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SYRIA

Assad ‘insincere’ about ceasefire – Sarkozy

French President Nicolas Sarkozy said on Friday that he did not believe in the sincerity of Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad, nor in the UN-backed ceasefire aimed at halting 13 months of bloodshed.

“I do not believe in Bashar al-Assad’s sincerity, nor unfortunately in the ceasefire. I think we must deploy observers so that at the very least we know what is happening,” he said in an interview with French television I-Tele.

“I am convinced that the international community must assume its responsibilities and create humanitarian corridors so those unfortunates who are being massacred by a dictator can escape,” said Sarkozy, who is campaigning for re-election in an April-May presidential vote.

Sarkozy and US President Barack Obama had on Thursday demanded that Syria respect the terms of a peace plan drawn up by UN-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan.

The French presidency announced the joint call after the two leaders held videophone talks on a series of world crises, and warned that Assad’s regime would be “judged on its actions”.

“The two presidents urged the Syrian regime to scrupulously and unconditionally respect its undertakings in regard to the plan by the United Nations special envoy and the Arab League,” the statement said.

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SYRIA

French group to open two hotels in Damascus

France's Louvre Hotels Group has signed an agreement to open two hotels under its own name in Damascus, the first with a western hotel operator since Syria's brutal civil war began in 2011.

French group to open two hotels in Damascus
Louvre owns the Golden Tulip five-star brand. Photo: Louvre Hotels Group
The confirmation of the two hotels opening, after recent media reports, came a day after the UN announced an internal investigation into the bombing of hospitals in Syria, and as at least six civilians were killed by the Syrian regime and Russian fire in northwestern Idlib province in the past days, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
 
The region of around three million people, many of them displaced by fighting in other areas, is one of the last holdouts of opposition fighting against the forces of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
   
The Hayat Tahrir al-Sham alliance led by Al-Qaeda's former Syria affiliate controls most of Idlib as well as parts of neighbouring Aleppo and Latakia provinces.
   
The hotels “will open soon under the brand name of Louvres Hotels Group,” the company, which is owned by China's Jin
Jiang, said in a statement.
 
Louvre Hotels Group said the deal was signed between Syria's Nazha Investment Group and “a partner with whom Louvre Hotels cooperates in the Middle East”.
   
The exact number of people killed in Syria's war is unknown but hundreds of thousands have died.
   
Several dozen medical facilities with links to the UN have been damaged or destroyed by bombs this year. Russian has denied deliberately targeting civilian installations.
   
UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres on Friday said an internal inquiry would look into the bombing of hospitals in Syria which had previously flagged their coordinates to avoid air strikes.
   
“The deal is strictly in line with international law and all international directives regarding Syria,” the French company statement said.
   
According to the website, The Syria Report, it is the first agreement with a western hotel operator since 2011, when the devastating conflict began. Louvre Hotels Group was taken over by China's Jin Jiang in 2015 and it operates more than 1,500 hotels in 54 countries.
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