Posts Tagged ‘de Mistura’

Death of leading opposition negotiator is further blow to Syrian peace talks

January 15, 2018

Image result for Mounir Darwish, photos, syrian peace talks

U.N. Syria envoy Staffan de Mistura, second from right, at a meeting last year with a Syrian government delegation in Geneva. (Xu Jinqual/Pool/AP)
 January 14 at 12:31 PM
The Washington Post
 The death of a leading Syrian opposition figure who was wounded in a hit-and-run outside his Damascus home has left his allies shaken and appears to have poisoned an already fractious peace process.

Mounir Darwish, 80, was a leading member of Syria’s internationally backed opposition movement and a familiar figure at peace talks brokered by the United Nations. He was struck by a car Thursday and died Friday night after surgery on his ankle. Friends who visited him after the operation said he appeared to be recovering well and was looking forward to going home the next day.

The U.N. special envoy for Syria, Staffan de Mistura, called for “those involved to be identified and brought to justice,” apparently referring to the hit-and-run and not Darwish’s treatment afterward. No official cause of death was announced.

De Mistura said late Saturday that Darwish had stayed in Damascus, rather than seek exile, “as he sought peace and a better future for his country.”

The death did not appear to have been mentioned in pro-government media, and a representative of the Information Ministry could not be reached for comment.

Colleagues said friends and family members who had visited the dissident in the hospital on Friday reported that he had been in good spirits and had been awaiting discharge.

“He even called me to tell me that he’d need to stay in bed for a month but that he was ready to receive any documents I needed him to read,” said Firas al-Khalidi, who heads the Cairo section of Syria’s political opposition, of which Darwish was a part.

The Cairo bloc is one of three that have signed on to an opposition platform as a way to present a united front at the U.N.-brokered talks in Geneva. The delegates have dropped all preconditions to the peace negotiations, relinquishing from a demand that President Bashar al-Assad step down.

Darwish had been concerned that the Syrian government was growing increasingly hostile to his activities, Khalidi said.

“When I called recently to ask about a meeting in Riyadh, he said he didn’t want to leave because he was worried,” Khalidi said. “He would tell me, ‘Be careful, Firas.’ ”

Six years into Syria’s war, a coalition of pro-Assad forces has reestablished control over most of the country, with rebel forces hemmed into pockets of the north and south.

Although hopes for an opposition breakthrough at the negotiating table are low — the two sides do not sit in the same room — Western officials say efforts to unify Syria’s opposition would increase pressure on Assad’s government.

“It is about removing the argument that the regime kept on making that it had no opposition to negotiate with,” one diplomat said.

Heba Habib in Stockholm contributed to this report.


‘Golden opportunity missed’ at Syria peace talks: UN mediator

December 14, 2017


© AFP / by Nina LARSON | UN Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura gives a press conference after the eighth round of UN-brokered talks broke down in Geneva

GENEVA (AFP) – The latest round of Syria peace talks in Geneva was a “golden opportunity missed”, the country’s UN mediator lamented Thursday, accusing the Syrian government of not really seeking dialogue.UN envoy Staffan de Mistura told reporters that “negotiations did not take place”, blaming in particular the government delegation’s apparent lack of interest in discussing anything besides the fight against “terrorism”.

His statement came at the end of the eighth round of indirect talks in Geneva between delegations representing Damascus and the opposition in Syria’s brutal, nearly seven-year war.

Seven previous rounds of talks mediated by De Mistura have also gone nowhere — and rival sides have not yet met face-to-face.

The UN mediator, who describes himself as a “chronic optimist” and highlights incremental progress where others see stalemate, had voiced hope that the eighth round that opened on November 28, would mark the first “real negotiation”.

– ‘Disappointed’ –

But as the round fizzled out Thursday, he acknowledged he was “disappointed.”

“In spite of lots of efforts of my whole team, we did not have real negotiations. We did however have bilateral discussions,” he told reporters.

While the opposition, which was united in one delegation for the first time, had seriously engaged in all subjects on the table, he said “the government engaged sadly only on one subject… terrorism.”

Asked about the next steps, De Mistura said he would discuss the matter with UN chief Antonio Guterres and the UN Security Council, but that he hoped to organise a new round of talks next month.

A parallel process organised by Moscow and including fellow government ally Iran and rebel backer Turkey, is set to resume next week in Astana, Kazakhstan.

The Kremlin also hopes to convene a political congress in the Black Sea resort of Sochi which would bring together regime officials and the opposition to reinvigorate a hobbled peace process.

The opposition and Western diplomats are concerned that the Sochi meeting might be part of an effort by Moscow to circumvent the UN talks and impose a solution favourable to Assad.

De Mistura said he did not yet have enough information about the Sochi event to voice an opinion.

But he warned that “if the government is not willing to meet anyone who seems to have any type of different opinion and is not willing to discuss constitution and elections… I would be very concerned if I were those organising Sochi or any other initiatives.”

