Syria wants 2 militant groups barred from peace talks

Updated 31 January 2016
0

Syria wants 2 militant groups barred from peace talks

GENEVA: President Bashar Assad’s government will “never accept” the removal of two militant groups from a list of terrorist organizations barred from peace talks, a Syrian official said, while an opposition figure called on the international community on Sunday to stop Russia’s “crimes in Syria.” Ahrar Al-Sham and the Army of Islam, two Islamic groups fighting to overthrow Assad, agreed to take part in UN-sponsored peace talks in Geneva. The ultraconservative Ahrar Al-Sham is not part of the team sent to Geneva, but the delegation has named Army of Islam official Mohammed Alloush as its chief negotiator. A UN Security Council resolution adopted last month tasked Jordan with compiling an agreed list of terrorist organizations that would be excluded from the talks. Work on the list is still underway. Assad’s government has long referred to all those fighting to overthrow him as terrorists, but has agreed to negotiations with some armed groups in the latest talks. Virtually all parties agree that the Daesh group and the Al-Qaeda-affiliated Nusra Front be excluded. The two sides are divided over Ahrar Al-Sham and the Army of Islam, which the Syrian government and its close ally Russia view as extremists. The mainstream opposition views both groups as fellow rebels, despite their ideological differences. Syrian Information Minister Omar Al-Zoubi said on state TV late Saturday that the government would “never accept” the two groups being removed from the list. “We will neither sit down directly with terrorists, nor have dialogue with them,” he said. The meetings in Geneva, billed as multiparty talks, are part of a process outlined in last month’s UN resolution that envisions an 18-month timetable for a political transition in Syria, including the drafting of a new constitution and elections. In Geneva, a delegation of the main opposition group was scheduled to meet with UN Special Envoy to Syria Staffan de Mistura, who began the peace talks on Friday with a meeting with the Syrian government’s delegation, opposition spokesman Salem Al-Mislet told The Associated Press on Sunday. The opposition’s delegation says it will not take part in the indirect talks until its demands are met, including lifting the siege imposed on rebel-held areas and an end to Russian and Syrian bombardment of regions controlled by opposition fighters. “It’s the duty of the responsibility of members of the Security Council to put the pressure on Russia to stop these crimes in Syria,” Al-Mislet said in English. “It’s enough killing our children, killing civilians. They pretend to fight terrorism. In fact they don’t fight terrorism because they bring terrorism there and ISIS is spreading in many areas in Syria more than before because of these Russian strikes,” Al-Mislet said, using a term to refer to the Daesh group. Russia began its air campaign Sept. 30, saying its strikes are meant to weaken IS and other “terrorists” in Syria, but Western officials and Syrian rebels say most of the strikes have focused on central and northern Syria, where IS does not have a strong presence. Russia has been one of the strongest supporters of Syrian President Bashar Assad since the start of the uprising in 2011. Also Sunday, two explosions went off in the predominantly Shiite Damascus suburb of Sayyida Zeinab, killing at least 10 people, state TV said. The report said one blast was triggered by a car bomb and the second by a suicide bomber. The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, an opposition group that monitors both sides of the conflict through a network of activists inside Syria, said the blast killed 12 people and wounded about two dozen.


Iran seeks assurances on nuclear deal after US pullout

Updated 41 min 8 sec ago
0

Iran seeks assurances on nuclear deal after US pullout

  • The nations that remain in the Iran nuclear deal will meet for the first time since US President Donald Trump left the pact
  • The UN atomic watchdog policing the nuclear accord said on Thursday that Iran is still complying with the terms of the deal despite the US withdrawal

VIENNA: Iran wants European powers to give it a package of economic measures by the end of the month to compensate for the US withdrawal from their 2015 nuclear agreement with world powers, a senior Iranian official said on Friday.
“We expect the package to be given to us by the end of May,” the official told reporters before talks in Vienna with Britain, China, France, Germany and Russia.
He added that Tehran would decide within the next few weeks whether to stay in the accord.
The nations that remain in the Iran nuclear deal meet later today for the first time since US President Donald Trump left the pact, but diplomats see limited scope for salvaging it after Washington vowed to be tougher than ever on Tehran.
The UN atomic watchdog policing the nuclear accord said on Thursday that Iran is still complying with the terms of the deal despite the US withdrawal, but that it could be faster and more proactive in allowing snap inspections.
The official said that if they were unhappy with how things panned out they would seek a ministerial meeting and then decide.
“I am personally maybe not optimistic but ... I am trying my best to come to a conclusion,” he said.
He said European measures would need in large part to ensure that oil exports remained the same and that the SWIFT international payments messaging system continued to work for Iran.