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Syrians vote for new parliament amid war, economic turmoil

Ariana News



(Last Updated On: July 19, 2020)

Syrians go to the polls Sunday to elect a new parliament as the Damascus government grapples with international sanctions and a crumbling economy after retaking large parts of the war-torn country.

More than 7,400 polling stations will open at 7.30 am in government-held parts of Syria, including for the first time in former opposition strongholds, AFP reported.

President Bashar al-Assad’s Baath party and its allies are expected to take most of parliament’s 250 seats in the third such polls to be held since the war started nine years ago.

On the eve of the polls, one person was killed and another wounded in two blasts in Damascus, state news agency SANA said.

Several lists were allowed to run across the country but any real opposition is absent, and the ruling Baath party is expected to retain its hegemony.

Portraits of the contenders have been displayed across the capital for weeks, with the 1,658 candidates including several prominent businessmen.

The elections, twice postponed from April due to the novel coronavirus pandemic, come at a time when most Syrians are worried about the soaring cost of living.

Many candidates are running on programs pledging to tackle inflation and improve infrastructure ravaged by the conflict.

“Lawmakers are going to have to make exceptional efforts to improve services,” said Umaya, a 31-year-old woman who works in a dentist’s practice.

Millions of Syrians living abroad, after fleeing a war that has killed more than 380,000 people, are not eligible to vote.

But for the first time, voting will take place in territory retaken by the government, including in the Eastern Ghouta region outside Damascus and in the south of Idlib province in the country’s northwest.

After a string of military victories backed by key ally Russia, the government is back in control of around 70 percent of the country, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says.

In the last polls in 2016, turnout stood at 57 percent.

This year’s vote comes as Damascus struggles to redress an economy battered by nine years of war, Western sanctions, and the fallout of a financial crisis in neighboring Lebanon.

Food prices in Syria have shot up by more than 200 percent in the past year and now stand at 20 times their pre-war levels, the World Food Programme says.

In a country where more than 80 percent of people already live in poverty, the UN food agency has warned that Syrians are now facing an “unprecedented hunger crisis”.

The elections also come as Assad marked a second decade in power this month, and weeks after the United States imposed new sanctions on Syria including on the president’s wife.

The next presidential polls are expected in 2021, and candidates will need the written approval of at least 35 members of parliament.

Foreign Minister Walid al-Muallem last month said Assad would remain in power “as long as the Syrians want him to stay”.


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China and Tajikistan increase military presence along Afghan border

Ariana News



(Last Updated On: January 24, 2021)

China and Tajikistan have increased the number of border troops and outposts along their borders with Afghanistan, security forces confirmed.

An Ariana News reporter also reported having seen the increase in military presence after flying over the area in a helicopter.

According to border guards in Badakhshan, the two neighboring countries have ramped up their military presence in case the Daesh threat increases should a peace deal be sealed with the Taliban.

An Ariana News reporter visited both the Chinese and the Tajik border areas and said Afghan border forces were not well equipped nor were they structured properly.

During the reporter’s visit to Wakhan, in Badakhshan and the border points with China and Tajikistan, he saw from the army helicopter that Tajikistan had increased the number of its checkpoints on the border with Afghanistan. This was also confirmed by security sources.

“We become disappointed when we see Chinese and Tajik soldiers, because they are very well equipped,” Osama Wardoji, a Badakhshan border force member said.

China meanwhile has called for a joint mountain unit with Afghanistan. However, after Washington disapproved, this plan failed to materialize, security sources said.

The governor of Badakhshan meanwhile has said he is concerned about the large number of foreign fighters, especially Tajikistan’s Ansarullah group members, in Badakhshan.

“Foreign fighters like Ansarullah are present in parts of Badakhshan and they are involved in smuggling [minerals from] mines. This is a big threat,” said Zakaria Sawda, the provincial governor.

China, Tajikistan and Afghanistan currently have a joint 150-strong Chinese-backed force on the border working together to coordinate border threats.

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NSA claims Taliban not interested in peace, but preparing for war

Ariana News



(Last Updated On: January 24, 2021)

National Security Adviser Hamdullah Mohib on Sunday accused the Taliban of not showing any commitment to peace and said the group’s negotiating team has no authority to make decisions.

Speaking at a security meeting at an Air Force Corps in Kabul, Mohib said the Taliban negotiating team leaders do not have the authority to make their own decisions and are therefore wasting time in the process.

Moheb also said that intelligence sources indicate that the Taliban are preparing for war in the spring.

“We have new plans for the war ahead. We fulfilled our wish for peace, but the Taliban did not use it. Security forces suffered few casualties in the fighting,” said Yasin Zia, Afghan Chief of Army Staff.

Meanwhile, intelligence information from security agencies shows that the Taliban is preparing to launch their spring offensive.

“The Taliban has no intention of making peace. Terrorist groups are working for foreign intelligence and their only goal is to kill people.

Security forces have meanwhile said they are prepared for the Taliban to launch their spring offensive.

“The security forces are fully prepared, the security forces are in favor of peace. If the Taliban choose the path of war, they will face us. The level of coordination among the security forces is high, and new preparations have been made for the continuation of the Republic,” said Massoud Andarabi, the minister of interior affairs.

In addition, Shah Mohmood Miakhiakhil, the deputy defense minister, said: “The plans we have, we are trying to implement. Our forces are prepared to fight against those who have a sinister plan. They will not allow terrorist groups to destroy public facilities and kill innocent people.”

This comes amid ongoing peace talks in Doha, Qatar.

However, some security sources have said the next spring offensive could be one of the bloodiest years in 20 years, unless talks yield some results.

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Doing away with the Republic would cost Afghanistan dearly: Ghani

Ariana News



(Last Updated On: January 24, 2021)

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani said Sunday that any interruption in the Republic governing system would come at a great cost to the country especially as it currently provides equality to all Afghans.

Speaking at a meeting with members of the Shia Ulema (scholars) Council of Afghanistan at the Presidential Palace,Ghani said: “The Republic is an umbrella and a bed where the equality of all Afghans is ensured.”

“Our security and defense forces have not lost the war, and the full international legitimacy of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan remains, and the United States is a partner of the Afghan government and our security and defense forces,” Ghani added.

The meeting was also attended by Sarwar Danish, second vice president, and Mohammad Mohaqiqm, a senior advisor to Ghani on security and political affairs.

Ghani also said that in setting the goal of peace, with the world and the region, is to ensure an independent Afghanistan that enjoys national sovereignty, democracy and national unity.

He also stated that “way to other stages of negotiations is to do it carefully, prudently and confidently.

“We are not ready for an apology or surrender and we want a peace in which there is survival, prosperity and national unity,” Ghani said.

Mohammad Akbari, deputy head of the council, said in turn the Ulema council is “working with a moderate policy and a clear path to strengthen the foundations of Islamic brotherhood and national unity, and is calling for peace and an end to the war in the country; and it supports the preservation of the Constitution, and the system of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan.”

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