MESOP Syria Daily From GENEVE : No Advance in Geneva Talks amid Regime-Russian Offensive North of Aleppo

February 03 2016 – Byy Scott Lucas – eaworldview – Political talks over Syria’s five-year crisis immediately ran into trouble in Geneva on Tuesday, as a regime-Russian offensive pressed rebels north of Aleppo city. The opposition-rebel bloc in the Geneva talks pointed to a withdrawal by Friday, as there was no advance towards ceasefires, detainee releases, and access to aid for besiegedareas. The head of the regime delegation, Bashar al-Ja’afari, said on Tuesday morning after two hours of talks with UN Staffan de Mistura, “We are in the preparatory stage before the official launch of indirect negotiations.”

Ja’afari’s statement pushed back de Mistura’s assertion, following his initial, separate discussions on Monday with the regime and opposition-rebel groups, that “official talks” had begun. Meanwhile, the regime’s ally Russia threw up another barrier, with Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov saying that the rebel faction Jaish al-Islam could not be a part of the opposition delegation

Ja’afari insisted, “We don’t know until this moment who the other delegations that are supposed to represent the Syrian opposition.”

The opposition-rebel High Negotiations Committee did not attend a scheduled meeting with de Mistura on Tuesday afternoon. Instead, they gathered outside the UN offices in Geneva to protest “unprecedented” bombing by Russian warplanes supporting “a massive acceleration” of attacks by foreign militias and regime forces on areas around Homs and Aleppo.

In a written statement, the HNC repeated that its goal was “to ensure the immediate implementation” of December’s UN Security Council resolution for ceasefires and an end to sieges, “before the start of negotiations”.

At the protest outside the UN offices, Hind Kabawat said, “We’ve never seen anything like this,” while Farah Atassi declared:

The targets, as always, are overwhelmingly civilians. The regime’s and Russia’s actions gravely threaten the political process.

Atassi said international action is needed “to ensure the credibility of this process”.

Russia effectively ruled out any agreement to ceasefires covering opposition-held territory on Tuesday. Deputy Foreign Minister Gennady Gatilov said:

Russia understands the importance of reaching a ceasefire. But it will not be applicable to terrorists….Russia will continue its assistance to the Syrian government in the fight against terrorists.

Everything we are doing is being undermined by the Russians….[They are] posing as the co-sponsors of the political process, and at the same time bombing the people who we believe are the future of Syria.