News / Middle East

    Damascus Suburb Blasts Kill 60 near Shi'ite Shrine

    Salim al-Muslat, spokesman for the High Negotiations Committee (HNC), the main Syrian opposition group at the Geneva peace talks, attends a news conference in Geneva, Switzerland, Jan. 31, 2016.
    Salim al-Muslat, spokesman for the High Negotiations Committee (HNC), the main Syrian opposition group at the Geneva peace talks, attends a news conference in Geneva, Switzerland, Jan. 31, 2016.
    VOA News

    A triple bombing in a southern Damascus suburb killed at least 60 people Sunday.

    Two suicide bombers detonated explosives as rescue efforts were underway after a car bombing in the Sayeda Zeinab district of Damascus, where Syria's holiest Shi'ite shrine is located. 

    The violence occurred before Syria's main opposition group met with U.N. envoy Staffan de Mistura in Geneva. Mistura is attempting to get warring Syrian factions to the negotiating table for a political solution to the country's nearly five-year civil war.

    Before participating in peace talks with the Syrian government, the High Negotiations Committee is demanding an end to government sieges and Russian airstrikes in rebel-held areas.

    An HNC spokesman said Saturday the group is in Geneva primarily to talk about humanitarian issues, and only then would move to further negotiations.

    The U.N.-mediated talks that opened Friday are the first international effort for a peaceful settlement in Syria since the last round of U.N. negotiations broke apart in 2014 with little progress.

    An overview of the room where Staffan de Mistura, the U.N. mediator for Syria, and the Syrian delegation, led by Syrian Ambassador to the U.N. Bashar Jaafari, opened the Syrian peace talks at the U.N. European headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland, Jan. 29,
    An overview of the room where Staffan de Mistura, the U.N. mediator for Syria, and the Syrian delegation, led by Syrian Ambassador to the U.N. Bashar Jaafari, opened the Syrian peace talks at the U.N. European headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland, Jan. 29,

    De Mistura has met with the Syrian government delegation headed by the country's U.N. Ambassador Bashar Jaafari.

    Kurds leave Geneva 

    Representatives of Syrian Kurds fighting against the Syrian government said they were not invited to join the Geneva meetings, and will not be part of the peace talks. Turkey opposed the Syrian Kurds' participation, contending they are linked to the Kurdish fighters who have fought with Turkey for 30 years over control of Kurdish-majority areas of southeastern Turkey. 

    The civil war in Syria has dragged on for nearly five years, killed a quarter of a million people and displaced millions more.The conflict has also seen the birth of the Islamic State militant group and triggered a massive wave of refugees to western Europe.

    The battles in Syria have intensified since September when Russia began airstrikes in support of President Bashar al-Assad, countering the efforts of opposition groups supported by the United States, some members of the European Union, Turkey and Saudi Arabia.

    The complicated backdrop makes the peace process especially difficult.

    Residents help an injured man to walk after what activists said were three consecutive air strikes carried out by the Russian air force in the rebel-controlled area of Maaret al-Numan town in Idlib province, Syria, Jan. 12, 2016.
    Residents help an injured man to walk after what activists said were three consecutive air strikes carried out by the Russian air force in the rebel-controlled area of Maaret al-Numan town in Idlib province, Syria, Jan. 12, 2016.

    Significant gains for Assad's forces 

    With Russian support, Assad’s forces have made significant gains.Analysts say the government has little incentive to negotiate with an opposition that is weak and fractured.

    Despite the opposition coalition's move toward joining the Geneva talks, analysts are pessimistic.Nadim Shehadi of the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy in Boston sees little chance of success.

    “We are pressuring the opposition to prove that they are united, coherent, that they have a strong leadership and that they have a vision, and a policy and a certain consensus on what the future will be," Shehadi said." And I do not think they do, I do not think they will in the near future, and I do not think they can.” 

    Some material for this report came from AP and AFP.

    You May Like

    Escalation of Media Crackdown in Turkey Heightens Concerns

    Critics see 'a new dark age' as arrests of journalists, closures of media outlets by Erdogan government mount

    Russia Boasts of Troop Buildup on Flank, Draws Flak

    Russian military moves counter to efforts to de-escalate tensions, State Department says

    Video Iraqis Primed to March on Mosul, Foreign Minister Says

    Iraqi FM Ibrahim al-Jaafari tells VOA the campaign will meet optimistic expectations, even though US officials remain cautious

    This forum has been closed.
    Comment Sorting
    Comments
         
    by: meanbill from: USA
    January 31, 2016 10:48 AM
    Crazy isn't it? .. that the US and their supported terrorist groups want a Russia and Syrian army ceasefire so they can continue to rearm, resupply, reposition their supported terrorist groups without fear of being killed, [but not at anytime], has the US and their terrorist allies offered their own ceasefire against the Russian backed Syrian army, so (all) the Syrian civilians in every Syrian city and town can get the aid and healthcare they need? .. From a position of military weakness, the US and the terrorists make terms, conditions, and demands for the Russians and Syrians to meet, (without offering to abide by those same terms, conditions, and demands), before they'll consider talking about a peace settlement in the Syrian war?

