Vatican ambassador laments Syria's ongoing crisis, poverty
The Vatican's ambassador to Syria, Mario Zenari, said Saturday that no improvement has been made in the war-torn country where at least 90 per cent of the population are thought to live below the poverty line.
His comments came same the day artillery fire from government-controlled territory and suspected Russian airstrikes killed at least eight civilians, most of them children, in Idlib, Syria’s last rebel-held enclave.
Speaking to Vatican Radio, Zenari said that while bombs were no longer falling in some areas, the destruction of Syria was ongoing a decade since the war began.
"Efforts for the peace process are stuck," he said, decrying the lack of reconstruction and dire economic situation.
Zenari, who has been the Apostolic Nuncio to Syria since the end of 2008, said Syrians were living an “economic war” amid endemic corruption and mismanagement that is a hallmark of Bashar al-Assad’s regime, as well as the global coronavirus pandemic which made matters worse.
He also linked the crisis to the one next door in Lebanon, which he said had negative repercussions on the situation in Syria.
Like the day of meditation and prayer for Lebanon, Papal Ambassador Zenari did not rule out that a similar meeting would be held in the Vatican on Syria.
"The tragedies of the countries of the Middle East are very similar to each other, and the suffering of the peoples is common," he said.
Pope Francis hosted a day of prayer in the Vatican amid growing fears over Lebanon's political deadlock and financial collapse, during a day-long summit with the heads of churches in Lebanon.
Lebanon’s banking crisis has had an impact on Syria, and fuel, as well as other commodities subsidised by Lebanese depositors' money, continue to be smuggled into Syrian territory amid sanctions on Damascus.
Meanwhile, US officials and aid agencies fear that the millions of Syrians will be left without crucial humanitarian assistance if key Damascus-ally Russia vetoes a resolution to extend the operation of the sole border crossing into Idlib. The vote will be held July 10.
In recent weeks, there has been rising violence between regime forces and insurgents on the edge of the north-western province, despite a truce brokered last year.
Eight civilians, including six children, were killed on Saturday after regime forces shelled the village of Ibleen in Idlib, according to rescue workers and a war monitor.
Among the dead was Subhi al-Assi, an administrator in a local health centre, and Omar al-Omar, a volunteer for White Helmets rescue service.
The shelling was followed by airstrikes by suspected Russian warplanes that hit areas west of Idlib city, destroying a centre belonging to the White Helmets.