Thursday 30 May 2013

Firat news: Syria discussed in London

Following the 7 May US-Russian agreement to work towards an end of the violence engulfing Syria, Dr Haytham Manna, an outspoken member of Syria’s opposition who has long argued against foreign military intervention and in favour of a political track, will consider the key openings and obstacles lying ahead of this new push. Dr Manna will lay out today in London his thoughts on the competing ambitions of regime and opposition forces, deteriorating domestic and regional fault lines, particularly deepening sectarianism, as well as his own vision for a way forward.

The event will mark the publication of ECFR’s latest policy brief, Syria: the Imperative of De-escalation. In this publication, ECFR policy fellows Julien Barnes-Dacey and Daniel Levy argue that a real diplomatic push – an inclusive process shorn of maximalist aims – is the best and only hope of salvaging Syria’s future.

Dr Haytham Manna, an academic and human rights activist, is Deputy Head of the National Coordination Body for Democratic Change (NCC), a coalition of opposition parties based in Syria, and the body’s representative abroad. The NCC opposes foreign military intervention in Syria, calling instead for a political solution to the crisis.

Julien Barnes-Dacey is a Senior Policy Fellow at the Middle East and North Africa programme at ECFR. Julien is the author of several publications for ECFR including ‘Lebanon: Containing spillover from Syria’ .

YPG: attacks are a conspiracy of Turkish and Syrian regimes

People’s Defense Units (YPG) Afrin Area Command released a written statement on the recent attacks targeting the region of Afrin since 25 May. YPG Area Command said the attacks were a conspiracy of the Turkish and Syrian Baath regimes.

The statement pointed out that the unity and resistance by the people of Afrin will defeat the Turkey-Syrian backed dirty games targeting the region of Rojava and Afrin in particular.

YPG remarked that all political parties in the region, with the exception of the Azadi party, have recently paid a visit to the YPG office to express their solidarity with the Kurdish movement.

YPG said all other peoples in Afrin have recently taken up arms and expressed their desire to defend and support the Kurdish revolution in Afrin. “We will defeat all the attacks against Afrin by means of the sense of unity Kurds have created among themselves and other peoples”, it underlined.

Remarking that the ways from Azaz and Dart Aze to Afrin have been closed to traffic recently, YPG Area Command said that “This is not a friendly nor a humane approach and those who are planning to take the control of Efrin by means of embargo are wrong, considering the fact that the province resisted against all kinds of embargos during three months last winter. Imposing an embargo on Afrin serves for nothing but increasing the reactions of the people living here”.

Referring to the recently released declaration about the alleged agreement between some armed groups attacking Afrin with an aim to break the Kurdish resistance here, YPG Area Command said that “Those who denied relation with the declaration are those who will be fighting against the planners of the conflict environment intended to be created among peoples. We believe the Syrian revolution consists of honest circles and true revolutionaries”.

YPG Area Command said they had some documents revealing Turkey’ conspiracies and plans about attacks targeting Afrin, adding, “We have concrete information that Turkey has paid some Islamist groups such as Liva Tevhit, Azazdaki Liva Asifet Shimal, Liva Fatih and Devlül Islamiyê in order that they lead up to clashes between Islamist groups and Kurds in Syria. Turkey wants to take revenge on Kurds through the Srian revolution”.

The statement remarked that the Syrian regime was now trying to overcome the deadlock it faced in the conflict going on in Aleppo.

“The game they are playing is a very dirty one aiming to make Islamist groups and Arab people clash with Kurds. YPG has never discriminated between the peoples, parties, minorities and sects and it will continue doing so from now on as well”, the statement added.

Syrian Observatory for Human RightsDocumented deaths by the SOHR from 18/3/2011 to 29/5/2013

96,066 people killed since the beginning of the uprising.The dead:
35418 civilians (including 4945 children and 3179 women)
12542 rebel fighters
1962 defected soldiers
24591 regular soldiers
17016 pro-regime gunmen (Shabiha, Popular Committee, National Defence Forces)
2459 unidentified persons
2111 unidentifiable rebels
Final death toll for Thursday 30/05/2013; More than 140 were killed in Syria. The dead include: 57 civilians, 54 rebel fighters, 1 YPG fighter, 3 defected officers, 5 non-Syrian rebel fighters and at least 24 regular soldiers.

