Syria Daily: Small Advance in Geneva Talks

Nasr al-Hariri, chief negotiator of the Syrian High Negotiations Committee (HNC) opposition group addresses the media after a Intra-Syria peace talks meeting in Geneva, Switzerland, March 1, 2017. REUTERS/Denis Balibouse

Syria’s opposition says “political transition” could be on agenda



UN Report — Assad Regime Bombed Our Convoy, Carried Out Aleppo Chemical Attacks

For the first time, a small advance is being claimed in indirect talks between the Assad regime and Syria’s opposition and rebels.

Both sides said on Wednesday that they saw a move towards an agenda for detailed negotiations.

The opposition-rebel bloc said Russia had pressed the regime delegation to address the issue of a political transition, while a “source close to” the Assad group said there was agreement on combatting “terrorism”.

President Assad has held out for almost five years after any discussion of a transitional governing authority, as this could involve his departure from power. Just before the Geneva talks, it appeared that the UN had dropped the notion of a “transitional process”, only for its envoy Staffan de Mistura to assure that the idea — a centerpiece of international proposals since June 2012 — was still in play.

“We notice now that the political transition subject has become the main subject on the table,” opposition negotiator Nasr al-Hariri told reporters yesterday.

The Assad regime uses “terrorism” to describe all armed opposition. It was unclear on Wednesday if this had been revised to ensure opposition-rebel consideration of the item on the agenda.

Yahya Kodmani, a member of the opposition delegation, said he and colleagues had made strong and clear points to Russia’s Gennady Gatilov on Wednesday, and that Moscow would need time to respond.

“We want them to be neutral and not enemies to Syria,” Kodmani said. “We want them to pressure and sponsor the political transition process. We want them to work with us on stopping terrorism in Syria.”

The UN’s De Mistura visited the opposition’s hotel late in the evening after the meeting with Gatilov, but declined to comment.

Both sides said they held “deep” discussions with de Mistura in separate meetings earlier on Wednesday.

Nasr al-Hariri, the chief negotiator of the opposition-rebel High Negotiations Committee, speaks to journalists on Wednesday (Denis Balibouse/Reuters)

Regime Claims Recapture of Palmyra from ISIS

The regime military claims it has recaptured the historic city of Palmyra in central Syria from the Islamic State.

Palmyra, a prominent travellers’ stop in the Roman era, has changed hands four times in less than two years. ISIS first took it in May 2015. Pro-Assad forces reoccupied it in March 2016, but the Islamic State — taking advantage of the preoccupation of the regime with the capture of all of Aleppo city — returned in December.

The Syrian Army’s Command announced victory on Thursday after ground operations supported by Russian and regime air forces.

Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu also announced the Syrian regime’s control of the city.

Footage from Russian State outlet RT:

US: Russia-Regime Bombing of US-Backed, Kurdish-Led Force

Russian and regime warplanes bombed positions held by the US-backed, Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces on Wednesday, the top U.S. commander in Iraq said, but Russia denied any incident.

The bombing reportedly occurred amid clashes and tension between three forces near the city of al-Bab in Aleppo Province — the Turkish-rebel offensive that took the city last week, pro-Assad forces to the south, and the SDF to the east.

See Syria Daily, Feb 28: A Regime-Kurdish Link in the North?

“Yesterday, we had some Russian aircraft and (Syrian) regime aircraft bomb some villages that I believe they thought were held by ISIS [the Islamic State], yet they were actually – on the ground – were some of our Syrian Arab coalition forces,” Lieutenant General Stephen Townsend told a news briefing.

The Russian Defense Ministry issued a denial. It said that the US military provided Russia with exact coordinates and Moscow took that information into account: “Not one strike was launched by Russian or Syrian aviation on the areas given by the American side.”

US forces in the area, 4 to 5 km (2 1/2 to 3 miles) away, observed the strikes and the American military called Russian counterparts through an emergency line, after which the bombing stopped, Townsend said.

SDF: Turkish-Rebel Attack on Our Villages Near Manbij

The Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces said the Turkish-rebel attacked SDF-held villages, east of al-Bab and near the city of Manbij, on Wednesday.

“There is a very big attack by the Euphrates Shield and Turkish army on the villages and areas of the Manbij Military Council,” spokesman Sharfan Darwish said, naming eight villages about 27 km (17 miles) west of Manbij. “There are fierce clashes … and heavy artillery bombardment.”