Earlier Thursday, the Syrian government’s top negotiator, Bashar al-Jaafari, meanwhile harshly criticised De Mistura, insisting he had “undermined” his position as mediator.

Speaking to reporters, Jaafari voiced outrage over an interview the mediator had with Swiss television late Wednesday, in which he appealed to Moscow to push for new Syrian elections.

“His statement undermined his mandate as a facilitator of the talks, which will affect the entire Geneva process,” Jaafari said.

Jaafari emphasised that while Syria’s government may have “allies, friends and people who fight with us on the ground,” it enjoys “the highest possible degree of sovereignty”.

“Therefore nobody can influence us,” he said, insisting that “what the envoy mistakenly said as a linguistic slip … does not reflect the relationship between us and Moscow.”

More than 340,000 people have been killed since the conflict broke out in March 2011 when protests against Assad’s rule sparked a brutal crackdown.

by Nina LARSON

Putin must nudge Syria into U.N. peace deal, mediator says — Defiant Syrian envoy blames West, Saudis and UN — Talks end

December 14, 2017


GENEVA (Reuters) – U.N. Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura urged Russia on Wednesday to convince its ally the Syrian government of the need to clinch a peace deal to end the nearly seven-year-old war.

Image result for Staffan de Mistura, photos

UN Special Envoy to the Secretary-General for Syria Staffan de Mistura

De Mistura, speaking on Swiss television station RTS, said failure to make peace quickly through United Nations mediation could lead to “a fragmentation of Syria”.

Russian President Vladimir Putin during a surprise visit on Monday to Russia’s Hmeymim air base in Syria, declared that the work of Russian forces was largely done in backing the Assad government against militants, following the defeat of “the most battle-hardened group of international terrorists.”

De Mistura, asked what signal Putin could give from his position of force, said: ”Convince the (Syrian) government that there is no time to lose…. You can think you win territory militarily but you have to win the peace.

Naser al-Hariri, Head of the Syrian Negotiation Commission (SNC), attends a round of negotiations with United Nations Special Envoy of the Secretary-General for Syria Staffan de Mistura (not pictured), during the Intra Syria talks, at the European headquarters of the U.N. in Geneva, Switzerland December 14, 2017. REUTERS/Xu Jinquan/Pool

“And to win the peace, you have to have the courage to push the government to accept that there has to be a new constitution and new elections, through the United Nations,” he said.

The nearly seven-year civil war in Syria has killed hundreds of thousands of people and driven more than 11 million from their homes. All previous diplomatic efforts to resolve the conflict have ended in failure over the opposition’s demand that President Bashar al-Assad leave power and his refusal to go.

The Kremlin first launched air strikes in Syria in September 2015 in its biggest Middle East intervention in decades, turning the tide of the conflict in Assad’s favor.

Now that it regards that mission complete, Putin wants to help broker a peace deal and is keen to organize a special event in Russia – a Syrian Congress on National Dialogue – that Moscow hopes will bring together the Syrian government and opposition and try to hammer out a new constitution.

But De Mistura made clear that peace negotiations must be through the United Nations in Geneva, as mandated by the U.N. Security Council, adding: “Otherwise it is not worth it…. This is a complicated war, it is only in Geneva through the U.N.”

The U.N. envoy has conducted shuttle diplomacy between the Syrian government delegation led by chief negotiator Bashar al-Ja‘afari and a unified opposition delegation.

”The opposition told me clearly when they arrived here, and again yesterday and this morning too, that they are ready to meet the government right away to have a hard, difficult discussion.

“The government is not ready, it has said it is not ready to meet the opposition. That is regrettable but diplomacy has many means,” de Mistura said.

A senior Western diplomat said that the government delegation had failed to engage with de Mistura on a new constitution and elections during a round of negotiations due to end on Thursday.

“Clearly they did not have any intention to engage in this political process. And clearly they are not under sufficient pressure to do so,” the diplomat told Reuters. “The clear impression is the regime wants to avoid the U.N.-led political process at any cost.”

Reporting by Stephanie Nebehay; Editing by Peter Graff



Image result for Bashar al-Ja'afari, photos

Bashar al-Ja’afari

Defiant Syrian envoy blames West, Saudis and UN as peace talks end

GENEVA, Dec 14 (Reuters) – Syrian government negotiator Bashar al-Ja’afari accused Western countries and Saudi Arabia of sabotage and blackmail at the end of a round of U.N.-led peace talks in Geneva on Thursday, and said Damascus did not want to see the political process fail.

“Nobody can exert pressure on us,” Ja’afari told reporters after a session with U.N. mediator Staffan de Mistura, who he said had made an error by commenting in an interview on Russia’s influence, which could “derail his mandate”. (Reporting by Stephanie Nebehay, writing by Tom Miles)

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Syria’s Geneva Peace Talks Hijacked By Assad Forces: “The regime delegation is afraid to negotiate transition because it knows that leads to freedom.”

