Syrian Rebel Groups Suspend Planned Peace Talks

Syria CeasefireSome Syrian rebel groups say they are suspending participation in the preparations for peace talks initially planned by Russia and Turkey for later in January.

A statement, signed by a number of groups, revealed that the groups were seizing their participation due to a government-led assault on Wadi Barada, a rebel-held area near Damascus that is key to the capital’s water supply.

They said the region has been subjected to almost-daily attacks by Syrian forces and their Hezbollah allies.

The Syrian government on the other hand, says the area does not fall under the ceasefire agreement, given the presence of jihadist group Jabhat Fateh al-Sham (JFS), which it says is excluded from the deal.

Turkey and Russia brokered the ceasefire deal last Thursday, and it has mostly held since then.

The peace talks are due to be held in Astana, Kazakhstan.

UN Security Council Agrees Syria Peace Process Resolution

syria crisisThe five permanent of the UN Security Council have agreed the text of a draft UN resolution for the Syrian peace process, diplomats say.

The 15-member council is expected to adopt the resolution later on Friday, officials said.

World powers have been meeting in New York with the aim of advancing a tentative plan to bring about a ceasefire in Syria.

The Syrian war, which is heading towards its fifth year, has killed more than 250,000 people, the BBC reports.
Nearly 12 million people have also been displaced, the UN says.

The draft text asks the UN to bring together the Syrian government and the opposition for talks by early January.
It also said that a ceasefire should be implemented in parallel with the talks.

However, actions against groups considered terrorist organisations would not be affected. This would allow Russian, French and US air-strikes against Islamic State to continue.

However, one of the major sticking points so far has been which rebel groups should be considered terrorist outfits and consequently excluded from any talks or ceasefire.

Assad tells UN envoy peace talks can succeed only if aid to rebels stops

Syria’s President, Bashar al-Assad, has stressed that talks to end the civil war would only succeed if foreign powers end support for rebels fighting to overthrow him.

Assad told UN envoy, Lakhdar Brahimi, on Wednesday that “the success of any political solution is tied to stopping support for terrorist groups and pressuring their patron states.”

Brahimi is in Damascus to meet Syrian officials in an effort to shore up support for the faltering peace talks.

Assad’s government calls the armed opposition terrorists.

The “Geneva 2” talks, tentatively planned for November 23, aim to start a political process to end the civil war in which more than 100,000 people have been killed.

Brahimi has angered the opposition by saying that Iran, Assad’s main backer during the war, should attend Geneva. The rebels and political opposition say that any negotiations should be based on Assad’s removal.

Assad and Iran, however, have said they will only go to talks that set no preconditions. Assad said that “only the Syrian people are authorized to shape the future of Syria.”

The Iranian ambassador to Syria, Mohammad Riza Shebani, told reporters in Damascus on Wednesday that Iran was ready to attend the Geneva meeting.

“Of course, everyone knows Iran’s efforts to help a political solution to the Syrian crisis. Iran’s absence from this meeting does not benefit the meeting,” he said.

The Syrian conflict began in early 2011 as a peaceful protest movement against four decades of Assad family rule, but has degenerated into a sectarian civil war and forced millions to flee from Syria to neighbouring countries.