There was no comment from Turkey.

Manbij has emerged as a possible point of conflict between the Turkish-rebel offensive, which has advanced southwards in Aleppo Province against the Islamic State since last August, and the SDF.

The US-supported SDF captured Manbij last June, in an advance that defied a Turkish “red line” of the Euphrates River. Ankara considered the Kurdish YPG militia, the leading faction in the SDF, as part of the Turkish Kurdish insurgency PKK.

Turkey has tried to get US pressure on the SDF to withdraw, but with no apparent success. Turkish President Tayyip Erdoğan said earlier this week that Manbij is the next target of the Euphrates Shield offensive.

See Syria: Turkey’s Erdoğan v. Assad, Kurds, & ISIS — Ready for Raqqa Operation “If Allies Sincere”

SDF fighters, including one wearing a badge of Turkish Kurdish PKK leader Abdollah Ocalan, battling Turkish-backed Free Syrian Army units, west of Manbij:

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  1. Syria’s opposition says ‘political transition’ could be on agenda” — LOL, yeah, and pigs *could* fly if [insert your favourite fantasy here].
    You really have to be searching with a microscope, or very desperate, to make out this “small advance” in the miserable JI-Joe position wherein they are being expertly subjected to the full-on Good Cop/Bad Cop routine by Lavrov & Ja’afari.

  2. It may be the Europeans pushing things incrementally towards transition. They’ve said a firm no to Russia’s offer of: “we broke it, now you pay for it.” If Assad stays. The Russians can’t afford a perpetual Assadist welfare case.

    The secrets to Assad’s rule were always violence and patronage. Can he rule over rubble with Russian bombers and Iranian-sponsored foreign militias alone?

    • Nope he cant
      The russians knew they backed the losing horse for some time ,theyve bleed for big wins for him but know they cant d o i t forever so they want a solid deal cut asap

  3. If the YPG seriously think they can block Turkish capture of Manbij by giving western parts of Manbij to the regime then they’re delusional because even if the Turks do attack from the west what’s to stop the Turks attacking from Jarablus in the north? Manbij city is far more closer to Jarablus then it is to any regime control area.

  4. #Afrin: “SDF sent military support from #Manbij to #Afrin via areas under control of #Assad forces.” – 24Aleppo
    What the Turks waiting for, go after Afrin, if not occupy all of it then atleast capture the northern half just to panic the YPG.
    #Homs: “Homs_Operations capture a Checkpoint between Al-#Salamiyah & #Homs, killing all regime forces stationed there” – badly_xeroxed
    Mobile warfare gets result huh? 🙂 Rebels should be doing to every check-point between Salamiyah and Hama city.

  5. Kurdish neo-marxist hordes host more US’s bases per square mile than everyone else in the world but somehow they still claim to be “anti-imperialist” forces…


    Will Turkey attack Kurds in Manbij or move on to Raqqa?

    “In addition to four US bases in Rojava — which is now known as the Democratic Federal System of Northern Syria — the CIA runs a camp at Derik.”

  6. Hezbollah, Russia and the U.S. help Syria retake Palmyra

    “The Syrian statement did not mention the role of the United States, which has also stepped up strikes in the Palmyra area in recent weeks. During the last 10 days of February, the U.S. military conducted 23 strikes against Islamic State fighting units, tanks, storage facilities and command centers, according to the daily tally issued by the U.S. Central Command. Altogether in February, U.S. warplanes carried out 45 strikes in Palmyra.”

      • Read the linked article.

        The Taliban have been perfectly clear and consistent ever since the warcriminal aggression of 2001 that the only end to this war is for the Yanki invader GameBoyz [and sundry vassals] to GTFO of their country and return to their trailer-trashcamps of origin.
        Which is only logical, correct and in accordance with international law … whereas expecting them after 16 years of unremitting struggle to now surrender their weapons in exchange for janitorial positions in the Quisling régime installed by the invaders is not only a gratuitous insult to their honour but also a demand whose extreme stupidity is matched only by its arrogance.

    Hilarious, looks like the Ruskies/Iranians/Hezballs/afghanis/etc couldn’t take palmyra without help from America. Maybe the jihadi fools are right about nothing happening without the united states of allah making it happen

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