December 14, 2017

Russian President Vladimir Putin (2nd-R), his Syrian counterpart Bashar Assad (2nd-L), Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu (R), and Syrian Armed Forces’ chief of staff Ali Abdullah Ayyoub. (AFP)

JEDDAH: The goal of the Syrian regime’s delegation is to make Syria safe for Bashar Assad, while the opposition’s goal is to make the country safe for “our people to come home,” Yahya Al-Aridi, opposition spokesman at the Geneva peace talks, told Arab News on Wednesday.

It followed reports that the regime delegation in Geneva is refusing to negotiate with the opposition directly and insisting on only discussing terrorism.
The opposition has been calling for the “indirect” peace talks — with UN envoy Staffan de Mistura’s team shuttling between the delegations — to become direct.
Asked why the regime is avoiding direct talks, Al-Aridi said: “The regime delegation is afraid to negotiate transition because it knows that leads to freedom.”
Another opposition official in Geneva, Ahmad Ramadan, told The Associated Press that the regime delegation has also refused to discuss three of the four main topics proposed by de Mistura — a new constitution, governance, elections and combating terrorism.
He said the regime is insisting only on discussing terrorism.
Al-Aridi said the regime uses terrorism as an excuse for delay. “It claims to be fighting terrorism while bombing civilians. The way to rid our country of terrorism is to make Syria stable, with a constitution that sets the people free.”
On the regime’s insistence that the opposition drop its demand for transition without Assad, Al-Aridi said: “The point of any negotiation is that different sides have different goals, not preconditions.”
Bahia Al-Mardini, a UK-based Syrian journalist and human rights activist who fled regime persecution, told Arab News: “Many twists and turns are likely as the negotiations intensify, but we should remain optimistic about the prospect of a democratic transition for Syria.
“After years of suffering, we live in hope that breakthroughs will come and ordinary Syrian people will be set free from the regime that they have been rejecting for years,” she said.
Al-Mardini added: “For this to happen, it will require support from the international community to pressure the regime to engage seriously in the political process, so that we can end this war and begin building a new Syria where human rights and democracy are respected.”

Syria peace talks restart but Assad regime might be absent

November 28, 2017

Image result for syria, photos, destruction of war

A Syrian boy walks with his bicycle in the devastated Sukari district in the northern city of Aleppo.  After  years of fighting and shelling, Syrians are increasingly unable to escape their country’s war.


© Abdulmonam Eassa/ AFP | The Syrian rebel-controlled town of Mesraba, in the outskirts of Damascus, on November 27, 2017, following reported bombardment by government forces.

Video by FRANCE 24


Latest update : 2017-11-28

The United Nations reopens its Syria peace talks on Tuesday but the Damascus government’s last minute announcement that it may not come to Geneva delivered a blow to the already faltering negotiations.

The eighth round of talks were seen as a chance for the UN to revitalise its push to end the six-year war, which has killed more than 340,000 people and left Syria in ruin.

UN envoy Staffan de Mistura has stressed the urgent need for progress towards a political solution and had been bolstered by the fractured opposition’s decision to form a unified negotiation team for the first time.

But on the eve of the talks reopening, de Mistura told the Security Council that President Bashar al-Assad‘s government had not yet committed to show up.

“The government did not yet confirm its participation in Geneva but indicated that we would be hearing from them soon”, he said.

Regime negotiators did not travel to Geneva on Monday, all but assuring they will be absent for the opening of the talks.

The UN envoy recalled Assad’s pledge to Russian President Vladimir Putin last week that he was “ready for dialogue.”

“Naturally we know and indeed expect that the government will be on its way shortly, particularly in light of President Assad’s commitment to President Putin,” he added.

Opposition unites

De Mistura had voiced hope the upcoming round will mark the first “real negotiation” on a possible peace deal.

For that to happen rival sides will need to overcome the hurdle that has derailed past discussions: Assad’s fate.

De Mistura has told the opposition that its longstanding demand for Assad’s ouster may no longer be tenable.

In September, he said the opposition it needed to be “realistic” and realise “they didn’t win the war”, a statement supported by facts on the ground.

Backed by Russia’s decisive military support, Assad’s government has regained control of 55 percent of the country, including major cities Damascus, Aleppo, Homs and Hama.

The rest is carved up between rebel factions, jihadists and Kurdish forces.

Same old deadlock?

The decision last week by Syrian opposition groups to send a single delegation to Geneva raised hopes of a possible breakthrough.

The new rebel negotiating team includes members of the Saudi-backed High Negotiations Committee (HNC), which insists on Assad’s ouster, as well as representatives of groups based in Moscow and Cairo that have a more moderate stance on the president.

