

Sherwin: But surely military operation in itself a violation of the Charter

Stephane: I will leave that analysis to you.

Earlier the European Union Council condemned Turkey’s military action.

Luxembourg’s Foreign Minister Jean Asselborn, “NATO means article 5: mutual assistance in case of an attack (against one of the military alliance’s members). Let’s imagine this. Starting from this morning, there is an alliance between (Syrian President Bashar al-) Assad’s troops and the Kurds, while Turkey goes against the official Syrian president. So, if Syria or Syria’s allies fight back, attack Turkey, then we are in an extremely, extremely complicated situation. For these reasons, without mentioning sanctions, I believe that Europe must say ‘Stop. This can not continue’.”

The United States has now also threatened to impose new economic sanctions on Ankara in response to its military offensive in Syria.

 

 

 

SAAF’s largest single loss in one day remembered
13 October 2019, 4:08 PM

The South African Air Force’s (SAAF) largest loss of life and aircraft in a single day 75 years ago, has been remembered at a ceremony at the Air Force Memorial at Bays Hill in Pretoria.

Forty-eight airmen – South Africans as well as members of the Royal Air Force and the Royal Australian Air Force – died after six aircraft of 31 and 34 squadrons crashed in bad weather while on a mission to drop supplies to Italian partisans in northern Italy on 12 October 1944 during World War 2.

In 1943, Italy concluded an armistice and then re-entered the war on the side of the Allies.  Their advance stalled for two successive winters: in the central part of the country in 1943 and in the northern Apennine Mountains in 1944.

Speaking at the memorial service, Reverend Trevor Slade said the courage and sacrifice of the men was unquestioned.   He said 20 B-24 Liberator bombers embarked on a mission to airdrop supplies to Italian partisans.  Severe weather conditions and action by the enemy made it a very dangerous mission.  To give an idea of some of the hazardous difficulties they experienced: only three aircraft located the drop-zone and delivered their supplies; eleven aborted the mission and returned safely to base, but six crashed that night.  Five crashed into the Alps and one reportedly into the sea.

Martin Urry, the son of one of the Liberator pilots, said around the same time the memorial was starting, 75 years ago the men of squadrons 31 and 34 would have been hearing of the six Liberators that did not return from the previous night’ mission.

He said: “that would have been a terrible, terrible thing for all those crews and ground crews to try and get their heads around.  All 48 men lost their lives on that night. When we formed the Alpine 44 Club about 15 years ago our mission was that these men would not be forgotten.”

The Alpine 44 Club members are all surviving family members of the men who died on that mission in 1944 or former members of 31 and 34 squadrons.

This year, the service also remembered those who had passed away recently, such as the former Chief of the SAAF, Lieutenant General Denis Earp and Lawrie Poorter – a former National President of the South African Legion of Military Veterans.  General Earp’s widow was among those who laid wreaths.  Other wreaths were laid by the SAAF Association, the South African Legion, the Warsaw Flight Organising Committee and the Italian and British military attaches.  After the ceremony, a wreath was also laid at the Memorial to the Unknown Airman in memory of the South African pilots of Italian descent who died during the Korean War.

There are also strong bonds between the Warsaw Flight Commemoration committee and Alpine 44 as many of the airmen participated in the Warsaw supply mission of 1944 which also involved 31 ad 34 Squadrons flying Liberator B-24s.  The plane’s nicknames – the Soldier and the Flying Coffin – highlight that while it was considered a good aircraft for fighting was, it was also dangerous and difficult to fly.

Heavy rain in Ivory Coast may boost cocoa output but raises disease fears
7 October 2019, 9:11 PM

Heavy rain last week in most of Ivory Coast’s cocoa growing regions could boost harvesting in the coming months but farmers fear beans could start rotting due to high humidity, they told Reuters on Monday.

The marketing season in Ivory Coast, the world’s top cocoa producer, started on Oct. 1, with a new farmgate price of 825 CFA francs ($1.39) per kg set by the government.

Farmers in villages said many trucks were loading beans in the bush to be sold at the government price.

Plenty of cherelles were proliferating on trees after good rains last week, ensuring good harvests from February onwards despite the start of the dry season in November, farmers said.

