Lack of ‘pressure’ on Syria regime as truce fails

A US-backed main opposition group left Geneva on Tuesday in protest at the escalating violence in Syria

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Syria’s main opposition chief on Tuesday lamented a crumbled truce, calling for major powers to meet on the crisis, as his group left Geneva in protest against the escalating violence.

UN peace envoy Staffan de Mistura said Monday he had been informed that the US and Saudi-backed opposition group, known as the High Negotiations Committee (HNC), would suspend its "formal participation" in the talks.


Riad Hijab, the head coordinator of the HNC, called on Tuesday for the UN Security Council to take firm actions against violators of the truce, which had been in place for about a month.


Hijab told journalists later on Tuessday that he and other colleagues were leaving a day after the group put its participation at the talks on hold to protest escalating violence and restrictions on humanitarian access in Syria.

Some delegation members will meanwhile remain in Geneva for technical discussions at their hotel with UN staff and for workshops on humanitarian issues and detainees, Hijab said.

The head of the delegation for the main group within the HNC at the peace talks, Asaad al-Zoubi, told Al Arabiya English that the talks had failed to push Assad’s regime into “genuine negotiations.”

“It looked that the aim was just to bring Bashar’s regime to Geneva,” said Zoubi.

“We are fully convinced that international parties did not exercise enough pressure on Syrian regime and therefore we decided to halt any kind of participation until we see a better environment for discussion,” the opposition official said.

Hijab, the HNC coordinator, also said a clear timetable for the political transition in Syria is a must - adding such a transition cannot include Syrian Presdient Bashar al-Assad.

“There cannot be a solution in Syria while Bashar Assad is present,” he said.

Ghassan Ibrahim, a Syrian analyst and chief of London-based news outlet Global Arab Network, said that the Syrian regime has continued to carry out attacks during negotiations, amid what he called Western inaction. “If we look at America, they are not doing anything – so the result of that is that the Security Council is not doing its job. So the opposition had to postpone the negotiations,” he told Al Arabiya English.

“The opposition called on the Security Council to discuss the Syrian situation and they ask Mr de Mistura [the UN’s special envoy to Syria] to highlight the difficulties he is facing, because so far the regime is not cooperating,” Ibrahim added.

‘No hope’

French President Francois Hollande called the Syrian opposition’s decision to suspend participation in peace talks was “worrying.”

"If the truce is broken, fighting will restart, and civilians will flee once again. There will be no hope," Hollande said after talks with Jordan’s king.

Russia on Tuesday urged the talks to continue, according to the Kremlin, commenting on the decision by the mainstream Syrian opposition to take a pause in the negotiations.

“We believe this (the peace talks) is a necessary condition,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said in a conference call with journalists.

“The need to continue this dialogue and maintain the ceasefire regime was stressed yesterday during the telephone conversation between President Putin and President Obama.”

Meanwhile, fighting intensified Tuesday in northern and central Syria as government forces sought to repel rebel advances on a government stronghold.

Rebels and activists reported fighting in rural parts of northern Latakia province, a government stronghold, one day after rebels launched a new offensive against government forces because of what they said were repeated ceasefire violations.

Al-Manar TV, affiliated with the pro-Assad Lebanese Hezbollah group, said government forces pushed rebel forces from areas they seized a day earlier. Rebel groups posted videos of new areas they claimed were seized during their new push.

(With Reuters and AP)

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