Speaking to reporters shortly after landing in Geneva, opposition delegation chief Nasr al-Hariri said his camp was united on the need to put an “inclusive” transitional government in place ahead of elections UN-supervised.

“That means that Bashar Assad will not be in power from the beginning… of the transition”, he said, in a sign that the talks may remain deadlocked over the president’s future.

That could spell more trouble for the UN’s peace push, which has been overshadowed by deals spearheaded by Moscow.

Russia, fellow regime ally Iran and rebel-backer Turkey have hosted negotiations in the Kazakh capital that led to the creation of four “de-escalation zones” which produced a drop in violence, though deadly air strikes and battles continue in some areas.

Western powers are concerned that Russia is seeking to take a leading role in the peace process and will carve out a settlement that will largely favour Assad.

“The UN must be front and centre” in the Syrian peace process, said French Ambassador Francois Delattre.

Speaking in London on Monday Turkey’s Prime Minister said their tripartite talks should be seen as complimentary to the UN’s peace process.

“This process is not competing with the Geneva process,” Binali Yildirim said during an address at the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS).

He also reiterated Ankara’s determination to see Bashar al-Assad leave power, something Moscow and Tehran remain staunchly opposed to.

“Look how things evolved in Syria, who caused Syria to be in the situation that it is today — it all happened because of the regime, because of Assad,” he said.

He added in the long-term, “Assad cannot possibly survive in Syria, we have to accept this”.

De Mistura said he would be meeting with the ambassadors from Security Council permanent representatives — Britain, France, China, Russia and the United States — in Geneva on Tuesday to discuss the upcoming talks.


Russia To Target U.S. and Coalition Aircraft Over Syria

June 19, 2017

Russia steps up rhetoric after U.S. fighter shoots down Syrian government jet


June 19, 2017 10:33 a.m. ET

MOSCOW—Russia escalated tensions with the United States Monday, promising to actively track U.S. and coalition aircraft over Syria with air defense systems and warplanes, the country’s defense ministry said.

In a statement released Monday, the Russian military said it would treat U.S. and coalition operating west of the Euphrates Rivers as “aerial targets,” but stopped short of threatening a shootdown.

“In regions where the…



Russia warns US-led coalition over downing of Syrian jet


Defence ministry says planes flying west of Euphrates will be treated as targets and that it has suspended safety agreement with US

A US navy F/A-18 Super Hornet
The Pentagon confirmed that a US Navy F/A-18 Super Hornet had shot down a Syrian warplane on Sunday. Photograph: US DoD handout/EPA

Russia’s defence ministry has said it will treat any plane from the US-led coalition flying west of the Euphrates river in Syria as a potential target, after the US military shot down a Syrian air force jet on Sunday.

The ministry also said it was suspending a safety agreement with Washington designed to prevent collisions and dangerous incidents in Syrian airspace.

According to the Pentagon the Syrian jet in question had dropped bombs near US partner forces involved in the fight to wrest Raqqa from Islamic State (Isis) control. It was the first such US attack on a Syrian air force plane since the start of the country’s civil war six years ago.

In an apparent attempt at deescalation, Viktor Ozerov, the chairman of the defence and security committee at the upper chamber of Russian parliament, described the defence ministry’s statement as a warning. “I’m sure that because of this neither the US nor anyone else will take any actions to threaten our aircraft,” he told the state-owned RIA Novosti news agency. “That’s why there’s no threat of direct confrontation between Russia and American aircraft.”

Ozerov said Russia will be tracking the coalition’s jets, not shooting them down, but he added that “a threat for those jets may appear only if they take action that pose a threat to Russian aircraft”.

The deputy foreign minister, Sergei Ryabkov, said the US strike “has to be seen as a continuation of America’s line to disregard the norms of international law.

“What is this if not an act of aggression? It is, if you like, help to those terrorists that the US is fighting against, declaring they are carrying out an anti-terrorism policy.”

The Russian response increases the risk of an inadvertent air fight breaking out between US and Russian warplanes in the skies above Syria.

The US military confirmed that a US Navy F/A-18 Super Hornet had shot down a Syrian SU-22 on Sunday. The US said the Syrian jet had dropped bombs near Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) fighters who are aligned with US forces in the fight against Isis. Damascus said its plane had been on anti-Isis mission.

Col John Thomas, a spokesman for US Central Command, said there were no US forces in the immediate vicinity of the Syrian attack but that the SDF was under threat for more than two hours.

The growing risk of a direct confrontation between the US and Russia follows a decision by Donald Trump to grant his military chiefs untrammelled control of US military strategy in Syria.

Tensions have also been bubbling between Washington and Moscow over efforts to dislodge Isis from its Raqqa stronghold.

Russia, a staunch supporter of Syria’s president, Bashar al-Assad, has been pressing the US to make the removal of Isis a joint land and air operation, but discussions over Syria’s long-term political future appear to have ground to a halt, leaving the US military to operate in a political vacuum.

