Russia resumes air strikes in Daraa as talks with Syrian opposition fighters collapse

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Smoke rises above opposition-held areas of the city of Saida, some 10 kilometers east of Daraa, during airstrikes by Syrian regime forces on July 4, 2018. (AFP / Mohamad Abazeed)
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Syrian government forces' soldiers display weapons confiscated from opposition fighters in the town of Ezraa, province of Daraa, on July 4, 2018. (AFP / Youssef Karwashan)
Updated 05 July 2018
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Russia resumes air strikes in Daraa as talks with Syrian opposition fighters collapse

  • Assad regime forces backed by Russian air power launched an offensive last month to recapture the region from opposition groups led by the Free Syrian Army, and have seized a large chunk of their territory.
  • The peace talks collapsed because the Russians insisted that opposition forces hand over all their heavy weapons immediately and unconditionally, Free Syrian Army spokesman Abu Shaima said.

AMMAN, Jordan: Russia launched its first airstrikes in four days in the southern Syrian region of Daraa on Wednesday after talks aimed at restoring the Assad regime rule collapsed.

The airstrikes targeted Tafas, northwest of the provincial capital Daraa, and Saida to the east. Barrel bombs were also dropped on Saida.

Regime forces backed by Russian air power launched an offensive last month to recapture the region from opposition groups led by the Free Syrian Army, and have seized a large chunk of their territory.

Opposition delegates had been negotiating with Russia since Saturday to end fighting by accepting the return of state sovereignty, but they failed to agree. The talks collapsed because the Russians insisted that opposition forces hand over all their heavy weapons immediately and unconditionally, Free Syrian Army spokesman Abu Shaima said.

Arab News obtained a copy of the 13-point opposition plan rejected by Russian negotiators. In it, the Free Syrian Army offers to surrender its heavy weapons immediately on condition of international or Arab guarantees to any deal, and the simultaneous release of half the prisoners held by the Assad regime.

It also demands the right of all displaced Syrians to return to their homes without any restrictions or punishment. Other issues to be resolved were the status of former Syrian army officers, and the right of Free Syrian Army fighters in Daraa to join the remaining opposition forces in the northwestern province of Idlib.

The opposition also suggested Jordan could guarantee the agreement, but sources in Amman said this was unlikely. 

“Jordan is keen on the stability of south Syria and will do everything it can to make a peaceful resolution work, but it is unlikely that Jordanian troops will be deployed to guarantee any agreement,” Naser Tahboub, chairman of the international development department at the University of Jordan, told Arab News.

Jordan’s Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi held talks in Moscow on Wednesday with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, and said a humanitarian catastrophe risked unfolding in southern Syria if there were no cease-fire. 

Jordan was working to find a political solution that can “guarantee the security of Syrians and their dignity in their own country,” he said.

Lavrov said Syria would be discussed at the coming summit meeting between US President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin.

 


Turkey bans rally for Kurdish MP on hunger strike

A member of the pro-Kurdish Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) reacts next to policemen during a demonstration in solidarity with a HDP lawmaker on hunger strike in the Turkish city of Diyarbakir, on February 15, 2019. (AFP)
Updated 16 February 2019
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Turkey bans rally for Kurdish MP on hunger strike

  • Ocalan, one of the founders of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) that has waged a bloody insurgency against the Turkish state since 1984, has not been allowed to see his lawyers since 2011

DIYARBAKIR, Turkey: Turkish police on Friday prevented supporters from rallying outside the home of a pro-Kurdish lawmaker on hunger strike for 100 days.
The protest bid coincides with the 20th anniversary of the capture of Kurdish militant leader Abdullah Ocalan, who is jailed in a notorious prison island near Istanbul.
Leyla Guven of the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), launched her action on Nov. 8 while in jail to protest against Ocalan’s prison conditions.
She was freed last month under judicial supervision but continued her protest, refusing any treatment. Guven, 55, is consuming only sugared or salted water.
Police on Friday blocked supporters from approaching Guven’s house in the Kurdish-majority city of Diyarbakir after a rally called by the HDP, an AFP correspondent said.
“The biggest task ahead of us today is to turn every aspect of life into an arena for struggle and support hunger strikes at the highest level,” HDP MP Dilan Dirayet Tasdemir said.
“This dark picture and severe conditions of fascism can only be broken through our organized struggle,” Tasdemir said.
More than 200 prisoners are on hunger strike to protest what they call Ocalan’s isolation, according to the HDP.
Ocalan, one of the founders of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) that has waged a bloody insurgency against the Turkish state since 1984, has not been allowed to see his lawyers since 2011.
The PKK is blacklisted as a terror group by Ankara and its Western allies.
Ocalan was caught in Kenya outside the Greek Embassy in Nairobi on Feb. 15, 1999 by Turkish secret service agents after attempting to seek asylum in Europe.
Turkish authorities last month allowed Ocalan’s brother Mehmet to see him, the first visit in over two years.