Syria against Saudi Arabia, Qatar taking part at Astana talks

Syrian Civil Defense volunteers, also known as the White Helmets, and Syrian Red Crescent members evacuate a wounded woman following a reported airstrike that targeted the Idlib bus station on Wednesday. (AFP)
Updated 23 January 2017

Syria against Saudi Arabia, Qatar taking part at Astana talks

BEIRUT: The participation of Saudi Arabia and Qatar in Syria talks will be discussed once they stop backing militancy, Syria’s deputy foreign minister was quoted as saying on Wednesday, appearing to reject their attendance at forthcoming peace talks.
Making allegations that Qatar and Saudi Arabia supported militancy, Faisal Meqdad said he will discuss the matter of their participation in the talks once they stop aiding militancy. He was talking to the Lebanon-based TV station Al-Mayadeen.
The talks are to begin on Monday in Kazakhstan’s capital, Astana, called for by Russia, Iran and Turkey, will include members of Syria’s armed opposition. Russia and Iran are Assad’s two main allies. Turkey has backed the rebellion against Assad, as have Saudi Arabia and Qatar.
It is not clear if the government and the opposition fighters will meet face-to-face. The last round of talks, indirect negotiations mediated by the UN, broke down nearly a year ago. Syria has decided to send its UN ambassador and a military delegation to the talks with the armed opposition. The negotiations represent the latest attempt to resolve the six-year-old conflict.
A Syrian official, speaking on condition of anonymity in line with government regulations, said on Wednesday that UN Ambassador Bashar Ja’afari will head the delegation.
Moscow has suggested inviting representatives from the incoming Trump administration to Astana. Iran, which is also taking part, is opposed to US participation.

No to Astana: Opposition
Key Syrian opposition group Ahrar Al-Sham said on Wednesday it will not take part in peace talks between the regime and opposition factions in the Kazakh capital next week. The group decided not to participate in the negotiations in Astana due to “the lack of implementation of the cease-fire” in force since Dec. 30 and ongoing Russian air strikes over Syria, it said in a statement.
Ahrar Al-Sham was among opposition groups that signed the cease-fire deal brokered by regime supporter Russia and opposition backer Turkey last month.
The truce has largely held across Syria although fighting has persisted in some areas, allowing Russia, Turkey and Iran to organize the peace talks in Astana.
Ahrar Al-Sham said “the regime’s offensive against our people in Wadi Barada,” an area 15 km northwest of Damascus that is the capital’s main source of water, was among the reasons it would not attend the talks. Assad’s forces have pressed an assault to retake the area from opposition groups after mains supplies were cut last month, leaving 5.5 million people in Damascus and its suburbs without water.
Mohammad Alloush, a prominent figure of the Jaish Al-Islam faction, will in Astana head a “military delegation” of around eight people, backed by nine legal and political advisors from the High Negotiations Committee umbrella group.

Consequences ‘too dangerous’
Meanwhile, the new UN chief said on Wednesday that the global threats caused by Syria’s civil war have become “too dangerous” to go unresolved, underlining the need for progress at the peace talks.
Antonio Guterres, who took charge of the world body on Jan. 1, noted that the conflict had triggered instability in the Middle East and terrorist attacks across the world.
“The consequences of this conflict have become too dangerous for everyone,” Guterres told reporters at the UN in Geneva. 


Assad accused of ‘using urban development law to carry out ethnic cleansing’

Pro-government forces stand in the destroyed Thalateen Street in the Yarmuk Palestinian refugee camp on the southern outskirts of the capital Damascus on May 24, 2018, as civilians return to see their homes after the regime seized the camp and adjacent neighborhoods of Tadamun and Hajar al-Aswad earlier in the week from the Daesh group. (AFP / LOUAI BESHARA)
Updated 25 min 46 sec ago

Assad accused of ‘using urban development law to carry out ethnic cleansing’

  • he so-called “Law 10” allows the regime to acquire previously private property in which to create zoned developments, and to compensate the owners with shares in the new projects.
  • Many of the displaced have lost the necessary paperwork, are struggling financially or may not learn of the legal requirements in time.

JEDDAH: The Assad regime in Syria was accused on Saturday of using a new law on urban development to rid the country of all political opposition.

The so-called “Law 10” allows the regime to acquire previously private property to create zoned developments, and to compensate the owners with shares in the new projects.

However property rights are in a state of confusion after a seven-year war that has created more than 5 million refugees and 6 million internally displaced people. Many of the displaced have lost the necessary paperwork, are struggling financially or not aware of the legal requirements in time.

The Assad regime is using the confusion to create a suitable environment for demographic change, Syrian opposition spokesman Yahya Al-Aridi told Arab News. 

“The regime has a two-fold goal,” he said. “First, terrorize the opposition and supporters of the Syrian revolution so that they lose the right to their properties.

“Second, there is talk of reconstruction in Syria now. This law sends out a message to investors that their interests lie with the regime. It is an attempt to tempt companies and business people to support the regime, because the regime is the only party that approves bids and gives grants and contracts. All this merely adds to the Syrians’ plight and misery.”

Al-Aridi said the attempted land grab was being resisted by European countries, especially France and Germany. “The Syrian Negotiating Committee is also exerting a very important effort so that such an evil act will not happen,” he said. 

Also on Saturday, the US warned Damascus it would take “firm action” if the regime violates a cease-fire deal, after Syrian aircraft dropped leaflets on a southern province in advance of an expected offensive.

Al-Aridi said any such offensive would be a breach of agreements between Russia and the US on de-escalation zones, and he warned the regime and Iran against “playing games” with the US. “Such threats are part of a response to the two unanswered Israeli attacks on Iran’s military positions in Syria,” he said.

“They area also meant to divert attention from the American-Israeli intent to kick Iranian militias and forces out of Syria.”

He said the regime and Iran could do nothing without Russian support. “We don’t think the Russians are willing to provide such support, or to mess with the US or Israel. Parallel to such threats, Assad is trying to make certain reconciliation agreements with what they call ‘Syrians in liberated areas.’ We believe that they cannot do anything of the sort.”