Assad regime refuses to engage in detailed talks as it continues to starve Syrians into submission, opponent negotiator says
The Syrian opposition will assess at the end of this week whether to continue indirect peace talks with a Syrian government that it says is so far refusing to engage in detailed negotiations and instead continuing to starve Syrians into submission, its chief negotiator has said.
Mohammed Alloush, the leader of the Syrian opposition delegation at the peace talks, suggested in a joint interview with the Guardian, Le Monde and Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung that little progress has been made during the first week of negotiations and many pitfalls lie ahead.
Staffan de Mistura, the UN Syrian special envoy, is due to pause the talks on Thursday but is struggling to persuade the Syrian government to engage in detailed discussions about plans for a transitional body to operate Syria over the next 18 months and the role of Bashar al-Assad in such a government.
De Mistura is shuttling between the two main delegations in search of common ground but has admitted there are large gaps.
Alloush said the opposition could not accept the Syrian president as part of the transitional body and added that those with blood on their hands can have no part in a reconstituted Syrian army.
The new transitional body, he said, should have the powers of the president, the government, parliament and special courts. He added that those charged against war crimes should be dealt with by Syrian the tribunals and not the International Criminal Court, arguing the ICC has a backlog of 30,000 suits that would postpone justice.
Alloush, a political figure in the Jaysh al-Islam( Islam Army) rebel group, is the senior negotiator for High Negotiations Committee( HNC ), the official Syrian opponent delegation at the Geneva peace talks.
He is likely the single most important figure in the opposition and through his a link with Jaysh al-Islam, which Damascus and Moscow consider a terrorist group, has credibility with some fighters on the ground.
Alloush said his team will decide whether to continue with the talks at the end of the week. We can then assess all the answers and assess the round of talks in general and the world can then insure clearly who is procrastinating and who is putting obstacles in the way.
He said so far the Syrian government had only put forward a very general newspaper of eight principles that was not relevant to the task of forming a transitional government.
By contrast, he said his squad had put forward detailed papers covering justice, security and political transition. We are ready to answer all questions in detail put to us by the UN. The UN has said our newspaper is detailed, positive and moderate. The government newspaper is simply not relevant to what we have come to discuss.
John Kerry, the US secretary of state, is due to meet Vladimir Putin for talks in Moscow this week that will include Syria. Alloush said America had a moral duty to increase the pressure and, in particular, needed to intervene to persuade Russia to require Assad to negotiate severely, including by objective the use of starvation sieges to force Syrians to abandon the resistance.
He also cautioned European leaders to be more involved in the talks. More refugees[ are] heading to Europe. The international community has to tackle the root cause of this problem. We cannot just deal with symptoms. The root cause is the one person who has forced millions and millions to leave their homes.
Take Bashar al-Assad and 1,000 offenders then Syria could take back the refugees. That would be the logical and just solution for this problem. The international community is capable of doing this. More financial measures is not the answer.
In a further sign of problems ahead for De Mistura, Alloush showed resentment to the idea of the Syrian Kurdish YPG being represented at the talks, describing them as adherents of the Assad regime. The YPG has been excluded from the talks, partly due to Turkish protests, and the HNC has other Kurds on its delegation.
He also reported no progress on the issue of political detainees, saying we know there are 9,000 women in detention centres and none of them have been released.
Executions, he added, were carried out daily by the Assad regime. Reeling off a listing of townships still under siege, Alloush said Russian intelligence was working with Syrian intelligence to blackmail townships especially in rural areas around Damascus by offering to trade food in return for reconciliation arrangements and truces. Use food like this is a war crime, according to the United Nation, he said.
Alloush also challenged claims that Russia had truly announced a military withdrawal last week, and accused Russia of a reckless bombing campaign. By saying they can return to return to Syria within four hours, it is clear it is not really even a partial withdrawal.
The Russians were given targets that were not accurate: 90% of the air raid were conducted against citizens. They made 67 schools, over 40 local markets and over 100 hospitals and medical facilities.
They indicated that they are targeting terrorists but actually the latter are targeting civilians. Even when they target Raqqa, as they did this weekend, they target civilians. A war like this cannot be won from the air.
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