Farmers said the downpours made drying beans a difficult and long process, increasing the chances of mould if more sunny spells were not to come.

“It rained a lot. The drying was difficult and we are worried the beans will rot if their humidity content keeps rising,” said Celestin Ettien, who farms near the central region of Yamoussoukro.

Data collected by Reuters showed rainfall in Yamoussoukro was at 70.6 millimetres (mm) last week, 46.5 mm above the five-year average.

Similar concerns were reported across the country as rains were well above average. In the central region of Bongouanou, rainfall was at 70.2 mm last week, 46.8 mm above average.

In the southern regions of Agboville, rainfall was at 70.7 mm, 47 mm above average and in the southern region of Divo, rainfall was 64.8 mm, 39.7 mm above average.

In the centre-western region of Daloa, producing a quarter of Ivory Coast’s national output, farmers wished for more sunny spells to avoid diseases and boost growth.

“The trees need more sun. The weather is too wet in the plantation,” said Raphael Kouame, who farms near Daloa.

“Brown rot is a concern for farmers,” Kouame said.

Rainfall in the region of Daloa, which includes Bouafle, was 49 mm last week, 21.6 mm above the five-year average.

The spread of black pod disease was reported in the eastern region of Abengourou, known for the good quality of its beans. Rainfall there was 59.4 mm last week, 33.4 mm above average.

In the western region of Soubre, at the heart of the cocoa belt, farmers said they expected harvesting to be abundant after January.

Data showed rainfall in Soubre, which includes the regions of San Pedro and Sassandra, was 35.5 mm last week, 13.6 mm above the five-year average.

Average temperatures ranged from 25.05 to 27.07 Celsius.

9th Annual Desmond Tutu Lecture
7 October 2019, 6:57 PM

The Desmond Tutu International Peace Lecture is being presented by the tech entrepreneur Strive Masiyiwa – the founder of the company Econet.

Masiyiwa will discuss tackling corruption in the public and private sectors. Masiyiwa is also expected to examine the issue of rebuilding trust in institutions.

Watch lecture below:

 

protesters
Teenager shot as violence flares hours after Hong Kong imposes emergency powers
4 October 2019, 9:10 PM

Hong Kong police shot and wounded a teenage boy on Friday, as violent protests erupted across the Chinese-ruled city hours after its embattled leader Carrie Lam invoked colonial-era emergency powers last used more than 50 years ago.

Lam, speaking at a news conference, said a ban on face masks would take effect on Saturday under the emergency laws that allow authorities to “make any regulations whatsoever” in whatever they deem to be in the public interest.

Nearly four months of anti-government protests have plunged Hong Kong into its biggest political crisis since its handover from Britain to China in 1997 under a “one country, two systems” formula that granted it autonomy and broad freedoms not enjoyed on the mainland.

The Beijing-backed leader said the banning of face masks was necessary to quell escalating violence and didn’t rule out the prospect of further measures if the unrest continued.

Sirens echoed through the streets as protesters set fires, hurled petrol bombs at police and burned the Chinese national flag, in a direct challenge to authorities in Beijing.

Police said an officer in Yuen Long, a district in the outlying New Territories that saw fierce clashes in July, had fired a shot in self-defense after a protester threw a petrol bomb at him, setting him on fire.

Local media reported a 14-year-old boy had been shot and the city’s Hospital Authority said a 14-year-old was in a serious condition, without giving further details.

Around a hundred demonstrators besieged a Bank of China (HK) branch in the high-end shopping district of Causeway Bay, while across the harbor in Kowloon district protesters smashed the glass store front of a China Life branch.

Police fired volleys of tear gas to disperse protesters in flashpoint districts across the territory, including Causeway Bay, Sha Tin and Wong Tai Sin, underscoring the challenges facing authorities as the protests show no sign of letting up.

“COLOR REVOLUTION”

China’s Hong Kong and Macao Affairs Office praised Lam’s move in a statement that said the protests were evolving into a “color revolution”, a term coined to refer to popular uprisings in Ukraine and other former Soviet states that swept away long-standing rulers, with interference from external forces.

The emergency laws allow curfews, censorship of the media, and control of harbors, ports and transport, although Lam did not specify any particular action that might follow beyond the mask ban.

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