LATEST: Violations Documentation Center Criticizes Insurgents for Delay in Finding Abducted Zaitouneh and 3 Other Activists


Plans for Wednesday’s “Geneva II” conference on Syria’s crisis almost collapsed yesterday after the United Nations was forced to withdraw its invitation to Iran.

On Sunday, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon (pictured) had issued the invitation, saying that Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif had assured him of Tehran’s “positive and constructive role”.

However, the opposition Syrian National Coalition — who only agreed on Saturday, after weeks of tension, to go to Switzerland — issued an ultimatum that it would not attend if Iran was invited. Both it and the US, the primary driver with Russia of the conference, said that Iran must accept a proviso in a June 2012 plan for the departure of President Assad as a transitional governing authority was formed.

Tehran, through its UN Ambassador and the Foreign Ministry, and even the military said it would not do so. The Supreme Leader’s top foreign policy advisor, Ali Akbar Velayati, declared:

The very negative aspect of the 2012 Geneva communiqué is that it requires the legitimate Syrian government, which is an official member state of the United Nations and has a very valuable background regarding commitment to international obligations, to sit at the negotiating table with terrorists, some of whom are Syrians and some have come from other countries and have flooded Syria through support by arrogant, colonial and reactionary states.

Ban then withdrew the invitation.

“The statement today in Tehran by the Foreign Ministry spokesperson fell short by some measure of what the Secretary-General expected to hear,” said UN spokesman Martin Nesirky. He added:

The Secretary-General is deeply disappointed by Iranian public statements today that are not at all consistent with that stated commitment. He continues to urge Iran to join the global consensus behind the Geneva Communique.

The furor has also presented the conference organizers with another dilemma. Russia and the Syrian regime have insisted that President Assad cannot be commanded to step down — a position that Assad implicitly reinforced on Sunday when he said he would probably run for re-election in 2014.

However, the US, after some conflicting signals, reiterated on Monday that it expected the maintenance of the “Geneva I” plan for Assad’s departure in favor of the interim government.

Claimed Image of ISIS Convoy En Route To Manbij

A claimed image, which has been circulating on Russian-language pro-ISIS sites, of an ISIS convoy en route to Manbij in Aleppo province. ISIS lost Manbij earlier this month.


Violations Documentation Center Criticizes Insurgents for Delay in Finding Abducted Zaitouneh and 3 Other Activists

The Violations Documentation Center has issued a statement about December’s abduction of its head, Zaitouneh, and three other activists by gunmen in the Damascus suburb of Douma

Citing “complete incompetence on the part of the fighting brigades and battalions in…discovering the identity of the kidnappers”, the VDC said “it becomes necessary to state some facts”.

Among these were a threat to Zaitouneh in October from a “well-known” fighting battalion, telling her to leave the area within three days.

See Syria Spotlight: The Kidnapping of Razan Zaitouneh

The VDC said the delay in finding the abductors us “a serious indicator that puts the credibility of all battalions to the test after all ‘claimed their innocence’ from the incident”. It reiterated its call on all insurgent groups in East Ghouta, the area near Damascus, “to shoulder their legal and moral responsibilities of protecting civilians and activists”.

Fifth: VDC and LDSPS stress the continuity of their work in Syria in general and Douma in particular. And reiterates that the kidnappers have failed to mute the human rights and civil voice in Syria which exerts all efforts possible to document human rights violations and provide aid for the civilians in the liberated areas.

Sixth: the center is prosecuting and filing a legal action against the suspect kidnappers in the neighboring countries, and through the provisional legal authorities inside Syria. It also confirms that the kidnappers will be put to trial sooner or later.

Regime Delegation to “Geneva II” Stuck at Greek Airport for 4 Hours Because Refuelling Denied

Syrian State media reports that the Assad regime’s delegation to the “Geneva II” conference was delayed at Athens International Airport for four hours when it was prevented from refueling.

Olympic Air said the situation was caused by factors beyond its control. Syrian media said the pilot was informed that he could not refuel because of European sanctions.

The head of the Syrian delegation, Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem reportedly had to cancel a meeting with United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.

Opposition Claims 70 Regime Troops Killed in Damascus Suburb of Darayya

An opposition statement claims that 70 regime troops, including seven officers, have been killed in the Syrian military’s offensive against the Damascus suburb of Darayya.

Syrian forces have been carrying out sustained airstrikes against the suburb, southwest of the capital.

More Than 100 Killed for 3rd Straight Day

The Local Coordination Committees report that 119 people were killed on Monday, including 46 in Aleppo Province, 20 in Hama Province, 17 in Idlib Province, 15 in Damascus and its suburbs, and 11 in Daraa Province.

The Violations Documentation Center has recorded 85,203 deaths since the start of the conflict in March 2011. Of these, 62,825 were civilians.