Syrian regime to rejoin Geneva talks on Sunday

UN Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura speaks at a meeting with the Syrian Negotiation Commission (SNC) delegation, during the UN-led Intra-Syrian talks in Geneva, Switzerland, on November 30, 2017. (REUTERS/Xu Jinquan/Pool)
Updated 08 December 2017
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Syrian regime to rejoin Geneva talks on Sunday

JEDDAH: Syrian regime negotiators will return to Geneva this weekend to rejoin UN-backed peace talks, after leaving the city in protest last week, the UN envoy said Thursday.
“The government has informed us that they would fly back to Geneva on Sunday the 10th of December,” UN mediator Staffan de Mistura told reporters.
Meanwhile, Syrian opposition negotiators in Geneva, according to Agency France-Presse (AFP), are receiving a steady stream of visitors, all bearing the same request: Freeze the demand that Assad resign as a precondition for a peace deal.
“Most of the diplomats that have visited the delegation have repeated the same call,” an opposition delegate told AFP.
“You have to be realistic if you want to solve the conflict,” he described diplomats as telling the opposition.
“They want us to freeze the demand that Assad step down, but not abandon it completely.”
Opposition spokesman Yahya Al-Aridi, however, told Arab News: “No party is actually pressing the opposition to remove any conditions, because the opposition has come to Geneva with a very clear statement in its Riyadh communique: We have no preconditions.”
Al-Aridi said: “The objective of seeing Assad out of power in the early stages of the transition is a goal that has not changed for the opposition.”
He added: “It needs judging from how the regime is not even considering the worst humanitarian cases to which it can respond in one minute. It is an indication that we have a very problematic partner for peace negotiations. That speaks for itself.”
Bahia Al-Mardini, a UK-based Syrian journalist and human rights activist who fled regime persecution, told Arab News: “Rather than applying pressure to the Syrian opposition, the international community must continue to apply pressure to the regime and its allies. Countries like the UK should continue to support us in condemning the regime and its brutality.”
She added: “It is not possible to freeze demands for Assad to step down because Syria’s future cannot involve him. There can be no real solution without agreement on the departure or removal of Assad and anyone involved in shedding the blood of the Syrians. The regime will continue to stall talks in Geneva because it knows that Syrian people do not want to see more violence and do not want to live under the regime. They want democratic change.”
She said: “The UN peace talks are essential to making progress toward a democratic solution. It is clear that the regime does not want peace nor is it serious about reaching a solution in the best interests of civilians. But we cannot give up hope of achieving democracy through the democratic channels we have available.”


US accepts Assad staying in Syria — but will not give aid

Updated 51 min 48 sec ago
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US accepts Assad staying in Syria — but will not give aid

  • James Jeffrey said that Assad needed to compromise as he had not yet won the brutal seven-year civil war
  • Trump’s administration has acknowledged, if rarely so explicitly, that Assad is likely to stay

WASHINGTON: The US said Monday it was no longer seeking to topple Syrian President Bashar Assad but renewed warnings it would not fund reconstruction unless the regime is “fundamentally different.”

James Jeffrey, the US special representative in Syria, said that Assad needed to compromise as he had not yet won the brutal seven-year civil war, estimating that some 100,000 armed opposition fighters remained in Syria.

“We want to see a regime that is fundamentally different. It’s not regime change —  we’re not trying to get rid of Assad,” Jeffrey said at the Atlantic Council, a Washington think tank.

Estimating that Syria would need $300-400 billion to rebuild, Jeffrey warned that Western powers and international financial institutions would not commit funds without a change of course.

“There is a strong readiness on the part of Western nations not to ante up money for that disaster unless we have some kind of idea that the government is ready to compromise and thus not create yet another horror in the years ahead,” he said.

Former President Barack Obama had called for Assad to go, although he doubted the wisdom of a robust US intervention in the complex Syrian war. and kept a narrow military goal of defeating the Daesh extremist group.

President Donald Trump’s administration has acknowledged, if rarely so explicitly, that Assad is likely to stay.

But Secretary of State Mike Pompeo warned in October that the US would not provide “one single dollar” for Syria’s reconstruction if Iran stays.

Jeffrey also called for the ouster of Iranian forces, whose presence is strongly opposed by neighboring Israel, although he said the US accepted that Tehran would maintain some diplomatic role in the country.

Jeffrey also said that the US wanted a Syria that does not wage chemical weapons attacks or torture its own citizens.

He acknowledged, however, that the US may not find an ally anytime soon in Syria, saying: “It doesn’t have to be a regime that we Americans would embrace as, say, qualifying to join the European Union if the European Union would take Middle Eastern countries.”