Egypt yet to receive invite for Astana talks

Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry. (AFP)
Updated 19 October 2017
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Egypt yet to receive invite for Astana talks

CAIRO: Contrary to reports from Russian news agency TASS, Egypt has not yet received a formal invitation to participate in the Syria peace talks in Astana. TASS claimed on Monday that an invitation has been sent to Egypt, citing “an Egyptian source familiar with the situation.”
But Egyptian Foreign Ministry spokesman Ahmad Abu Zeid told Arab News on Tuesday that no such invitation had been received. “Egypt will consider participating in the Astana talks whenever it receives an invitation,” Abu Zeid said. Egypt has repeatedly affirmed that it supports a political solution for the Syrian crisis on the condition that the solution maintains the integrity and unity of the Syrian state.
TASS said Egypt has been invited “to take part as an observer in the Astana talks,” adding that Egypt would probably join the negotiations. But Nourhan El-Sheikh, professor of international relations at Cairo University and a specialist in Russian affairs, told Arab News it is “illogical to assume that an invitation was sent to Egypt” since preparations for the coming round of Astana talks have not been completed.
“If an invitation is meant to be sent to Egypt, that will probably happen by the end of this week,” he said. He added that if Egypt did end up taking an active role in the supervision of the Syrian peace process, the country’s efforts would likely be focused on central areas of the country, including Homs and southern Damascus, rather than northern or southern areas of Syria.
The UN special envoy for Syria, Staffan de Mistura, said on Tuesday that he would meet the Russian foreign and defense ministers, Sergei Lavrov and Sergey Schweigo, in Moscow on Wednesday.
“The meetings will deal with the resumption of the political process in Geneva according to UN Security Council Resolution 2254,” De Mistura explained.
Egypt has recently increased its role in the peace process, most recently sponsoring a cease-fire deal reached on Oct. 12 with a Syrian rebel enclave south of Damascus.
Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Hossein Ansari said after the sixth round of talks in Astana in mid-September that the truce’s guarantors — Russia, Iran and Turkey — were considering sending invitations to new observers for the next round of talks. Russian presidential envoy for the Syrian settlement, Alexander Lavrentyev, said that China, Egypt, the UAE, Iraq and Lebanon would be observers.
Moscow has spearheaded the talks in Astana since the start of the year as it attempts to turn its game-changing military intervention on the ground into a negotiated settlement.
The often-tense Astana negotiations — seen as a complement to broader UN-backed talks in Geneva — have involved armed rebels and government officials and have focused mainly on military issues.


Dozens of bodies found in Raqqa mass grave

Updated 22 April 2018
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Dozens of bodies found in Raqqa mass grave

  • Raqqa was the de facto “capital” of the Daesh group in northern Syria until the terror group was ousted by the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces in October 2017
  • Daesh has been held responsible for multiple atrocities during its reign of terror, including mass executions and decapitations

QAMISHLI, Syria: Dozens of bodies, including those of jihadists and civilians, have been found in a mass grave in the former Daesh group stronghold of Raqqa in Syria, a local official said on Saturday.
The former de facto “capital” of the group in northern Syria, Raqqa saw the jihadists ousted by the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces in October 2017.
Nearly 50 bodies had already been recovered from the mass grave, which could contain up to 200 bodies, Abdallah Al-Eriane, a senior official with Raqqa Civil Council now running the city, said,
The mass grave was located under a football pitch, close to a hospital where the jihadists had dug in before being chased out of the city.
“It was apparently the only place available for burials, which were done in haste. The jihadists were holed up in the hospital,” the official said, adding that some bodies were marked with the nom de guerre of the jihadist while civilians just had first names.
In recent months, both Syria and Iraq have discovered mass graves in areas previously occupied by the jihadists.
Syrian troops uncovered a mass grave containing the remains of more than 30 people killed by Daesh in Raqqa province in February.
It followed two other similar finds by the Syrian army.
The Daesh group, which proclaimed a “caliphate” over swathes of Syria and Iraq in 2014, has now lost almost all the land it once controlled.
It has been held responsible for multiple atrocities during its reign of terror, including mass executions and decapitations.