MESOP NEWS REPORT: Opposition Leaves Political Talks Because of Regime’s Ongoing “War Crimes”


By Scott Lucas – eaworldview – May 4, 2017 – Syrian opposition: “The regime’s war crimes and violations “have not stopped since the signing of the agreement” on December 30 for ceasefire.Syria’s opposition has suspended its participation in ongoing political talks, citing ongoing regime “war crimes”.The opposition said on Wednesday that it was leaving the indirect discussions, brokered by Russia and Turkey, in the Kazkhstan capital Astana. “The delegation has suspended its participation after presenting a memorandum for a total commitment to stopping bombardments,” said Ahmad Ramadan, a spokesman for the Syrian National Coalition.On arrival in Astana, the opposition delegation reaffirmed its commitment to a ceasefire declared by Russia, Turkey, and Iran on December 30. However, it noted that “the regime’s war crimes and violations” — including intensive Russian bombing in support of Damascus — “have not stopped since the signing of the agreement”, citing “using all kinds of internationally banned weapons and targeting civilians, with the systematic intention to destroy hospitals and medical centres, Civil Defence centres, and all essential human services”.

A 10-point set of demands called for an end to air and ground attacks; the departure of President Assad; removal of all Iranian-led militias from Syria; aid to besieged areas; reparations to civilians; and withdrawal from territory occupied since December 30, including al-Wa’er in Homs and Wadi Barada, Moadamiya, and Zabadani in Damascus Province.

Before the walkout, Russia had proposed “four de-escalation zones” in Idlib Province, Homs Province, East Ghouta near Damascus, and the south of Syria. But Russian media said the Kremlin envisaged that the zones would be monitored on the ground by troops from not only Russia and Turkey but also Iran, a condition unlikely to be considered by the opposition.

Russian President Vladimir Putin reportedly discussed the initiative with Donald Trump on Tuesday, and he met Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdoğan yesterday.Putin and Erdoğan supported the safe zones idea at a joint news conference, with the Russian President declaring, “We all take the view that we need to…create mechanisms that would guarantee a cessation of bloodshed and create the conditions for the start of a political dialogue. In this respect our position and that of the Turkish president totally coincide.”

Russia’s lead negotiator in Astana, Alexander Lavrentiev, dismissed the opposition’s suspension as a bid to put pressure on Moscow, Ankara and Tehran, and said that he hoped the memorandum on safe zones would be signed on Thursday: “The Syrian opposition must participate in the talks. We hope common sense prevails.”

UN envoy Staffan de Mistura also expressed hope of agreement on de-escalation: Every time – every time – we have been having a meeting or a discussion about cessation of hostilities or de-escalation in this case, there have been some incidents produced by one side or the other. The secret is to try to make sure that those incidents stop but also do not kill the opportunity for good news related to that.

Political talks in Astana and Geneva were renewed in January, with intermediaries moving between the regime and opposition delegations. There has been no significant progress in three months, with the nominal ceasefire immediately broken by pro-Assad attacks and President Assad rejecting any transitional process in which he leaves power.