Syria Daily: Rebels — Ceasefire 1st, Then Talks
Rebels object to pro-Assad bombing and ground offensives breaking a nominal ceasefire since December 30
Syria’s leading rebel factions have called for the postponement of political talks in Kazakhstan this week, saying these depend on the Assad regime and its allies adhering to a substantial ceasefire.
Russia and Turkey — who have brokered the Astana discussions — and Iran declared a nominal ceasefire on December 30, but it has never been observed by the Assad regime, which has continued bombing and ground offensives in northwest Syria and near Damascus. Pro-opposition activists and witnesses also said that Russian aircraft are involved, although it is unclear if these are being piloted by Russians or Syrians.
Indirect talks between the regime and Syria’s opposition-rebel bloc were renewed in Astana in late January, and the third round is scheduled on Tuesday and Wednesday. A set of negotiations was also held in Geneva earlier this month.
There have been no notable advances, with UN envoy Staffan de Mistura still seeking agreement on an agenda.
The Saturday statement by rebels said, “The continuation of the meetings is linked to an assessment of the results of the ceasefire and commitment to it.”
It explained that the Assad regime and Iranian-led militias are bombarding near the capital, in Homs city, and from Idlib Province in the northwest to Daraa Province in the south. Rebels also noted the offensives by pro-Assad forces trying to overrun remaining opposition-held areas in the East Ghouta area, east and northeast of Damascus.
This was going on “before the eyes and ears of the Russian guarantor”, noting the bombing of civilian areas by Russian-made warplanes.
TOP PHOTO: Opposition spokesman Osama Abu Zeid talks to reporters at the Astana talks, January 2017
World Food Program Delivers School Meals in Aleppo for 1st Time
The UN’s World Food Program has delivered meals to children in primary schools in Syria’s largest city Aleppo for the first time.
The WFP said it has distributed meals, including milk fortified with vitamins and minerals and a locally-baked date bar, to about 15,000 children at 30 schools since March 5.
The Assad regime, supported by Russia, prevented the WFP from disseminating any food while the Syrian opposition controlled part of Aleppo. Pro-Assad forces finally forced the surrender of those districts in December.
The WFP said it has provided aid since January to “tens of thousands of displaced Syrians returning home to formerly conflict-affected areas in Aleppo city”.