    Wouldn't it be more logical for all sides in the Syrian war to support a UN removal of all the sick, starving, old and crippled, and other civilians from the war torn cities and towns to safer places or countries elsewhere? .. Why just feed and give healthcare to them now, when they'll need food and healthcare the next week, the next month, and next year? .. Removing the civilians from the warzones, is the only logical solution to ending the sick, starving, old and crippled, and other problems the Syrian civilians face, [and it doesn't help the Syrian civilians at all], if the US and terrorists got a Russian and Syrian ceasefire so the US and NATO can rearm, resupply, reequip, and reposition the terrorist groups that they support?

    by: meanbill from: USA
    January 31, 2016 8:11 AM
    Crazy isn't it? .. The US and NATO are on the exact same side in this Syrian war, and demand a Russian and Syrian army bombing ceasefire, and also demand that the Russian backed Syrian army stop their military advances and withdraw their army surrounding key cities and towns so the US and NATO can (under the guise of feeding starving Syrians), rearm, resupply, reequip, and reposition the terrorist groups that they support, while the US, NATO and all the terrorist groups keeps on waging war on the Shia Muslim led government of Assad and Syria?

    A Wise Man said; "Why can't the US and NATO and the terrorist groups ask for a Russian, Syrian army, US, NATO, and their Sunni Muslim allies bombing ceasefire, [so the UN can remove any innocent civilians] that are starving or sick or want to leave, [and they can safely be removed from the warzones], to stop these same starving conditions from being repeated over and over again." .. If those sick and starving Syrian civilians were removed from the battlefield they wouldn't need the same food supplies and health care next week, next month and next year, would they? .. Why can't the US and NATO bargain honestly? .. Remove the people, don't feed and resupply the terrorists?

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Immigrant Delegate Marvels at Democratic Processi
    X
    Katherine Gypson
    July 27, 2016 6:21 PM
    It’s been a bitter and divisive election season – but first time Indian-American delegate Dr. Shashi Gupta headed to the Democratic National Convention with a sense of hope. VOA’s Katherine Gypson followed this immigrant with the love of U.S. politics all the way to Philadelphia.
    Video

    Video Immigrant Delegate Marvels at Democratic Process

    It’s been a bitter and divisive election season – but first time Indian-American delegate Dr. Shashi Gupta headed to the Democratic National Convention with a sense of hope. VOA’s Katherine Gypson followed this immigrant with the love of U.S. politics all the way to Philadelphia.
    Video

    Video A Life of Fighting Back: Hillary Clinton Shatters Glass Ceiling

    Hillary Clinton made history Thursday, overcoming personal and political setbacks to become the first woman to win the presidential nomination of a major U.S. political party. If she wins in November, she will go from “first lady” to U.S. Senator from New York, to Secretary of State, to “Madam President.” Polls show Clinton is both beloved and despised. White House Correspondent Cindy Saine takes a look at the life of the woman both supporters and detractors agree is a fighter for the ages.
    Video

    Video Dutch Entrepreneurs Turn Rainwater Into Beer

    June has been recorded as one of the wettest months in more than a century in many parts of Europe. To a group of entrepreneurs in Amsterdam the rain came as a blessing, as they used the extra water to brew beer. Serginho Roosblad has more to the story.
    Video

    Video First Time Delegate’s First Day Frustrations

    With thousands of people filling the streets of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania for the 2016 Democratic National Convention, VOA’s Kane Farabaugh narrowed in on one delegate as she made her first trip to a national party convention. It was a day that was anything but routine for this United States military veteran.
    Video

    Video Commerce Thrives on US-Mexico Border

    At the Democratic Convention in Philadelphia this week, the party’s presumptive presidential nominee, Hillary Clinton, is expected to attack proposals made by her opponent, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. Last Friday, President Barack Obama hosted his Mexican counterpart, President Enrique Peña Nieto, to underscore the good relations between the two countries. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Tucson.
    Video

    Video Film Helps Save Ethiopian Children Thought to be Cursed

    'Omo Child' looks at effort of African man to stop killings of ‘mingi’ children
    Video

    Video London’s Financial Crown at Risk as Rivals Eye Brexit Opportunities

    By most measures, London rivals New York as the only true global financial center. But Britain’s vote to leave the European Union – so-called ‘Brexit’ – means the city could lose its right to sell services tariff-free across the bloc, risking its position as Europe’s financial headquarters. Already some banks have said they may shift operations to the mainland. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
    Video

    Video Recycling Lifeline for Lebanon’s Last Glassblowers

    In a small Lebanese coastal town, one family is preserving a craft that stretches back millennia. The art of glass blowing was developed by Phoenicians in the region, and the Khalifehs say they are the only ones keeping the skill alive in Lebanon. But despite teaming up with an eco-entrepreneur and receiving an unexpected boost from the country’s recent trash crisis the future remains uncertain. John Owens reports from Sarafand.
    Video

    Video Migrants Continue to Risk Lives Crossing US Border from Mexico

    In his speech Thursday before the Republican National Convention, the party’s presidential candidate, Donald Trump, reiterated his proposal to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border if elected. Polls show a large percentage of Americans support better control of the nation's southwestern border, but as VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from the border town of Nogales in the Mexican state of Sonora, the situation faced by people trying to cross the border is already daunting.
    Video

    Video In State of Emergency, Turkey’s Erdogan Focuses on Spiritual Movement

    The state of emergency that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has declared is giving him even more power to expand a purge that has seen an estimated 60,000 people either arrested or suspended from their jobs. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports from Istanbul.
    Video

    Video Calm the Waters: US Doubles Down Diplomatic Efforts in ASEAN Meetings

    The United States is redoubling diplomatic efforts and looking to upcoming regional meetings to calm the waters after an international tribunal invalidated the legal basis of Beijing's extensive claims in the South China Sea. VOA State Department correspondent Nike Ching has the story.
    Video

    Video Scientists in Poland Race to Save Honeybees

    Honeybees are in danger worldwide. Causes of what's known as colony collapse disorder range from pesticides and loss of habitat to infections. But scientists in Poland say they are on track to finding a cure for one of the diseases. VOA’s George Putic reports.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora