Syria opposition to visit regime ally Moscow

Turkish armoured personnel carriers (APCs) and infantry fighting vehicles (IFVs) are seen driving near the village of Yazi Bagh, about six kilometres from the Bab Al-Salamah border crossing between Syria and Turkey. (AFP)
Updated 21 January 2018
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Syria opposition to visit regime ally Moscow

BEIRUT: Syria’s main opposition group said it will send a delegation Monday to regime ally Russia to discuss with officials Moscow’s “real stance” on the Syrian political process.
The visit by the Syrian Negotiations Commission (SNC) comes as Moscow gets set to host peace talks in the Black Sea resort of Sochi on January 30 along with Syrian regime backer Iran and rebel supporter Turkey.
The SNC has said it will attend fresh UN-hosted negotiations before then but has not yet announced if it will also go to the Sochi talks, which dozens of rebel factions have already rejected.
A statement by the SNC said Monday’s visit was “in response to an invitation by the Russian foreign ministry” and that its delegation will hold talks with the foreign and defense ministers as well as members of parliament.
The visit aims at “understanding Russia’s real stance toward the political process, since it is a partner in the conflict, a godfather of talks with Syria and a guarantor of de-escalation zones,” it said.
SNC spokesman Yahya Al-Aridi told AFP the opposition wanted “simply to make sure that Russia is serious about the entire peace process,” particularly UN-led talks.
Numerous rounds of UN-brokered peace talks have been held in Geneva, and the last one concluded in mid-December with no notable progress toward ending the country’s war.
They are to resume January 25-26, this time in Vienna, ahead of the Sochi talks.
Key players Russia, Iran and Turkey have been sponsoring parallel peace talks since the start of last year that have looked to still the fighting.
The Sochi meeting is now part of a broader push by Moscow to start hammering out a path to a political solution to end the war and has sparked concerns that the Kremlin is looking to sideline the UN.
The Damascus government has said it would attend the Sochi talks, which are aimed at setting up a new constitution for post-war Syria.
Syria’s nearly seven-year war, which began as the regime brutally crushed anti-government protests, has claimed more than 340,000 lives, forced millions to flee their homes and left the country in ruins.


Egyptian voters urged to allow El-Sissi rule until 2030

Updated 18 min 49 sec ago
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Egyptian voters urged to allow El-Sissi rule until 2030

  • Egyptian officials said the results should be ready in a week after the elections
  • Opposition parties asked voters to refuse the suggested changes

CAIRO: Egyptian pro-government media are urging a "Yes" vote on the second day of a nationwide referendum that would allow President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi to stay in power until 2030.
Polls reopened at 0700 GMT on Sunday. Voting will continue through Monday to allow maximum turnout, which the government hopes will lend the referendum legitimacy.
Election officials say results are expected within a week.
Opposition parties have called on voters to reject the changes, blasted by critics as a major step back to authoritarianism.
Voting comes amid an unprecedented crackdown on dissent since the 2013 military ouster of an elected but divisive president.
El-Sisi came to power in 2014 and was re-elected for a second four-year term last year.
Trucks with loudspeakers drove around central Cairo Sunday morning urging high turnout.