No peace deal in Syria without US role, says opposition

A Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) fighter walks at the northern part of the Tabqa dam on the Euphrates River, Syria. (Reuters)
Updated 29 March 2017
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No peace deal in Syria without US role, says opposition

GENEVA: A political deal to end the Syrian conflict is not possible without a strong US role, the opposition’s chief negotiator said, warning that Washington’s absence was threatening ongoing peace talks.
Lead negotiator for the main opposition High Negotiations Committee (HNC), Mohammed Sabra, said the UN-backed talks in Geneva remained “stalled.”
“There can be no real and viable political solution without the presence of the Americans,” he said.
The US has a “moral duty” to throw its weight behind efforts to end the six-year conflict, he added.
Sabra warned that a deal would be impossible “if the Russians do not withdraw their (military) support for the regime.”
Sabra also reiterated the HNC’s often-repeated claim that the Syrian regime’s delegation, headed by the country’s ambassador to the UN Bashar Al-Jaafari, was “not seriously involved” in the talks.
“Until now, we don’t have a partner in these negotiations,” he insisted.
His comments came amid a fifth round of negotiations in Geneva being mediated by UN Special Envoy Staffan de Mistura.
Sabra insisted that “once the transitional government is formed,” Assad’s regime would end, and he “and his clique will be referred to a fair trial” for its crimes.
Meanwhile, Syrian engineers worked on Tuesday to open spillways and ease pressure on a major dam across the Euphrates River, amid a pause in a US-backed assault to capture it from Daesh, a witness said.
The Tabqa dam is a key strategic target in the military campaign to isolate and capture the Syrian city of Raqqa, Daesh’s biggest urban stronghold.
The engineers arrived from the dam’s northern entrance which the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) alliance captured last week. The dam’s southern reaches remain in the hands of the militants.
Work on the dam was being carried out after the regime said it had been damaged by US airstrikes and could collapse, with the risk of catastrophic flooding.
A senior Russian general accused the coalition of targeting Syria’s infrastructure — including the dam.
Col. Gen. Sergei Rudskoi of the military’s General Staff said the coalition was trying to “completely destroy critical infrastructure in Syria and complicate post-war reconstruction as much as possible.”


UK’s Hunt to make first visit to Iran

Britain's Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt leaves 10 Downing Street in London on November 14, 2018. (AFP)
Updated 25 min 11 sec ago
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UK’s Hunt to make first visit to Iran

  • Jeremy Hunt: “The Iran nuclear deal remains a vital component of stability in the Middle East by eliminating the threat of a nuclearised Iran. It needs 100 percent compliance though to survive”

LONDON: British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt will visit Iran for the first time on Monday for talks with the Iranian government on issues including the future of the 2015 nuclear deal, his office said in a statement.
In May, US President Donald Trump abandoned the deal, negotiated with five other world powers during Democratic President Barack Obama’s administration, and earlier this month the United States restored sanctions targeting Iran’s oil, banking and transportation sectors.
Hunt’s office said he would meet Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif and would stress that the UK is committed to the nuclear deal as long as Iran sticks to its terms. He will also discuss European efforts to maintain nuclear-related sanctions relief.
“The Iran nuclear deal remains a vital component of stability in the Middle East by eliminating the threat of a nuclearised Iran. It needs 100 percent compliance though to survive,” Hunt said in a statement ahead of the visit.
“We will stick to our side of the bargain as long as Iran does. But we also need to see an end to destabilising activity by Iran in the rest of the region if we are going to tackle the root causes of the challenges the region faces.”
Hunt will also discuss Iran’s role in the conflicts in Syria and Yemen, his office said, and press Iran on its human rights record, calling for the immediate release of detained British-Iranian dual nationals where there are humanitarian grounds to do so.
“I arrive in Iran with a clear message for the country’s leaders: putting innocent people in prison cannot and must not be used as a tool of diplomatic leverage,” he said.