– Russia shipping more to Syria despite withdrawal
– Austria will not process all asylum requests
– Syrian opposition may end truce, documents lack Assad leaving
– Assad thanks UN chief for comments on taking Palmyra
– US orders diplomatic, military families out of southern Turkey

Russia shipping more to Syria despite withdrawal
After Putin’s March 14 declaration, the Yauza, a naval vessel that has supplied Russian forces in Syria, left the Russian Black Sea port of Novorossiysk for Tartous. Its movements and those of other Russian ships in the two weeks since Putin’s announcement of a partial withdrawal suggest Moscow has in fact shipped more equipment and supplies to Syria than it has brought back in the same period. It is not known what the ships were carrying or how much equipment has been flown out in giant cargo planes accompanying returning war planes. The movements suggest Russia may be working intensively to maintain its military infrastructure in Syria and to supply the Syrian army so that it can scale up again swiftly if need be. [Reuters, 3/30/2016]

Austria will not process all asylum requests
Austria’s government plans to further tighten rules on those seeking asylum in the country as of mid-May. The move, announced Wednesday, places additional limits on who qualifies for safe haven after restrictions introduced earlier this year as Austria and its eastern neighbors shut down the west Balkans migrant route. Austria currently processes every request for asylum. Interior Minister Johanna Mikl-Leitner says that under the new rules, applications will be accepted only from “those that we have to” for cases where a person faces threats to safety in a neighboring country that he or she transited from. Austria has set a limit of 37,500 asylum applications for the year, after receiving nearly 90,000 in 2015. Mikl-Leitner says 14,000 have been submitted for 2016 as of the end of March. [AP, 3/30/2016]

Syrian opposition may end truce, de Mistura documents lack Assad leaving
After a month of implementation, the Syrian truce is now uncertain, especially as the armed Syrian opposition convene today in Turkey to decide whether to continue their commitment to the ceasefire. Senior Free Syrian Army (FSA) military commander Rami al-Dalati said the meeting will look into the state of affairs of the ceasefire and political settlement papers assembled by UN Special Envoy to Syria Staffan de Mistura. Dalati emphasized that the ambiguity of Bashar Al-Assad’s future in de Mistura’s papers is the main reservation for opposition factions, which was the same reason lack of success in previous Geneva peace talks. “Everything is negotiable for us, except Assad’s departure from authority,” Dalati added. [Asharq Al-Awsat, 3/30/2016]

Assad thanks UN chief for comments on taking Palmyra
Syria’s state-run news agency says President Bashar al-Assad has sent a message to the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon reiterating his readiness to cooperate with all “sincere” efforts to fight terrorism. Assad thanked Ban Ki-moon for the UN chief’s statements. SANA says the message was sent on Wednesday. Assad also called on the United Nations and other international organizations Wednesday to help Syria restore Palmyra after government forces drove Islamic State (ISIS or ISIL) militants out of the city. Ban on Wednesday called for greater global efforts to tackle the Syrian refugee crisis, as he opened a conference on securing resettlement. “We are here to address the biggest refugee and displacement crisis of our time,” Ban told the conference in Geneva. “This demands an exponential increase in global solidarity.” [AFP, 3/30/2016]

US orders diplomatic, military families out of southern Turkey
The State Department and Pentagon ordered the families of US diplomats and military personnel Tuesday to leave posts in southern Turkey due to “increased threats from terrorist groups” in the country. The two agencies said dependents of American staffers at the US consulate in Adana, the Incirlik air base, and two other locations must leave. Pentagon Press Secretary Peter Cook said no specific threat triggered the order, but said it was done “out of an abundance of caution” for the safety of the families in that region. He said he was not aware of a deadline for the families to leave, but said “this will move very quickly.” [AP, Reuters, 3/29/2016]