Riyadh repeats, “No Place for Assad in Syria”
Saudi Arabia has repeated its line that Syria’s ruler Bashar al-Assad can have no role in a political transition resolving the 77-month conflict.
Russian State media, including RT, have been proclaiming that Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir (pictured) informed the opposition of a shift in Riyadh’s position.
Russian outlets have been asserting that opposition groups and rebel factions, some supported by Saudi Arabia since the start of the uprising in 2011, are accepting Moscow’s proposals of “de-escalation zones” and a transition in which Assad is not required to step down.
However, the primary opposition group speaking to the Russians, in discussions in Cairo, is a relatively small faction under Ahmad Jarba, a former President of the SNC. Rebels such as the Jaish al-Islam group have not confirmed Russia’s declarations that they have accepted the de-escalation zones, pushed by Moscow since early May.
A Saudi Foreign Ministry statement on Sunday said that the statement attributed to Jubeir is “inaccurate”: “The position of the kingdom on the Syrian crisis is firm, and it is based on the Geneva 1 communique and on U.N. Security Council resolution 2254 that stipulated the formation of a transitional body that will run the country.”
Saudi Arabia supports the HNC and its efforts to widen membership and unify the Syrian opposition, the statement said.
— وزارة الخارجية 🇸🇦 (@KSAMOFA) August 6, 2017
UN envoy Staffan de Mistura is hoping to re-convene the Assad regime and opposition in indirect political talks in Geneva in September.
Erdoğan Again Promises Turkish Offensive Against Kurdish Militia
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has promised again that his military will move against the Syrian Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD) and its YPG militia.
Erdoğan said in an address in eastern Turkey on Sunday:
It’s clear that the situation in Syria goes beyond a war on a terror organization….
We would rather pay the price for spoiling plans against our future and liberty in Syria and Iraq rather than on our own soil. Soon we will take new and important steps.
Erdoğan has repeatedly said that Turkey will not tolerate an area in control of the PYD, whom Ankara considers to be linked to the Turkish Kurdish insurgency PKK. He said to the PYD yesterday, “Despite whoever is by your side [the US-led coalition], you should know that Turkey, with its armed forces, will not let a state be formed in northern Syria. We told the US.”
The President pointed to an offensive on the Kurdish canton of Afrin in northwest Syria.
The Turkish military has deployed tanks, howitzers, and other military vehicles in Kilis Province, across the border from Afrin. There have been exchanges of shelling in recent weeks on a front from Azaz in the northwest to Mare’ in the north-center of Syria. However, a promised Turkish deployment of ground troops last month never materialized.
Assad Regime Rejects Kurdish Autonomy as “Joke”
Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal al-Miqdad has called plans for Kurdish election in northern Syria a “joke”.
Last month the Kurdish administration announced elections at local and canton level, building up to a regional ballot in January 2018.
But Miqdad told Reuters and the BBC, “They will be a joke. Syria will never ever allow any part of its territory to be separated.”
The Assad regime had repeatedly expressed its opposition to any federal system in a resolution of the Syrian conflict.
Kurdish leaders hope for a governing structure covering their cantons in Afrin in northwest Syria, north-central Kobani, and Cezire in the northeast.