Damascus, Nov 4 (AP/UNB) — Syria said Sunday it will cooperate with new U.N. envoy Geir Pederson if he avoids the "methods" of his predecessor.
Pedersen succeeds Staffan de Misutra, who steps down this month after four years of peace efforts that led nowhere.
Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad told the pro-government daily Al-Watan that Syria would cooperate with Pederson if he commits to the country's territorial integrity and stops supporting "terrorists, as his predecessor did."
The government regularly refers to the opposition as "terrorists."
The conflict, now in its eighth year, has killed more than 400,000 people, displaced half of the country's population and left entire neighborhoods and towns in ruins. It has also drawn in international powers, with Russia and Iran backing the Syrian government and a U.S-led coalition and Turkey also sending in troops.
Beginning in July 2014, de Mistura convened several rounds of indirect peace talks between the government and the opposition, with little success. Russia started a separate process that resulted in local cease-fires but failed to kick-start a political process.
De Mistura's latest efforts focused on negotiating a joint government-opposition committee to draft a new Syrian constitution. The government largely rejected those efforts, saying they amounted to meddling in its internal affairs.
Pedersen previously served as U.N. special coordinator for Lebanon in 2007 and 2008, and was a member of Norway's team that negotiated the 1993 Oslo accords between Israel and the Palestinians.
Kabul, Nov 4 (Xinhua/UNB)- Up to 18 militants loyal to the Islamic State (IS) were killed and one of their hideouts destroyed in Afghanistan's eastern province of Nangarhar, a statement said Sunday.
"The incident occurred on Saturday, in the restive Nazyan district of the province, where Afghan defense forces launched an air-strike killing 18 fighters affiliated with the IS," Afghan Ministry of Defense said in the statement.
The statement did not give details on whether civilians suffered life or property loss, nor the IS fighters operational in the region commented on the incident.
The mountainous province, 120 km east of Kabul, has been the scene of clashes between security forces and IS militants from time to time.
The clashes have forced thousands of villagers to flee to safer places.
Cairo, Nov 3 (AP/UNB) — The United Nations Children's Fund regional director says authorities in Yemen are making it "impossible" to deliver and distribute much-needed humanitarian aid to the country.
Geert Cappelaere says both Yemeni government and Houthi rebel authorities are being uncooperative. He tells The Associated Press in an interview from Yemen that impeding relief efforts could accelerate famine conditions.
Cappelaere says: "Respective authorities are not enabling us to do our work as fast as we should."
Yemen has been at war since March 2015 when Houthi rebels occupied northern regions and forced the government into exile. The Saudi-led coalition backing the exiled government accuses the Houthis of acting as Iran's proxy. The coalition has waged an extensive air campaign, causing thousands of deaths.
Ankara, Nov 3 (AP/UNB) — The order to kill Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi came from the highest level of the Saudi government, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Friday, adding that the international community had the responsibility to "reveal the puppet masters" behind the slaying.
In an op-ed in The Washington Post, Erdogan said he did not believe that Saudi King Salman had ordered the killing of Khashoggi at the Saudi Consulate on Oct. 2. He said Turkey's close ties to Saudi Arabia did not mean that Turkey could turn a blind eye to the killing of the journalist.
"We know that the order to kill Khashoggi came from the highest levels of the Saudi government," Erdogan said.
Erdogan wrote: "As responsible members of the international community, we must reveal the identities of the puppet masters behind Khashoggi's killing and discover those in whom Saudi officials —still trying to cover up the murder — have placed their trust."
Istanbul's chief prosecutor announced Wednesday that Khashoggi, who lived in exile in the United States, was strangled immediately after he entered the consulate as part of a premeditated killing and that his body was dismembered before being removed.
Turkey is seeking the extradition of 18 suspects who were detained in Saudi Arabia so they can be put on trial in Turkey. They include 15 members of an alleged Saudi "hit squad" that Turkey says was sent to Istanbul to kill The Washington Post columnist who had written critically of Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
Some of those implicated in the killing are members of the crown prince's entourage.
In the opinion piece, Erdogan did not mention the prince. But few in Turkey and elsewhere believe that the crime could have been carried out without the knowledge of the kingdom's powerful heir apparent.
Meanwhile, a Turkish official said he believes Khashoggi's body was dissolved in acid or other chemicals after it was mutilated.
Yasin Aktay, a ruling party adviser to Erdogan, told The Associated Press on Friday that "there can be no other formula" to explain why Khashoggi's remains have not been found a month after he was killed.
Aktay, who was friend of Khashoggi's, said he believes that the body was cut into pieces so that it could be dissolved in chemicals. He said: "all the findings point to his body parts being melted." But the official did not offer any proof for his comments.
Khashoggi had entered the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul to collect a document he needed to marry his Turkish fiancee.
In Bulgaria on Friday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called Khashoggi's slaying a horrendous act that "should be duly dealt with" in a way that doesn't undermine Saudi Arabia's stability.
Netanyahu said at a news conference that Iran is a bigger threat than Saudi Arabia and those who want to punish the Middle East kingdom need to bear that in mind.
"A way must be found to achieve both goals, because I think that the larger problem is Iran," said the Israeli leader, who attended a meeting of the prime ministers of Bulgaria, Greece and Romania and the president of Serbia at a Black Sea resort.
Cairo, Nov 2 (AP/UNB) — Islamic militants on Friday ambushed a bus carrying Christian pilgrims on their way to a remote desert monastery south of the Egyptian capital, Cairo, killing at least seven and wounding 12, the Interior Ministry said.
Coptic Orthodox Church spokesman Bouls Halim said the death toll in Friday's attack was likely to rise. Local church officials in Minya province where the attack took place, put the death toll at 10, but the higher figure could not be confirmed.
No group immediately claimed responsibility for the attack, which bore the hallmarks of Islamic State militants who have for years been fighting security forces in the Sinai Peninsula and along Egypt's porous desert border with Libya.
Friday's attack is the second to target pilgrims heading to the St. Samuel the Confessor monastery in as many years. The previous attack in May 2017 left nearly 30 people dead.
The Interior Ministry, which oversees the police, said the attackers used secondary dirt roads to reach the bus carrying the pilgrims, who were near the monastery at the time of the attack.
The attack last year was the latest in a deadly series that targeted churches in Cairo, the Mediterranean city of Alexandria and Tanta in the Nile Delta north of the capital. Those attacks, all claimed by the Islamic State group, left at least a 100 people dead and led to tighter security around Christian places of worship and other Church-linked facilities.
Egypt's Christians, who account for some 10 percent of the country's 100 million people, complain of discrimination in the Muslim majority country. The Coptic Church allied itself with President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi when he, as defense minister, led the 2013 military overthrow of an Islamist president, Mohammed Morsi.