Putin needs to stop fighting Assad’s battles: Syrian opposition

Yahya Al-Aridi. (Courtesy photo)
Updated 17 December 2017
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Putin needs to stop fighting Assad’s battles: Syrian opposition

JEDDAH: Russia needs to stop fighting Syrian President Bashar Assad’s battles and tell his regime to get to the negotiating table and talk peace, the Syrian opposition said on Saturday.
“As a permanent member of the Security Council, Moscow should be supporting Staffan de Mistura, the UN special envoy for Syria, and not setting conditions,” opposition spokesman Yahya Al-Aridi told Arab News.
He was reacting to reports that Moscow has set five conditions for the resumption of negotiations between the regime and the opposition, and has again urged the opposition to drop the condition of a transition without Assad.
Assad “wouldn’t be able to besiege and bombard our people without the support of Russia’s air force, nor could he continue to sabotage the peace process unless (Russian President Vladimir) Putin allows it,” Al-Aridi said.
“While we’ve been fighting Daesh, Russia and the regime have been using most of their firepower against the Syrian people.”
Daesh “could never have captured a single town without Assad turning a blind eye,” Al-Aridi said.
Russia has been more interested in “using terrorism for propaganda than in helping to rid our country of Daesh,” he added.
Meanwhile, Moscow has asked the opposition to openly declare that it is willing to fight Daesh and join the international fight against Jabhat Fateh Al-Sham (JFS).
Bahia Mardini, a UK-based Syrian journalist and human rights activist who fled regime persecution, told Arab News that it is ridiculous to suggest that Syrians must choose between Assad and terrorist groups “because they’re both brutal.”
It is critical for Syria’s future that terrorist groups such as Daesh and JFS are defeated, she said, adding: “They have no place in Syria; they’re only there to manipulate the people to gain power.”
Defeating terrorism is fundamental to a peaceful future not only in Syria but across the world, “but it’s also absolutely necessary that we reach a peaceful agreement that sees Syrians free to elect our own leaders,” Mardini said.
“We must focus on reaching a political solution, and the international community must apply pressure on the regime to engage in the UN negotiations.”
The opposition, she said, is simply articulating the wishes of ordinary Syrians back home. “We want and deserve a future free from the persecution of Assad and from the violence of terrorism,” she added.
“The idea that we can only defeat terrorism through Assad is completely false.”
In a statement, a spokeswoman for the State Department said the US wants the regime’s supporters “to use their leverage to urge the regime to participate fully in tangible negotiations with the opposition in Geneva.”
The US “urges all parties to work seriously toward a political resolution to this conflict or face continued isolation and instability indefinitely in Syria,” Reuters quoted spokeswoman Heather Nauert as saying.
Regime forces on Saturday entered small parts of the north-western opposition-held province of Idlib in one of their deepest incursions into the area, where the regime has almost no presence.
Regime troops captured the village of Tal Al-Khanazeer on the south-eastern edge of Idlib, the Associated Press reported.


Hezbollah names Beirut street after Rafiq Hariri assassin

Rafiq Hariri was assassinated in a blast in Beirut on Feb. 14, 2005. (AFP)
Updated 33 min 9 sec ago
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Hezbollah names Beirut street after Rafiq Hariri assassin

  • The decision to name the street after him was “unconstitutional” and “an unnecessary act of provocation,” a source at the Interior Ministry told Arab News

BEIRUT: Pro-Hezbollah politicians in south Beirut were accused of provocation on Tuesday for naming a street after the assassin who plotted the murder of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri.

To rub salt in the wound, the street is adjacent to the city’s Rafiq Hariri University Hospital. Hariri’s son, Prime Minister Saad Hariri, described the decision by Ghobeiry municipality as “sedition.” 

Hezbollah commander and bomb-maker Mustafa Badreddine was described last week by the prosecution at the Special Tribunal for Lebanon in The Hague as “the main conspirer” in the assassination of Hariri, who died when his motorcade was blown up in central Beirut in February 2005. Badreddine himself was murdered in Damascus in 2016.

The decision to name the street after him was “unconstitutional” and “an unnecessary act of provocation,” a source at the Interior Ministry told Arab News.

“There is no precedent for resorting to these methods in naming streets, especially when the name is the subject of political and sectarian dispute between the people of Lebanon and may pose a threat to security and public order.”

A Future Movement official said: “What has happened proves that Hezbollah has an absurd mentality. There are people in Lebanon who care about the country, and others who don’t. This group considers the murderers of Rafiq Hariri its heroes, but they are illusory heroes.”