The SDF, an alliance of Kurdish and Arab fighters working alongside western special forces, said it would take action to defend itself from Syrian warplanes if attacks continued.

The Trump administration has promised to improve arms supplies to the SDF after it concluded that it was the force most capable of freeing Raqqa from Isis.

In a sign of how complex the Syrian peace process has become, Russian-sponsored peace talks in Astana, Kazakhstan, are scheduled to resume on the same day – 10 July – as talks convened by the UN in Geneva.

The Russian foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, announced the date on Monday in the knowledge that it would coincide with the UN schedule. He also said that the UN’s Syria envoy, Staffan de Mistura, would take part.

A spokesman for de Mistura said “the subject is currently being discussed”.

Kerry: US, Russia studying new ideas to stop Syria fighting

December 2, 2016

The Associated Press

US Secretary of State John Kerry, right, meets  Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov on the sidelines of a Mediterranean Dialogues Summit in Rome, Friday, Dec. 2, 2016. (AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia, Pool) THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

By BRADLEY KLAPPER, Associated Press

ROME (AP) — The United States and Russia are studying new ways to break a monthslong diplomatic deadlock over how to stop the fighting in the Syrian city of Aleppo, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said Friday. He said the “ideas” will be tested in follow-up discussions between American and Russian diplomats next week.

While Kerry didn’t elaborate on the substance of the fresh approaches, he stressed that the U.S. and Russia both see the situation as urgent and aren’t waiting for Donald Trump’s presidency to begin on Jan. 20. But given the repeated failures of the former Cold War foes to halt Syria’s 5 ½-year civil war, it is unclear how much hope the new effort holds.

“We have exchanged a set of ideas, which there will be a meeting on early next week in Geneva, and we have to wait and see whether those ideas have any legs to them,” Kerry said after meeting Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov in Rome. “I will say that both sides understand the importance of trying to continue the diplomacy and trying to see if something can be done. Nobody is waiting for the next administration. We both feel there is urgency.”

Kerry said he will gauge progress with Lavrov when they meet again on the sidelines of a European security conference in Hamburg, Germany, on Wednesday.

While the talks were going on, Syria showed off its recent gains in Aleppo, once the country’s largest city and commercial center.

State media reported Friday from areas captured this week in a Russian-backed ground offensive, airing reports of roads being restored, debris removed and civilians resettled. The U.N. aid agency said an estimated 31,500 people have been displaced as a result of the recent fighting, which takes Syrian President Bashar Assad’s government closer to capturing the whole city and completing what would be perhaps a devastating blow to U.S.-backed rebel forces.

The war has killed as many as half a million people since 2011, contributed to Europe’s worst refugee crisis since World War II and allowed the Islamic State group to emerge as a global terror threat.

Friday’s diplomatic discussions took place in a hotel several stories above an Italian-hosted conference on the Mediterranean region, and Russia’s Lavrov emphasized that his country won’t allow Syria to follow the example of lawless Libya after NATO’s 2011 intervention that helped topple dictator Moammar Gadhafi. That country now is experiencing perhaps its worst violence in two years as rival militias and extremist groups such as IS continue to vie for power.

While Washington has accused Moscow of war crimes and crimes against humanity in Syria, Lavrov blamed both the U.S. and United Nations for the current situation.

He lamented that the U.S. has been unable to fulfill its commitment under several past cease-fire plans to separate the so-called “moderate” opposition groups from the al-Qaida-linked fighters that Russia says it is targeting. And he questioned why the U.N. isn’t restarting peace talks or rushing aid to areas of Syria in need, something the global body has been extremely reticent to do since a September convoy was hit by an airstrike. The U.S. has blamed Russia for that attack, a charge Moscow denies.

“The time is ripe for compromise,” Lavrov said.

Both diplomats met Friday with the U.N.’s envoy for Syria, Staffan de Mistura.

As de Mistura began his meeting with Kerry, reporters could hear the peace mediator telling the U.S. secretary of state, “Anything but stalemate.”

Russia denies its strikes hit Syrian boy in photo — Shocked and bloodied Syrian child serves as a wake up call of anger at leaders unable to stop Syria’s war

August 19, 2016


Images of shell-shocked four-year-old Omran, pulled from the rubble in Aleppo, have captured the world’s attention (AFP Photo/Mahmoud Rslan)

MOSCOW (AFP) – Russia on Friday denied that one of its air raids hit a dazed and bloodied Syrian boy whose heart-wrenching photograph has drawn worldwide attention.

The defence ministry issued an official denial that it carried out a strike on eastern Aleppo on Wednesday evening when the images of four-year-old Omran were taken.

“The Russian planes operating in Syria never work on targets that are inside settled areas,” ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov said in a statement.

The photographer who shot the video for Aleppo Media Centre, a network of activists, told AFP he took the images after an air strike on Wednesday night hit the Qaterji neighbourhood in eastern Aleppo.

