News / Middle East

Syria's Warring Sides Fight for Position Ahead of Talks

People run after what activists said was the return of government jet planes in Aleppo's al-Marja district December 23, 2013. More than 300 people have been killed in a week of air raids on the northern Syrian city of Aleppo and nearby towns by President People run after what activists said was the return of government jet planes in Aleppo's al-Marja district December 23, 2013. More than 300 people have been killed in a week of air raids on the northern Syrian city of Aleppo and nearby towns by President
x
People run after what activists said was the return of government jet planes in Aleppo's al-Marja district December 23, 2013. More than 300 people have been killed in a week of air raids on the northern Syrian city of Aleppo and nearby towns by President
People run after what activists said was the return of government jet planes in Aleppo's al-Marja district December 23, 2013. More than 300 people have been killed in a week of air raids on the northern Syrian city of Aleppo and nearby towns by President
Rebels fighting to oust Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and government forces are trying to improve their battlefield positions in the remaining weeks before peace talks are due to take place in Geneva between the warring sides, analysts say.
 
The U.S.-Russian backed talks, dubbed Geneva 2, are slated to begin in late January and aim to reach an agreement to end a civil war now in its third year.  Who will attend the peace conference remains in doubt.
 
But since plans for the talks evolved late in 2013, fighting on the battlefield has intensified.
 
With government offensives underway in Aleppo, Syria’s largest city, and in the suburbs south of Damascus taking their toll, the main Western-backed opposition group is threatening once again not to participate in talks.
 
The heightened battlefield action is being matched with an increased tempo in diplomatic maneuverings.
 
French President François Hollande recently held talks in Riyadh with the Saudi Arabian monarch, King Abdullah, and Syrian opposition leader Ahmed Jarba. Afterwards, France’s leader warned that Geneva 2 must “must not result in the prolongation” of the Assad regime.
 
Hollande urged the Western-backed Syrian opposition group the Syrian National Coalition (SNC) to take part in the peace conference.

Airstrikes in the northern Syrian city of Aleppo killed 541 people and wounded 3,039 people from December 15 to 28, according to local medical sources, the international medical humanitarian organization Médecins Sans Frontières said today.
 
“It is now clearer than ever just how harsh and tense the race in Syria is between the battle and politics, between the field and the table,” said Lebanese columnist and television show host Jean Aziz.
 
The effort to change the balance of military power – what analysts like to call the “facts on the ground” – has seen fierce fighting in the southern suburbs of Damascus.
 
Until the autumn, rebels controlled an arc of suburbs to the south of the capital but have lost ground to Syrian government forces.
 
In recent days the suburb of Ghouta has seen heavy skirmishing with the rebels trying to dislodge Syrian troops in order to threaten Damascus International Airport.
 
The most threatening offensive is unfolding around Aleppo, the country’s onetime commercial hub, which has been divided between government forces and rebels for more than a year.
 
After a long stalemate in which little territory changed hands, rebels have been pressed on the eastern approaches to the city after Assad forces retook a handful of strategic outlying towns in the weeks leading up to Christmas.
 
For two weeks now government aerial attacks - mainly involving helicopters dropping so-called barrel bombs filled with high explosive and fuel –  have pummeled rebel areas. Human rights groups have condemned the Syrian air force’s use of barrel bombs, arguing that as an indiscriminate weapon they breach international laws of war.
 
On December 28, a barrel bomb dropped on a crowded market left more than 20 dead, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a pro-opposition monitoring group.
 
The barrel-bomb attacks have angered the SNC, prompting a threat to boycott Geneva talks.
 
The invitation list for peace-talk participants remains the subject of much diplomatic wrangling.
 
Syria is insisting that its key foreign ally Iran participate. Twenty-six countries have been invited but Iran as yet has not been asked.
 
“Syria is committed to Iran joining the peace conference,” Foreign Minister Walid Muallem, who is likely to lead the Syrian government team at Geneva, told the country’s official news agency SANA.
 
