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.”


Russian-backed air strikes hit Daesh in southern Syria — sources

Updated 22 July 2018
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Russian-backed air strikes hit Daesh in southern Syria — sources

  • Daesh-affiliated forces entrenched in the Yarmouk Basin
  • The agricultural area has become the main battleground in the sensitive border region

AMMAN: Russian and Syrian jets stepped up their bombing of a Daesh bastion along the Jordan-Israel border in southwestern Syria, as the militants pushed into areas abandoned by other rebel groups, diplomatic and opposition sources said.
Daesh-affiliated forces entrenched in the Yarmouk Basin, which borders the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights and Jordan, also repelled a ground attack by the Syrian army and its allies, the sources added.
The agricultural area has become the main battleground in the sensitive border region after a major Russian-backed Syrian army offensive routed other rebel groups who were once backed by Washington, Jordan and Gulf states.
An intelligence source told Reuters 1,000-1,500 Daesh fighters had been holding their ground despite the 10-day-old bombing campaign that he said had hit villages and caused “untold number” of civilian casualties
A former resident in touch with relatives said thousands of civilians whose villages have been bombed have fled to the safety of areas either held by the army or rebels.
Another source familiar with the situation said Daesh had actually been able to expand its territory over the last 20 hours by seizing at least 18 villages abandoned by other rebels under the banner of the Free Syrian Army (FSA).
Daesh was taking advantage of the collapse of its ideological FSA rivals which it views as apostates, the source said.
The United States once armed the southern FSA rebels, but told them at the start of the Russian-Syrian offensive not to expect its intervention. While cutting other aid to the rebels, Washington had continued to provide those fighting Islamic State with weapons, the source added.
The Syrian army said its aerial strikes and shelling of militants in the Yarmouk Basin — the only territorial pocket held by the hard-line Sunni fundamentalists in the country’s southwest — had killed “tens of terrorists” in a campaign whose goal it said was to crush militants.
The army and its allies have been pushing to expand their foothold near the Golan frontier by negotiating surrender deals with rebel groups and allowing them to move to opposition-held areas in northern Syria.