Top Red Cross official highlights massive destruction in Eastern Ghouta

Top Red Cross official highlights massive destruction in Eastern Ghouta

MANAMA: US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis is to reaffirm America’s role as a guarantor of stability in the Middle East, in a policy speech before Arab leaders on Saturday.
Mattis, who arrived in Bahrain on Friday, will address the Manama Dialogue.
He will reiterate “our long-term commitment to ensuring and helping these partners and allies... reinstill stability in a very chaotic region,” said Principal Deputy Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs Katie Wheelbarger.
He will call on Arab nations to “continue to look to the United states as your security partner of choice because you can rely on us and depend on us to be there long term,” Wheelbarger added.
The defense secretary’s speech comes as Russia keeps up its military intervention in Syria and Washington accuses Tehran of sowing instability across the region.
The UN-backed political process in Syria has suffered in the face of parallel efforts led by Russia, Turkey and Iran, and as the Syrian military has progressively regained control of most of the country.
The UN Security Council was meeting on Friday to discuss Syria, diplomatic sources said, as no progress appears to have been made with Damascus on establishing a post-war constitution.
Outgoing UN envoy Staffan de Mistura on Wednesday traveled to the Syrian capital to seek the regime’s approval of a UN-backed constitutional committee that has been on the cards for months.
But after a “long” meeting with Foreign Minister Walid Muallem, De Mistura disclosed only that they had “a very frank and very intense exchange of opinions.”
Muallem stressed that creating a new constitution must be a Syrian-led process and ruled out “any foreign interference.”
De Mistura was expected to participate in the US-requested meeting via video link, the diplomatic sources said.
The Italian-Swedish diplomat announced last week he would step down at the end of November, but would first seek to overcome Syrian reluctance to form the UN-backed constitutional committee.
The new constitution is seen as a stepping stone to staging elections in Syria, where more than 360,000 people have been killed since war erupted in 2011 with the brutal repression of anti-regime protests.
The uprising has since morphed into a complex conflict with myriad armed groups, some of whom are foreign-backed.
The Security Council meeting falls on the eve of a summit convening leaders from Turkey, Russia, France and Germany.
French President Emmanuel Macron spoke by phone with US leader Donald Trump to coordinate strategy, according to the Elysee.

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