Konashenkov said Qaterji was particularly out of bounds for Russian strikes because it adjoins two of the humanitarian corridors Moscow has opened for residents to flee.

He branded Western media reports on Omran as a “cynical exploitation” of the tragic situation in eastern Aleppo and “cliched anti-Russian propaganda”.

He suggested the attack could have been carried out by rebels in Aleppo using homemade rockets to target roads close to the humanitarian corridors to undermine Russia’s efforts.

He also suggested however that the area where Omran was may not have been bombed at all, citing footage of unbroken windows.

“If a strike really did take place,” he said, it was not an aerial strike but either a gas cylinder “used in large quantities there by terrorists” or a mortar shell.

Russia said Thursday that its strikes by warplanes based in Iran hit areas held by the Islamic State jihadist group in Deir Ezzor province, the third day of raids from the Hamedan base.


Beirut (AFP) – Photographer Mahmoud Rslan has taken many pictures of children killed in Syria’s war but none as haunting as the one showing Omran, four years old, dazed and covered in blood.

Shot after an air strike that hit a rebel-held district the battlefield northern city of Aleppo, the picture of Omran shows the brutality of Syria’s five-year conflict and the suffering of people trapped by fighting.

“I’ve taken a lot of pictures of children killed or wounded in the strikes that rain down daily,” Rslan told AFP on Thursday, the day after he captured the image that has gone viral on social networks.

“Usually they are either unconscious or crying. But Omran was there, speechless, staring blankly, as if he did not quite understand what had happened to him,” he said by telephone.

A video filmed by the Aleppo Media Centre, a network of activists in the divided northern city, shows Omran sitting still in an ambulance, his face, arms and legs caked with blood and dust.

He stares into space, raises his arms to touch his bloodied forehead, looks at his hand then wipes it on the ambulance seat.

Omran has a head full of hair that fall into his eyes.

He is wearing a T-shirt and shorts but his feet are bare, having apparently lost his shoes when he was pulled out alive but in shock from the family apartment destroyed in an air raid.

Wednesday night’s air strike hit the Qaterji neighbourhood in rebel-held east Aleppo, Syria’s former economic hub which is divided between insurgent and regime control.

Rslan was nearby when he heard the raids at 7:15 pm (1615 GMT).

“It was dark already but I saw a building that had totally collapsed and another half destroyed,” he said.

He and rescuers rushed to the buildings to search for survivors.

When they reached the first building, they had to step over three bodies before they could go inside and once there they could not go any further because the staircase had collapsed.

Rslan and the rescuers went next door and found Omran and his family, wounded but alive.

– ‘Symbol of innocence’ –

They were plucked out of the building one by one, brought down through balconies.

Omran was the first to be carried to an ambulance, followed by his 5-year-old brother, his sisters, 8 and 11, and finally the rescuers took out the parents.

“When we placed Omran in the ambulance there was some light, so I was able to take pictures,” Rslan said.

“Omran was in a state of shock, a wall had collapsed on him and his family,” he said.

“This child like all children in Syria is a symbol of innocence. They have nothing to do with wars.”

Syrian and Russian aircraft have been carrying out intense air strikes this week on opposition strongholds across northern Syria to prevent rebels sending reinforcements to Aleppo, a monitoring group has said.

Aleppo has been the scene of fierce fighting since July 31, when the “Army of Conquest” alliance of rebels and jihadists launched a major offensive to break a regime siege of opposition-controlled districts

The haunting image of Omran reverberated around the globe, much like the photo of three-year-old Aylan Kurdi whose drowned trying to reach Europe with his family last September.

Aylan’s body washed ashore on a Turkish beach.

Thousands of Syrian asylum seekers have continued to attempt the deadly crossing to Europe in rickety boats, joining thousands others from Africa and other Arab countries hoping for a better life.

The Syrian conflict has killed more than 290,000 people and displaced millions since it began in 2011 with the brutal repression of anti-government demonstrations.


Battle for Aleppo: Photo of shocked and bloodied Syrian five-year-old sparks outrage
BBC News, 18 August 2016

A photograph of a dazed and bloodied Syrian boy rescued from a destroyed building in Aleppo after an air strike has caused outrage around the world.

Images of the boy sitting in an ambulance were released by activists and have since been shared widely on social media.

He was identified as five-year-old Omran Daqneesh, who was treated for head wounds on Wednesday, doctors said.

His parents and three siblings are believed to have survived the attack.

The pro-opposition Aleppo Media Centre said the pictures of Omran had been taken in the rebel-held Qaterji district late on Wednesday, reportedly following Russian air strikes that killed at least three people and injured 12 others.

The video shows the boy being carried out of a damaged building by a medic and then placed on a seat in the back of an ambulance, covered in dust and with a blood-covered face.

