Respond to talks offer,opposition urges Assad

Updated 05 February 2013
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Respond to talks offer,opposition urges Assad

DAMASCUS: Syria’s opposition chief extended a hand yesterday to President Bashar Assad’s regime but said it was now up to Damascus to take the next step toward dialogue between the country’s warring parties.
Ahmed Moaz Al-Khatib’s comments to pan-Arab channel Al-Jazeera came as Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi said that Tehran would continue talks with the Syrian opposition following a preliminary meeting at the weekend.
“The ball is now in the regime’s court. They will either say yes or no,” Khatib said yesterday, following up on his surprise announcement last week that he was ready to meet regime officials provided the authorities release “160,000 detainees” and renew passports for Syrians stranded outside the country.
“I say to Bashar Assad: Look into the eyes of your children and try to find a solution ... We can help each other in the interest” of the people, the head of the National Coalition opposition grouping said. “The regime needs to take a clear position. We will extend our hands for the sake of the people, and in order to help the regime leave in peace,” he said.
Khatib’s statement last week on negotiations with conditions attached was backed by the Coalition, a grouping of externally based opposition groups, but only if they led to the fall of the regime.
While some opposition figures immediately denounced Khatib’s proposal as traitorous, he said yesterday he “rejected” the label. “Our people are dying, and we will not allow that,” Khatib said.
Khatib had on Sunday held talks with Salehi at a security conference in the southern German city of Munich, which the Iranian foreign minister yesterday said were to be continued. “We had 45 (minutes) to an hour discussion which was very fruitful... and we committed ourselves to continue this discussion,” Salehi told a foreign-policy think-tank in Berlin.
Meanwhile, Russian authorities announced the release of two Russians and an Italian citizen kidnapped by Syrian “extremists” last year in Syria. They were “released in exchange for militants,” Russia’s Foreign Ministry said.
On the ground in Syria, fierce battles raged in flashpoints across the country, including Aleppo and Raqa in the north, as well as in Damascus province, said the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
Meanwhile, Iran told Israel yesterday it would regret its airstrike against Syria last week, without spelling out whether Iran or its ally planned any military response. “They will regret this recent aggression,” Saeed Jalili, Secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council, told a news conference in Damascus a day after holding talks there with Bashar Assad. “Today, too, both the people and the government of Syria are serious regarding the issue. And also the Islamic community is supporting Syria,” he said.
Jalili said Iran, in its current role as head of the Non-Aligned Movement, would work on Syria’s behalf on the international stage in response to the attack.
Meanwhile, the bishop of the war-torn Syrian city of Aleppo yesterday urged the international community to pay greater attention to the fate of Syria’s Christian minority, saying they were being terrorized by a spate of kidnappings for money.
“Aleppo has been living in terror and anguish for seven months,” Antoine Audo of the Chaldean Church, who also heads the Syrian branch of the Catholic charity Caritas, said.


Civilians flee fighting in Syrian southwest

A Syrian family rides with belongings on a tractor-drawn trailer as they flee from fighting in the southern Syrian province of Daraa on June 21, 2018. (AFP)
Updated 22 June 2018
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Civilians flee fighting in Syrian southwest

  • Opposition fighters have vowed not surrender “an inch” of the territory to Assad, one of their commanders said earlier this week
  • Fighting in the southwest has been contained since last year by a “de-escalation” deal agreed by the US and Russia, Bashar Assad’s most powerful ally

MOSCOW, BEIRUT: Thousands of people have fled opposition-held areas of southwestern Syria being targeted by regime bombardment, a war monitor said on Thursday, as Damascus steps up attacks on an area near the border with Jordan and the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said some 12,500 people had fled opposition-held areas of northeastern Daraa province in the past 48 hours.
The war has pivoted toward the southwest since the Syrian regime and its allies crushed the last remaining pockets of opposition-held territory near Damascus and the city of Homs.
Fighting in the southwest has been contained since last year by a “de-escalation” deal agreed by the US and Russia, Bashar Assad’s most powerful ally.
A major Syrian regime offensive in the area would risk an escalation of the seven-year-old war. The area is of strategic importance to Israel, which is deeply alarmed by Iranian influence in Syria.
Washington has warned it will take “firm and appropriate measures” in response to violations of the “de-escalation” deal.
Assad said earlier this month the regime, at Russia’s suggestion, was seeking to strike a deal in the southwest similar to agreements that have restored its control of other areas through withdrawals of opposition forces.
But he also said there had been no results yet and blamed “Israeli and American interference.” He said the territory would be recovered by force if necessary. Opposition fighters have vowed not surrender “an inch” of the territory to Assad, one of their commanders said earlier this week.

Russia ‘skeptical’ over UN report
Meanwhile, the Russian foreign minister on Thursday said he was “skeptical” about a UN report accusing the Syrian regime of committing crimes against humanity during the siege of Eastern Ghouta. The report published on Wednesday said forces loyal to the Syrian regime had deliberately starved civilians during the siege between February and April, among other crimes.
“We are in principle very skeptical toward the methods of this sort of work, whether it comes to war crimes or the use of chemical weapons,” Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said at a press conference in Moscow with UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres. When
questioned by journalists, Lavrov confirmed he had not seen the
report.

He said it was “based on data obtained through social networks, video that was filmed by witnesses,” rather than being put together on the ground.
The five-year siege, on the outskirts of the capital, ended in April when Damascus regained control of the rebel enclave.
As pro-government forces dramatically escalated their campaign to recapture the besieged enclave, they used tactics that were “largely unlawful in nature,” the UN-commissioned report said.
The tactics, it said, “aimed at punishing the inhabitants of eastern Ghouta and forcing the population, collectively, to surrender or starve.”
Russia has been involved in Syria’s civil war since September 2015. Its military support of the regime changed the course of the war, allowing government troops to retake more than half the country from rebels and the Daesh group.
More than 350,000 people have been killed in Syria’s war since it started in 2011 with the brutal repression of anti-government protests.