Syria’s opposition-rebel bloc: “Moscow has not lived up to its commitments. The main demand is stopping the bombardment and displacement of people.”
UPDATE 1630 GMT: The head of the regime delegation, UN Ambassador Bashar al-Ja’afari, has said from Astana, “We held talks with the Russian delegation on the agenda of 3rd Astana and we discussed the political situation in a comprehensive way.”
He declared that “separating the opposition from the terrorists” will be on the top of the issues at the conference, but added, “We didn’t discuss with Russia the signing of any document in Astana.”
He dismissed the absence of the opposition-rebel bloc, saying they were obeying foreign supporters:
We didn’t come here as a delegation of the Syrian Arab Republic to meet a delegation of the armed factions. We came here to meet two guarantors who are Iran and Russia.
It doesn’t matter whether the armed factions will attend the talks or not.
Trying to turn the situation against Turkey, along with Russia the broker of the talks, Ja’afari said, “When one of the three guarantors breaks their commitment – and I mean Turkey – this means that Turkey must be one that is asked about the non-attendance or participation of these armed groups.”
Syria’s opposition will not attend peace talks due to start on Tuesday in the Kazakh capital Astana, insisting on a substantive ceasefire by the Assad regime and its allies, including Russia.
While Moscow and Turkey have brokered the indirect talks between the Assad regime and the opposition-rebel bloc since late January, Russian warplanes — whether piloted by Russians or Syrians — have been involved in the bombing that has supported pro-Assad offensives despite a nominal December 30 ceasefire.
The opposition said over the weekend that it was not going to Astana because of the attacks, including of civilian sites, and spokesman Osama Abu Zaid confirmed yesterday, “Currently the decision is not to go as a result of Russia continuing its crimes in Syria against civilians and its support of the crimes of the Syrian regime.”
Rebels had awaited a Russian response to a letter demanding that Moscow act as a guarantor and end violations, but “nothing has been implemented so far,” said rebel commander Colonel Ahmad Othman: “Moscow has not lived up to its commitments. The main demand is stopping the bombardment and displacement of people.”
Pro-Assad assaults and bombing are continuing near Damascus and across Idlib and Daraa Provinces. On Monday, after persistent regime bombardment, the opposition district of al-Wa’er in Homs city agreed to a deal for removal of up to 15,000 fighters, their families, and civilians.
Mohammad Alloush, a senior official of the rebel faction Jaish al-Islam and lead negotiator in January and February, said:
It seems Russia invites us to Astana and then imposes forcible displacement of the people of al-Waer … Moscow has not kept its promises. We want to show the world that the Russians want a political solution that is only in the media. They have to change their policies if they are seeking a solution.
The three rounds of talks since late January — two in Astana and one in Geneva — have yielded little progress, with UN envoy Staffan de Mistura still seeking agreement on an agenda. In addition to a ceasefire, the opposition-rebel want releases of political detainees and an end to sieges. Then they are seeking confirmation of a transitional process, with President Assad leaving power.
Assad said, from the outset of the talks, that he will not relinquish his position. His negotiators have tried to focus talks on combatting “terrorists” — the regime’s term for all armed opposition.
TOP PHOTO: Opposition-rebel negotiator Mohammad Alloush “Moscow has not kept its promises”
Prominent Doctor Killed in Pro-Assad Airstrike
Prominent doctor Hasan Hariri has been killed in a pro-Assad airstrike in Daraa city in southern Syria.
Hariri died as he treated an injured rebel on Sunday.
The opposition Syrian National Coalition said in a statement:
Doctor Hariri joined the revolution in the very beginning and dedicated his life to help victims of the war machine….Hariri remained dedicated to his mission despite losing seven of his sons in a barrel bomb attack by the Assad regime forces as well as well as the many injuries he suffered while carrying out his duties.
Fighting has escalated in the past month in Daraa city, next to Jordan, in the past months. Rebels say they launched attacks to pre-empt a pro-Assad offensive seeking to gain territory along the border.