Syria Forecast: Damascus Confers with Russia & Iran in Moscow

SCOTT LUCAS – EAworldview – 19.11.2013

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Syria’s officials have begun four days of talks with Russian and Iranian counterparts in Moscow.

President Assad’s delegation is led by his senior adivsior Bouthaina Shaaban and Deputy Foreign Minister Feisal Mikdad. Russia’s Deputy Foreign Ministers Mikhail Bogdanov, Gennady Gatilov and Sergey Ryabkov and Iranian counterpart Hossein Amir Abdollahian are representing their Governments.

The headline presentation is that the three countries are discussing the proposed Geneva 2 “peace” conference, even though leading Syrian opposition groups have refused to attend unless Assad steps down from power. Moscow says it invited the Syrian National Coalition to this week’s discussions but was refused.

Mikdad took aim at common enemies — France, Saudi Arabia, and Israel — while declaring, “We discussed issues related to Geneva, bilateral relations, and the developments of the situation of the Syrian issue and the Iranian issue.”

Abollahian said, according to Syrian State media:

We have held talks with the Syrian friends and discussed the political solution to the crisis in Syria and Geneva 2 Conference, in addition to the extremist terrorist groups which are supplied with weapons and money to carry out terrorist acts against the Syrian people.

We laid emphasis on the necessity of finding political solution to the crisis through Syrian-Syrian dialogue and we insist, as the Russians do, on solving all issues through political and diplomatic means only.

Lavrov: Assad Regime Should Work With “Moderate Opposition”

Russian Foreign Ministry Sergei Lavrov has said, after consultations in Moscow with President Assad’s officials, “It would be…better if they started cooperating with the moderate secular opposition in fighting against terrorists, who try to oust authorities in both Syria and the entire region, without waiting for the Geneva-2 conference to take place.”

Lavrov asserted, “Representatives of the Syrian leadership have reaffirmed Syria’s readiness to send a governmental delegation to the Geneva II international conference without preconditions, as well as the resolve to work constructively at this forum.”

Insurgents In Dar’aa Use 107mm Multiple Rocket Launcher

Footage posted Tuesday shows insurgents in the town of Izraa in Dar’aa Province using a 107mm multiple rocket launch system to fire on regime forces from the 12th Division.

State Media Claims Regime Forces Have Taken Over Qara

State media is reporting that regime forces have taken the town of Qara in Qalamoun after a 24-hour battle.

Human Rights Watch: Insurgents Executed Civilians and Prisoners in Village of Sadad

Human Rights Watch reports that insurgents executed civilians and prisoners during operations against the village of Sadad in Damascus Province from October 21 to 28.

The report also says civilians were killed unlawfully by opposition sniper fire and shelling.

Insurgents refused to allow people in Sadad, 100 kilometers northeast of Damascus, to leave their homes in areas with active fighting, residents said. In at least one case, fighters allegedly used a resident as a human shield.

Local witnesses also said that opposition fighters also stole personal items and vandalized, stole, and damaged property in at least three churches.

The factions involved in the operation include al-Maghaweer of the Dera’ al-Islam battalion of the Free Syrian Army, Ahel al-Athar battalion of the FSA, Liwa al-Huq, Jabhat al-Nusra, the al-Khadra’ battalion, Liwa al-Tawhid, and the Islamic State of Iraq and as-Sham.

The HRW made its claims after a visit to Sadad, with permission from the Syrian regimes, and interviews with 10 residents and the mayor, Sleiman Khalil. No regime officials were present during the interviews with the residents.

Russia FM Says Insurgents Blocking Humanitarian Aid, Supports Regime Restrictions on Deliveries

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has insisted that it is insurgents, rather than the Syrian military, blocking deliveries of food and supplied to besieged civilians.

“Humanitarian aid becomes bounty in which they are interested,” Lavrov said. “At this stage, the key problems in its delivery are being created by militants.”

The insurgents have blockaded areas such as the regime-held districts of Aleppo; however, the Assad regime has been blamed for halting assistance to opposition-occupied Damascus suburbs, causing malnutrition and even starvation among civilians.

Last weekend, the opposition Syrian National Coalition said it would join an international “peace” conference, but set pre-conditions including an assurance of aid deliveries.

“The fact that the opposition, having agreed to attend the talks, is now setting some kind of humanitarian breakthrough as a condition for its participation is somewhat surprising and causes concern,” Lavrov responded.

The Foreign Minister also appeared to support restrictions on deliveries by Syrian forces, “As practice shows, in nearly all cases, such corridors are used to transport not only humanitarian aid, but also weapons, money, and other forms of support to opponents of the regime.”

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