Omran is then left sitting quietly, appearing stunned by the ordeal. He runs his hand over his face and looks at the blood before wiping it on the seat.

Omran’s picture has already led to comparisons with another disturbing image, that of three-year-old Syrian refugee Alan Kurdi whose body was washed up on a Turkish beach after his family attempted to cross to Greece.

Tweet by @khalidalbaih on 18 August 2016 saying


Fighting between government and rebel forces has escalated in recent weeks in Aleppo, once Syria’s commercial and industrial hub, leaving hundreds dead.

Russia said it was ready to stop military operations in the city for a 48-hour period as early as next week after UN special envoy Staffan de Mistura pleaded for a “gesture of humanity” to allow aid deliveries to hundreds of thousands of people trapped there.

No aid has been delivered to besieged areas since the beginning of the month.

‘The horror of Aleppo’

Omran was pulled from the remains of a destroyed block of flats along with his parents and three siblings, aged one, six and 11, Al Jazeera Mubashir journalist Mahmoud Raslan told AP news agency.

“We were passing them from one balcony to the other,” Mr Raslan – who took the photo – said, adding that he had been handed three lifeless bodies before receiving the injured boy.

Doctors said Omran was treated for head injuries and later discharged and none of his family sustained major injuries.

Doctored image showing injured Syrian boy sitting at empty seat of Syria at Arab League meeting (17 August 2016)

Image copyright TWITTER / @ABOYOSHA3HOMS.Image caption Omran’s photo has been superimposed onto Syria’s empty seat at a meeting of the Arab League

Image copyright@RAFSANCHEZ

The shell-shocked boy’s image has prompted an outpouring of anger at the continuing fighting.

“The stunned, bloodied face of a child survivor sums up the horror of Aleppo,”tweeted Adib Shishakly, a member of the opposition Syrian National Council.

Turkish-based commentator Omar Madaniah wrote: “A boy has come out from underneath the rubble in Aleppo after Russian airplanes targeted him. This is the terrorist that all states are uniting against.”

Saudi media figure Jamal Khashoggi tweeted: “It is as if he is sitting at the Arab summit or the Security Council chiding those who are silent with his own silence and looks.”

More than 250,000 people have died in almost five years of war in Syria, with a further 11 million people displaced by the conflict, according to the UN.

Diplomacy sidelined – Imogen Foulkes, BBC News, Geneva

Staffan de Mistura is, even in the face of the enormous diplomatic challenge of bringing peace to Syria, normally a genial man. Not on Thursday.

He was visibly angry as he described how he had suspended the humanitarian task force after just eight minutes. There was no sense in meeting, he said, when no aid had been delivered to any besieged areas since the beginning of August. This is despite weeks of pleas from senior aid officials.

The move by Mr de Mistura may be seen as measure of last resort. Since no negotiations are taking place, the UN may be hoping to shame the warring parties – and their backers like the United States and Russia – into, at the very least, a pause in fighting to allow aid in. But as the battle for Aleppo rages, the UN’s diplomacy in Syria looks increasingly sidelined.
 (August 12, 2016)

Syria opposition rejects UN proposal for Assad to stay

April 16, 2016


© SANA/AFP/File | The UN envoy brokering peace talks in Geneva had made a proposal that would have kept Syrian President Bashar al-Assad (pictured) as president during a transitional period

GENEVA (AFP) – Syria’s opposition has rejected a proposal from the UN envoy brokering peace talks in Geneva that would have kept Bashar al-Assad as president with three deputies of his opponents’ choosing, an opposition source told AFP Saturday.

Staffan de Mistura made the proposal for Assad to remain in office during a transitional period to the High Negotiations Committee — the main Syrian opposition body — during a meeting late Friday, the HNC source said.

“He proposed that President Bashar al-Assad would appoint three vice presidents that we choose, and that he would transfer his military and political prerogatives to them,” the source said.

“Effectively, Assad would stay in a ceremonial position… But we categorically rejected the proposal.”

The HNC and the government delegation are in Geneva for a fresh round of talks aimed at resolving Syria’s five-year war.

The UN-backed effort has called for a political transition, a new constitution, and parliamentary and presidential elections by September 2017.

Assad’s ouster has been the key demand of Syria’s opposition since the uprising broke out in March 2011, but Damascus says his departure is not on the table.

While the opposition insists on forming a “transitional governing body” without Assad, the regime says it wants to form a broader “unity government.”

The HNC source said de Mistura had presented the idea as a way to end that “vicious cycle” of debate.

“This way, the president could transfer his prerogatives based on the current constitution, which does not include the formation of a transitional governing body,” the source said.

According to him, de Mistura told the HNC committee that the proposal “was not his personal view… but that he hoped to hear our thoughts”.

On Friday, HNC spokesman Salem al-Meslet told AFP that Syria’s opposition would be willing to cooperate with regime “diplomats and technocrats” in a transition period.

