De Mistura: “The message is very clear: if they were planning to win the war, facts are proving that is not the case.”
UN envoy Staffan de Mistura has again pushed Syria’s opposition into accepting his version of political negotiations, saying that they must accept they cannot defeat the Assad regime.
In comments on Wednesday, De Mistura proclaimed, “For the opposition, the message is very clear: if they were planning to win the war, facts are proving that is not the case. So now it’s time to win the peace.”
He argued that the 78-month conflict was almost over because of a focus on the Islamic State, rather than the regime, with many countries acting to vanquish ISIS. Pointing to the imminent defeat of ISIS in its remaining major position, Deir ez-Zor Province in eastern Syria, he said a national ceasefire should follow soon:
Victory can only be if there is a sustainable political long-term solution. Otherwise instead of war, God forbid, we may see plenty of low intensity guerrilla [operations] going on for the next 10 years, and you will see no reconstruction, which is a very sad outcome of winning a war.
Asked if he was implying that Bashar al-Assad had triumphed, De Mistura responded that pro-Assad forces have advanced, but no one can claim to have won the war.
He pointed to a de facto partition of Syria, at least in the short term, with the assertion that the situation in opposition-held Idlib Province in the northwest should be “frozen”.
De Mistura says he believes talks in the Kazakh capital Astana next week can help determine the status of Idlib, where about 2 million of Syria’s remaining 17 million people live.
“I am confident…there will be a non-conflictual solution – let’s say not a new Aleppo”, the city occupied completely by pro-Assad forces in December 2016 after protracted attacks and sieges, he said, continuing:
That’s what we want to avoid at any cost, if we have learned from the past.
If that takes place, Idlib may become frozen in a way in order to avoid becoming a major tragic end to the conflict.
The envoy has been seeking for months to push the main opposition of the High Negotiations Committee to accept smaller, Russian-supported factions which have been based in Moscow and Cairo.
The HNC has held out against merger, seeing the smaller factions as supportive of Moscow’s line, in thus backing the regime. They have also set conditions refused by the regime, including an end to sieges and bombardment and the release of political prisoners.
De Mistura summarized yesterday:
”The issue is: is the government, after the liberation of Deir al-Zor and Raqqa, ready and prepared to genuinely negotiate and not simply announce victory, which we all know, and they know too, cannot be announced because it won’t be sustainable without a political process?
Will the opposition be able to be unified and realistic enough to realize they did not win the war?
Rebels Withdraw from Eastern Syria After US-Jordan Orders
Following the US-led cut-off of support to rebels in eastern Syria, Jordan has called on two Free Syrian Army factions to withdraw across the Jordanian border.
Rebel sources said the Jaish Usud al-Sharqiya and Ahmed al-Abdo factions have been ordered to pull back from the Badia desert, after taking much of the area from the Islamic State earlier this year.
Last month, the US halted all supplies to the factions because they refused to concentrate solely on the fight against the Islamic State, and insisted on fighting pro-Assad forces who have been seeking to claim the Badia.
The sources said the Ahmed al-Abdo group is now pulling back into Jordan.
However, Jaish Usod Al-Sharqiya is moving toward the Tanf airbase near the Iraqi border, where the US is continuing to support Free Syrian groups against the Islamic State and maintaining a 55-km (34-mile) exclusion zone against pro-Assad forces, including Hezbollah and Iranian-backed foreign militias.
Pro-Assad Forces Try to Establish Deir ez-Zor Corridor
A day after making contact with troops besieged by the Islamic State for three years, pro-Assad forces have tried to establish a corridor to Deir ez-Zor city in eastern Syria.
The offensive is seeking the link from the southwest, occupying areas such as the town of Kabijib, about 50 km (31 miles) from the city. State media said units have also “expanded control” around the Regiment 137 base.
Regime and Russian air forces are continuing attacks on ISIS, which still surrounds several districts in Deir ez-Zor city and holds much of the province, its last major position in Syria.
“Work is progressing to secure the route and widen the flanks so as not to be cut or targeted by [ISIS],” a pro-Assad commander said. “The next step is to liberate the city.”