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.”


Sadr’s call for delay in Iraqi government formation deemed impractical

Protesters hand over job requests to government employees in Basra. (Reuters)
Updated 20 July 2018
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Sadr’s call for delay in Iraqi government formation deemed impractical

  • Mass protests have been sweeping the southern provinces since July 8 as anger grows over a serious lack of basic services, such as electricity and drinking water, and the high rates of unemployment and poverty
  • At least 12 protesters were killed and hundreds were wounded, most of them policemen

BAGHDAD: Shiite cleric Moqtada Al-Sadr, whose political bloc won Iraq’s election on May 12, on Thursday called on all politicians to delay efforts to form a new government until the demands of protesters seeking better services in the south of the country are met.

“The winning political parties in the election have to suspend all political dialogues for forming coalitions until they meet protesters’ rightful demands,” he posted on Twitter. It was his first public comment on the unrest sweeping the south.

However, analysts and even Sadr’s Shiite partners said that suspending the talks is “impractical” and will not help to address the demands of protesters.

“We must expedite the formation of a service government that operates according to clear programs and time limits if we want to meet the demands of the demonstrators,” said a prominent Shiite leader, and one of Sadr’s allies, who asked to remain anonymous.

“There are constitutional deadlines that we must abide by. Parliament must meet immediately after the ratification of the election results to choose the president and complete the steps to form a government.

“It is illogical to wait until the demands of protesters are met because most of these demands need months or years to turn into reality.”

Sadr’s call is seen by many analysts and politicians as an attempt to capitalize on the wave of protests, especially as protesters in Basra and several other provinces already rejected offers made by him to organize mass demonstrations led by his followers.

“There is no contradiction between meeting the demands of the demonstrators and continuing negotiations to form a government,” said Ahmed Jallil, an Iraqi analyst.

“Sadr just feels that he is not controlling the scene this time, after his previous offers were rejected, and his rivals have come close to forming a coalition away from him. So the best way to regain control is by riding the wave of the demonstrations.”

Mass protests have been sweeping the southern provinces since July 8 as anger grows over a serious lack of basic services, such as electricity and drinking water, and the high rates of unemployment and poverty. 

The demonstrations turned violent when protesters stormed Najaf airport and the headquarters of several oil companies in the oil-hub city of Basra, and set fires in many governmental and partisan buildings.

At least 12 protesters were killed and hundreds were wounded, most of them policemen, according to the Iraqi Commission of Human Rights.

The demonstrations are the latest results of the unrest that has plagued the country since the announcement in May of the preliminary results of the parliamentary national elections.

Most Iraqi political leaders have backed the protesters in their “legal” demands.