He insisted that there would be no role for Assad or anyone who had played a central role in the civil war, which has killed 270,000 people and displaced millions.

Surge of clashes in Syria on eve of Geneva peace talks — Could cause the truce to break down

April 13, 2016

Fresh offensive by Assad forces may threaten a truce that has largely held since February.

13 Apr 2016 05:28 GMT

Al Jazeera

Syria’s landmark ceasefire was threatening to fall apart after a surge of fresh fighting, especially in northern Aleppo province, just as peace talks were set to resume in Geneva on Wednesday.

The UN’s Syria envoy Staffan de Mistura, who has said the negotiations will be “crucially important,” was in Iran for talks with a key backer of Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad.

This week’s round of talks will be the second since the Assad government and rebel forces agreed to a partial truce brokered by Moscow and Washington, which has largely held since February 27.

It has raised hopes that steps may finally be taken towards ending a five-year-old conflict that has left more than 270,000 dead and forced nearly half of the country’s population from their homes.

WATCH: Has the world betrayed Syria?

De Mistura, who will host the talks, said the negotiations would focus on aspects of a peace roadmap that calls for a transitional government, a new constitution and, eventually, elections.

But the fate of Assad is still a major stumbling block.

“We will be focusing in particular on the political transition, on governance and constitutional principles,” he told reporters in Damascus on Monday.

But concern has been mounting that a spike in violence focused mainly in Aleppo province, which borders Turkey, is putting intense strain on the ceasefire.

Pro-government forces were on Tuesday pressing an advance against the town of Al-Eis, held by fighters from al-Qaeda’s local affiliate, Al-Nusra Front, and allied rebels, the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group said.

War keeps children out of school

Al-Nusra and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant group (ISIL, also known as ISIS) were excluded from the ceasefire but, complicating matters, in some areas the al-Qaeda fighters are allied with rebels covered by the truce.

Government planes carried out “unprecedented” air strikes in recent days on the rebel-held eastern parts of Aleppo city, according to the Observatory, which relies on a broad network of sources inside Syria.

Government forces, backed by Russian air power, pressed a similar offensive around Aleppo city during a previous failed round of talks at the end of January. Western powers blamed that escalation for the breakdown of those talks.

Al-Nusra and allied rebel groups were also pushing their own offensive on the town of Khan Touman near Aleppo city, the Observatory said.

Washington has expressed worries that an assault against Al-Nusra in Aleppo may spread to moderate rebel factions, which could cause the truce to collapse and derail peace efforts.

Wave of strikes

The New York-based Human Rights Watch (HRW) has also warned that continued indiscriminate attacks on civilians could cause the truce to break down.

It said recent attacks by rebel groups on Kurdish-majority neighbourhoods in Aleppo city and by government forces east of Damascus “threaten to derail the ‘cessation of hostilities’”.

“A decrease in casualty numbers brought a much-needed respite for Syrians, but many civilians are still dying in unlawful attacks,” Nadim Houry, HRW’s deputy Middle East director, said in a statement.

The ceasefire brought relative calm to parts of northern and central Syria, allowing increased humanitarian aid deliveries and a significant drop in daily deaths.

Despite the talks, the government will go ahead on Wednesday with parliamentary elections in the areas it controls.

The UN does not recognise the vote and it has been dismissed by Assad’s foreign and Syrian opponents as illegitimate.

De Mistura travelled from Syria to Iran on Tuesday to meet with senior officials in Tehran, which along with Moscow is one of Assad’s key international backers.

As well as providing economic aid, Iran has sent military advisers from its elite Revolutionary Guards to Syria, dozens of whom have been killed.

Moscow launched a wave of air strikes in support of the government last September, though last month Moscow ordered the bulk of Russian forces to withdraw.

Russia’s defence ministry said two Russian military pilots were killed in a helicopter crash near the central Syrian city of Homs on Tuesday.

De Mistura travelled from Syria to Iran on Tuesday to meet with senior officials in Tehran, which along with Moscow is one of Assad’s key international backers [Vahid Salemi/The Associated Press]


Syria’s Partial Cease-Fire Shows Signs of Crumbling

BEIRUT, Lebanon — A fragile and partial cease-fire in Syria is coming under new strains, with ground clashes and airstrikes intensifying as the government promises a new offensive and prepares to hold controversial parliamentary elections on Wednesday.

France, one of the most outspoken international opponents of Syria’s president, Bashar al-Assad, and Iran, his closest ally, both issued warnings that the partial cease-fire, which has lasted far longer than any other and has reduced the daily death toll significantly since Feb. 27, faced the threat of collapse.

A day before the next round of peace talks is set to start, France, along with opposition negotiators, blamed new government attacks in the northern province of Aleppo and the eastern suburbs of the capital, Damascus, for endangering the agreement, while Iran blamed “armed groups” fighting the government. Officials in the United States, too, said they were very concerned about the rise in violence.

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