Despite chemical attack, UN chief congratulates Assad on Syrian independence day
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Despite chemical attack, UN chief congratulates Assad on Syrian independence day

In letter to the president, Antonio Guterres says he hopes Syria will take part in advancing world peace

Jacob Magid is the settlements correspondent for The Times of Israel.

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres in Cairo on February 15, 2017. (AFP/Khaled Desouki)
United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres in Cairo on February 15, 2017. (AFP/Khaled Desouki)

United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres sent congratulatory wishes to Syrian President Bashar Assad in honor of his country’s independence day last week, Syria’s official news agency SANA said Sunday.

The letter came less than 30 days after a chemical attack in Idlib killed at least 90 civilians, among them dozens of children. The Assad regime is widely believed to have been responsible for carrying out the strike and drew widespread international condemnation.

In the cable to Damascus, Guterres wrote that he was counting on Syria’s “involvement and effective contribution to help build a stronger UN and to enhance joint efforts to ensure peace, development, and human rights for all.”

Syrians mark their independence day, or Evacuation Day, each year on April 17, the day the final remaining French soldiers left the country, thereby ending the French mandate.

Druze residents of the Masada village in the Golan Heights hold a portrait of Syrian President Bashar Assad during a rally marking Syria's Independence Day on April 17, 2017. (AFP Photo/Jalaa Marey)
Druze residents of the Masada village in the Golan Heights hold a portrait of Syrian President Bashar Assad during a rally marking Syria’s Independence Day on April 17, 2017. (AFP Photo/Jalaa Marey)

While the 22-member Arab League suspended Syria’s membership in 2012, Assad’s government maintains a seat in the UN.

The Syrian government has been locked in a six-year civil war against an array of opposition forces. The fighting has killed an estimated 500,000 people and displaced half of Syria’s population.

AP contributed to this report.

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