Sunday, February 26, 2017

Syria: Attacks Further Weaken The Geneva Process

Damascus's representative on Syria in Geneva demanded on Saturday opposition that it condemn the murderous attack against the Syrian intelligence services in Homs, and considered that the priority in Geneva was to speak of "terrorism" Leaving a little room for future discussions.


"Today, we expect the opposition to condemn terrorism," said the head of the regime's delegation, Bashar al-Jaafari, at a press conference at the Palais des Nations, adding that Damascus would consider As "accomplice" any party refusing to condemn the attack.

He spoke after meeting with UN envoy Staffan de Mistura, to whom he also called for "making a statement condemning the attacks of Homs."




Saturday morning, the Syrian intelligence services in Homs (center) have been targeted by several suicide bombers of the Fateh al-Cham group, the former Syrian branch of Al-Qaeda. This attack on a pillar of the regime, unprecedented since 2012, has caused between 30 and 42 deaths according to sources, among which the chief of military intelligence of Homs, Hassan Daaboul, a close relation of President Bashar al-Assad.
"What happened today has cast a shadow over the Geneva talks," Jaafari said, even though he denied linking the continuation of the Geneva talks to the condemnation of the attacks by the opposition.

"The number one priority in Geneva is to discuss terrorism," he repeated in a particularly lengthy press conference for a generally miserly leader of words.

A statement by the opposition was expected to follow in Geneva.
The Homs attack has weakened peace talks, which are already singularly ill-committed.

Mr de Mistura, who has been trying since Thursday to convince the regime and opposition to engage in direct talks to discuss a settlement of the conflict, said Saturday that the Homs attack aimed to "derail" peace talks. "Every time we have talks, there is always someone trying to derail the process. We were expecting it," he told the press.

The Geneva negotiations follow three previous sessions that took place in the first half of 2016. Each time, they had stumbled because of the resumption of violence on the ground and the huge gap between the belligerents. As on Saturday, Damascus reiterated that its priority was to fight terrorism when the opposition called for negotiations on a political transition.

The Homs attack has weakened peace talks, which are already singularly ill-committed.

Mr de Mistura, who has been trying since Thursday to convince the regime and opposition to engage in direct talks to discuss a settlement of the conflict, said Saturday that the Homs attack aimed to "derail" peace talks. "Every time we have talks, there is always someone trying to derail the process. We were expecting it," he told the press.
The Geneva negotiations follow three previous sessions that took place in the first half of 2016. Each time, they had stumbled because of the resumption of violence on the ground and the huge gap between the belligerents. As on Saturday, Damascus reiterated that its priority was to fight terrorism when the opposition called for negotiations on a political transition.

- Attacks and bombings -

The Homs attacks came after another bloody day in Syria, where attacks claimed by the Islamic State (JI) jihadist group killed 77 people, mostly civilians, near Al-Bab in the north from the country.
The IA was chased Thursday from Al-Bab, the last major city under its control in the northern province of Aleppo, by an offensive by the Turkish army and rebel Syrian fighters allied to it.

Like Fateh al-Cham, the EI is also excluded from negotiations and the ceasefire sponsored by Russia, allied with Damascus, and Turkey, which supports the rebels.

The ceasefire, which came into force in late December, is supposed to concern only the Damascus regime and the non-jihadist opposition, but it is constantly being violated.

At least 13 civilians were killed Saturday in raids by the Syrian regime in several regions of the country, including the deadliest near Damascus, according to the Syrian Observatory of Human Rights (OSDH).
On Thursday, when the negotiations opened in Geneva, some 30 rebels were killed in air raids by the Syrian regime to the west of the metropolis of Aleppo (north), reconquered in late December by the forces of Damascus.

This general violence illustrates the fragility of any "normalization" in a country ravaged by six years of war, involving multiple actors on different agendas. The war in Syria, which will enter in a few days in its seventh year, has caused more than 300,000 deaths and millions of refugees.

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