“It is illogical that the United States or the so-called opposition excludes this country from the conference for political reasons,” he said.
 
Before Christmas, United Nations peace envoy Lakhdar Brahimi told reporters that no agreement had been reached about Iran’s participation. The following day, his boss, U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon, urged that the objections to Iran’s involvement be dropped.
 
Even if the SNC and Iran do participate, Islamist militias that broke away from the Western-backed opposition group frown on any negotiations with Assad.
 
The leader of the most powerful rebel group in Syria, Ahrar al-Sham, has warned that he will not recognize any agreement reached in Geneva. Speaking to Al-Jazeera, Hassan Aboud said: “Whatever comes out of it, is binding only on the Syrian National Coalition. As far as we are concerned, we will continue the revolution until we restore our rights and our dignity.”
 
Differences over what the objectives are for Geneva 2 are also plaguing the run-up to the peace conference.
 
he rebels and Western powers see the goal as agreeing to a transition of power with Assad playing no further role. Syrian government officials, however, have voiced a different objective that would prolong the regime and with Assad standing for re-election.
 
French officials have triggered a behind-the-scenes diplomatic debate about whether a post-war Syria should be modeled on a formal federal system as adopted in neighboring Iraq or on a Lebanese power-sharing system that seeks to protect all religious sects, British diplomatic sources said.
 
But some Syria observers remain skeptical, arguing that French discussions on the form of governance are premature.
 
“I don’t think that Geneva 2 has any hope of moving forward,” said former CIA chief Michael Hayden.
 
But U.S. and European officials continue to voice optimism saying the obstacles to the talks can be overcome.

You May Like

Photogallery Americans Celebrate Thanksgiving With Feasts, Festivities

Holiday traditions include turkey dinners, 'turkey trots,' American-style football and New York parade with giant balloons More

Video For Obama, Ferguson Violence is a Personal Issue

With two years left in term, analysts say, president has less to lose by taking conversation on race further More

Video Italian Espresso Expands Into Space

When Italian astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti headed for the ISS, her countrymen worried how she would survive six months drinking only instant coffee More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Anonymous
January 01, 2014 3:18 AM
Of course the civilians of Syria will dislike assad even more if he destroys their cities, heritage, kills civilians and turns their city to dust. This is an atrocity indiscriminately dropping bombs in civilian populated areas with weapons that are made to kill anyone anywhere. These conventional weapons are worse than gas, it turns the city to dust and murders.

In Response

by: Samantha G. from: USA
January 01, 2014 7:12 AM
but this is the way Arabs treated Arabs since Biblical times... only Arabs know how worthless are the lives of other Arabs.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
To Make A Living, Nairobi Street Vendors Face Legal Hurdles, Physical Violencei
X
Lenny Ruvaga
November 27, 2014 7:05 PM
The Nairobi City Council has been accused of brutality in dealing with hawkers in the Central Business District - in order to stop them from illegally selling their wares on the streets. Lenny Ruvaga has more for VOA News from the Kenyan capital.
Video

Video To Make A Living, Nairobi Street Vendors Face Legal Hurdles, Physical Violence

The Nairobi City Council has been accused of brutality in dealing with hawkers in the Central Business District - in order to stop them from illegally selling their wares on the streets. Lenny Ruvaga has more for VOA News from the Kenyan capital.
Video

Video For Obama, Ferguson Violence is a Personal Issue

Throughout the crisis in Ferguson, Missouri, President Barack Obama has urged calm, restraint and respect for the rule of law. But the events in Ferguson have prompted him to call — more openly than he has before — for profound changes to end the racism and distrust that he believes still exists between whites and blacks in the United States. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Online Magazine Gets Kids Discussing Big Questions

Teen culture in America is often criticized for being superficial. But an online magazine has been encouraging some teenagers to explore deeper issues, and rewarding their efforts. VOA religion reporter Jerome Socolovsky went to this year’s Kidspirit awards ceremony in New York.
Video

