Regime FM: “There will be no presence by any international forces supervised by the United Nations”
The Assad regime has rejected any UN monitoring of the four “de-escalation zones” in Syria proposed by Russia, Turkey, and Iran.
Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem said, “There will be no presence by any international forces supervised by the United Nations,” al-Moallem said. “The Russian guarantor has clarified that there will be military police and observation centers.”
A spokesman for the UN envoy, Staffan de Mistura, declined to comment.
The zones in last Thursday’s proposals cover much of northwest Syria, including Idlib Province and parts of neighboring Hama, Latakia, and Aleppo Provinces; northern Homs Province; and areas near Damascus.
Al-Moallem also held open the pretext for attacks in the zones, as pro-Assad assaults continue in northern Hama Province and on the Damascus suburbs. He used the jihadists of Jabhat al-Nusra, who have been excluded from previous “cessation of hostilities” declarations, to assert, “It is the duty of the groups which signed the ceasefire agreement to expel Nusra from these zones until the areas really become de-escalated. It is for the guarantors to help these factions.”
Since its military intervention in September 2015, Russia has carried out the large majority of its airstrikes — propping up the regime and then eroding rebel forces — on opposition territory, while claiming that the targets are the Islamic State or Jabhat al-Nusra.
The Foreign Minister also pushed for more forced capitulations, labelled as “reconciliation” agreements, of opposition areas.
Since last August, sieges and bombardments have brought the forced removals of rebels and residents from Damascus suburbs such as Darayya and Moadamiya and the al-Wa’er section of Homs city, as well as the clearing of more than 50,000 from eastern Aleppo city after it was reoccupied by pro-Assad forces in December.
On Sunday, the forced movement of about 8,000 people from the Damascus suburb of Barzeh began, while pro-Assad forces continued bombing and ground attacks on nearby Qaboun.
Iran Steps Back from Proposal
In a further sign of Iranian dissatisfaction with the proposal — despite having signed it — the Supreme Leader’s top aide has said that Tehran’s support is conditional.
Ali Akbar Velayati said any plan must be endorsed by the population, “The Syrian people have the right to determine their own fate.”
Tehran was almost silent after last Thursday’s presentation of the Russian-led proposal before issuing terse summaries of the plan.
TOP PHOTO: Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem speaks in front of a picture of Bashar al-Assad, May 8, 2017
US Confirms Arming of Kurdish Militia YPG
The US has confirmed it is providing arms to the Kurdish militia YPG in Syria, despite Turkish objections.
American officials said Donald Trump, after months of debate, approved the deliveries for an offensive against the Islamic State in the city of Raqqa, ISIS’s center in northern Syria.
The US has backed the Syrian Democratic Forces, led by the YPG, since the SDF was formed in autumn 2015 to fight ISIS. Washington has provided arms and supplies, and US special forces have been photographed with the force. However, Tuesday’s announcement is the first confirmation by Trump officials of the arrangements.
The Military Times reported on Sunday that the US is providing the YPG with sophisticated American combat equipment,
night-vision goggles, rifles, and advanced optics used by American special operations forces and the foreign commando units they train.
Turkey considers the YPG a terrorist group linked to the Turkish Kurdish insurgency PKK, which has battled Turkish security forces for more than 30 years. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has said he considers the YPG and PKK “terrorist hubs” which must be eliminated, and Ankara launched airstrikes on both groups in late April.
Top Turkish officials, including head of armed forces General Hulusi Akar, met American counterparts on Monday in the White House. Akar briefly saw Trump.
“We are keenly aware of the security concerns of our coalition partner Turkey,” said Dana White, the chief Pentagon spokeswoman. “We want to reassure the people and government of Turkey that the US is committed to preventing additional security risks and protecting our NATO ally.”