Syria’s opposition National Coalition has adopted a 13-point statement of Basic Principles for a political resolution to the four-year conflict.
In a three-day meeting, the Coalition’s General Assembly stressed the need to resume negotiations under UN auspices, based on the outcome of the Geneva II Conference in 2012.
Last month, Russia convened a meeting of regime officials and some members of Syria’s domestic opposition. However, most leading opposition groups stayed away: the Coalition rejected the abandonment of the principle that President Assad must step aside for a transitional government, and other groups objected to the detention of their senior members by Damascus.
The Coalition restated on Sunday that there must be a “transitional governing body with full executive powers, including the powers of the President of Republic and his authority over the state ministries, agencies and state institutions, including the armed forces, police intelligence and security agencies and branches”.
Under Sunday’s Principles, the transitional governing body will hold internationally-monitored elections for a Constituent Assembly, which will drafting a new Constitution. A referendum to approve the Constitution will be held under UN auspices.
The Coalition said a halt to the killing, torture, detention, and displacement of civilians is a prerequisite for resuming talks: “[This is] a test for the Assad regime’s compliance with of human rights laws and the UN Security Council resolutions on Syria.”
The Coalition has not met with Assad’s representatives since two sets of discussions — which could not even agree on an agenda — in Geneva in early 2014.
Jabhat al-Nusra Claims Downing of Regime Helicopter Near Besieged Base in Idlib Province
The Islamist faction Jabhat al-Nusra claims that they have downed a regime helicopter near the besieged Abu Duhur base in Idlib Province in northwest Syria.
Rebels have surrounded the base, threatening to overrun it or cut off supplies to it.
Video: Remains of “Teacher’s Tower” in Jobar Section of Damascus After Regime Bomb
Regime forces have blown up one of the tallest structures in rebel-controlled Jobar in northeast Damascus, the “Teacher’s Tower”:
The Tower was reportedly empty — or with only a few rebel spotters — at the time of the underground detonation.
State Media: 9 Killed by Rebel Rockets in Aleppo
State news agency SANA says nine civilians, including three children, were killed on Monday by rebel rockets on the al-Serian neighborhood in Aleppo city.
The site says 20 others were injured by rockets fired from the Bani Zaid section of the divided city.
The claim is based only on “a source in the northern city”, with no supporting image. Rebels have claimed that the regime has falsely blamed them in the past for the attacks.
No Movement in Regime’s Counter-Offensive South of Damascus
Sources on both sides of the conflict say there has been little movement of the frontlines since Sunday in the regime’s counter-offensive south of Damascus (see map).
A source close to the Syrian military says that, while President Assad’s forces — including Hezbollah and Iranian commanders — have taken territory such as the town of Deir al-Addas, the gains are tenuous: “As Assad, the army can move into area when it wants to — it has armored vehicles and superior firepower, after all. It is a different matter securing the areas.”
A pro-opposition source claims the regime has taken troops from other fronts in and near Damascus, including Jobar and East Ghouta, to reinforce the counter-offensive. Rebels report a few airstrikes, but with only structural damage and no casualties, as well as shelling.
Fighting is mainly along a 20-km (12-mile) front in southern Damascus and northern Daraa Provinces. A second regime counter-offensive in Quneitra Province in southwest Syria, near the Israeli-controlled Golan Heights, has not made any significant advances.
Rebels Break Off Cooperation with UN Envoy After His Recognition of Assad
Rebels have announced that they are breaking off cooperation with UN envoy Staffan de Mistura, after his recognition of President Assad as essential to any political solution in Syria.
Both the Revolutionary Command Council and the Sham Front, who represent the vast majority of Syria’s rebels, issued statements denouncing de Mistura’s declaration, which followed his meeting last week with Assad.
The Sham Front asserted, “[De Mistura’s] statements not only ignore the massacres that have been committed, and continue to be committed, by the regime across Syria, but also ignore the latest crimes in Douma in the Damascus countryside, located only kilometers from the UN envoy’s residence in Damascus.”
Up to last week, the UN and De Mistura’s predecessors had promoted plans calling for a “transitional governing authority”, with Assad stepping down from power.
Opposition Criticizes Islamic State, Regime’s Mass Killing of Civilians with “Caged Children” Protest
Challenging both the Islamic State and the Assad regime’s mass killing of civilians, the opposition has staged a “caged children” protest.
The video echoes the Islamic State’s execution of a Jordanian pilot in northern Syria earlier this month: the jihadists burnt Moaz al-Kasasbeh alive in a cage.
However, the immediate message to the world is about the Assad regime’s sustained bombing of the Damascus suburb of Douma, which killed more than 250 people and injured hundreds in the week from February 5 to February 12.