Video US Community Kicks Off Thanksgiving With Parade

Thursday is Thanksgiving in the United States, a holiday whose roots go back to the country's earliest days as a British colony. One way Americans celebrate the occasion is with parades. Anush Avetisyan takes us to one such event on the day before Thanksgiving near Washington, where a community's diversity is on display. Joy Wagner narrates
Video

Video Aung San Suu Kyi: Myanmar Opposition to Keep Pushing for Constitutional Change

Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi says she and her supporters will continue pushing to amend a constitutional clause that bars her from running for president next year. VOA's Than Lwin Htun reports from the capital Naypyitaw in this report narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video Mali Attempts to Shut Down Ebola Transmission Chain

Senegal and Nigeria were able to stop small Ebola outbreaks by closely monitoring those who had contact with the sick person and quickly isolating anyone with symptoms. Mali is now scrambling to do the same. VOA’s Anne Look reports from Mali on what the country is doing to shut down the chain of transmission.
Video

Video Ukraine Marks Anniversary of Deadly 1930s Famine

During a commemoration for millions who died of starvation in Ukraine in the early 1930s, President Petro Poroshenko lashed out at Soviet-era totalitarianism for causing the deaths and accused today’s Russian-backed rebels in the east of using similar tactics. VOA’s Daniel Shearf reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video Hong Kong Protests at a Crossroads

New public opinion polls in Hong Kong indicate declining support for pro-democracy demonstrations after weeks of street protests. VOA’s Bill Ide in Guangzhou and Pros Laput in Hong Kong spoke with protesters and observers about whether demonstrators have been too aggressive in pushing for change.
Video

Video US Immigration Relief Imminent for Mixed-Status Families

Tens of thousands of undocumented immigrants in the Washington, D.C., area may benefit from a controversial presidential order announced this week. It's not a path to citizenship, as some activists hoped. But it will allow more immigrants who arrived as children or who have citizen children, to avoid deportation and work legally. VOA's Victoria Macchi talks with one young man who benefited from an earlier presidential order, and whose parents may now benefit after years of living in fear.
Video

Video New Skateboard Defies Gravity

A futuristic dream only a couple of decades ago, the hoverboard – a skateboard that floats above the ground - has finally been made possible. While still not ready for mass production, it promises to become a cool mode of transport... at least over some surfaces. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Impact US Oil Extraction

With the price of oil now less than $80 a barrel, motorists throughout the United States are benefiting from gas prices below $3 a gallon. But as VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the decreasing price of petroleum has a downside for the hydraulic fracturing industry in the United States.
Video

Video Tensions Build on Korean Peninsula Amid Military Drills

It has been another tense week on the Korean peninsula as Pyongyang threatened to again test nuclear weapons while the U.S. and South Korean forces held joint military exercises in a show of force. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from the Kunsan Air Base in South Korea.
Video

Video Mama Sarah Obama Honored at UN Women’s Entrepreneurship Day

President Barack Obama's step-grandmother is in the United States to raise money to build a $12 million school and hospital center in Kogelo, Kenya, the birthplace of the president's father, Barack Obama, Sr. She was honored for her decades of work to aid poor Kenyans at a Women's Entrepreneurship Day at the United Nations.
Video

Video Ebola Economic Toll Stirs W. Africa Food Security Concerns

The World Bank said Wednesday that it expects the economic impact of the Ebola outbreak on the sub-Saharan economy to cost somewhere betweenf $3 billion to $4 billion - well below a previously-outlined worst-case scenario of $32 billion. Some economists, however, paint a gloomier picture - warning that the disruption to regional markets and trading is considerable. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Chaos, Abuse Defy Solution in Libya

The political and security crisis in Libya is deepening, with competing governments and, according to Amnesty International, widespread human rights violations committed with impunity. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video US Hosts Record 866,000 Foreign Students

Close to 900,000 international students are studying at American universities and colleges, more than ever before. About half of them come from Asia, mostly China. The United States hosts more foreign students than any other country in the world, and its foreign student population is steadily growing. Zlatica Hoke reports.

All About America

AppleAndroid