– In Homs 9 civilians and 10 rebel fighters were killed. 6 men, including 2 rebel fighters, were killed when regular forces targeted a vehicle transporting injured persons in the entrances of al-Qseir city. 4 men were killed by bombardment on the towns and cities of al-Rastan, al-Ghanto, Qal’et al-Husun, and al-Bweida al-Sharqiya of Reef Homs. A man from the al-Naziheen camp of Homs city was tortured to death after detainment by regular forces. 6 rebel fighters were killed by clashes with regular forces and Hezbollah in the al-Qseir city and al-Dab’a town. 2 rebel fighters were killed by a regime ambush in the outskirts of al-Qseir city.

– In Reef Dimashq 17 civilians and 18 rebel fighters were killed. 9 civilians (2 children, a woman and 6 men) were killed by bombardment on the towns and cities of Douma, Marj al-Sultan and Hteta al-Turkman. A man died of wounds received by bombardment on the Babila town 2 days earlier. A man from the A’rbin city was shot by regular forces. A man from the Harasta city was killed by bombardment on the al-Qaboun neighbourhood of Damascus city. A woman died of wounds received earlier when she was shot in the Hteita al-Turkman town. 4 civilians, including a woman and child, were killed by an unknown explosion in the Kanaker town of Reef Dimashq. 2 rebel fighters from the A’rbin city were killed by clashes and bombardment on the Jobar neighbourhood of Damascus city. 16 rebel fighters were killed by bombardment and clashes in the towns and cities of al-Mleiha, Beit Sahem, Daraiya, A’rbin, Yabroud, Wadi Barada and areas in the al-Qalamoun.

– In Aleppo 2 civilians and 14 rebel fighters and 1 YPG fighter were killed. A man from the Bustan al-Qasr neighbourhood of Aleppo city was tortured to death by regular forces 2 months earlier. A man was killed by bombardment on the al-Bahira village of southern Reef Aleppo. A fighter from the Kurdish Defence Units (YPG) was killed by clashes with rebel fighters in the Basla village of Reef A’frin city. 2 rebel fighters were killed by clashes with regular forces in the perimeter of the Aleppo central prison and the perimeter of the Mangh military airport of Reef Aleppo. A rebel fighter from the Kafr Halab town was killed by clashes with regular forces in the perimeter of the al-Iskan al-A’skari checkpoint of Reef Idlib. 11 rebel fighters from Reef Aleppo were killed by a regime ambush in the outskirts of al-Qseir city of Reef Homs.

– In Hama 1 civilian and 4 rebel fighters were killed. A man from the al-Jarniya village of Reef Hama was tortured to death by regular forces 2 weeks earlier. 4 rebel fighters were killed by clashes and bombardment on eastern Reef Hama.

– In Dera’a 7 civilians and 3 rebel fighters were killed. 4 civilians, including a woman, were killed by bombardment on the al-Na’ima town of Reef Dera’a and the Tariq al-Sad neighbourhood of Dera’a city. 2 men from the A’tman and al-Mseifra towns were tortured to death after detainment by regular forces months earlier. A man was shot by regular forces in the Jasem town of Reef Dera’a. 3 rebel fighters were killed by clashes with regular forces in Dera’a city.

– In Deir Izzor a man from the al-Boukamal city was tortured to death after months of regime detainment.

– In Idlib 4 civilians and 4 rebel fighters were killed. 3 men were killed by bombardment ont he M’aret Musrin town of Reef Idlib. A man from Idlib was killed by regime bombardment on the Barza neighbourhood of Damascus city. 4 rebel fighters were killed by clashes with regular forces in the perimeter of the al-Iskan al-A’skari checkpoint of Reef Idlib.

– In al-Raqqa 12 civilians were killed. 1 child, 2 women, and 9 men were killed by mortar shells on the Seif al-Dawla street of al-Raqqa city.

– In Damascus 4 civilians and 1 rebel fighter were killed. 2 men were killed by bombardment ont he Barza and al-Qaboun neighbourhoods. A man was shot by sniper in the al-Yarmouk camp. A man from the al-Qaboun neighbourhood was found dead in the outskirts of the neighbourhood. A rebel fighter was killed by clashes with regular forces in al-Qaboun neighbourhood.


– Reports indicate that 4 civilians were killed by bombardment on the Barza neighbourhood of Damascus city.


– 3 defected officers (a captain, lieutenant and first lieutenant) were killed by clashes and mortar shells on Reef Homs and Reef Dimashq.

– 5 non-Syrian rebel fighters were killed by clashes and bombardment in Aleppo, Deir Izzor, Hama and Reef Dimashq.


– At least 24 regular soldiers were killed by explosions, clashes and bombardment in several Syrian provinces: 5 in Homs, 8 Damascus and Reef Dimashq, 4 Dera’a, 4 Hama, 1 Deir Izzor and 2 in Aleppo.

Homs province: Violent clashes broke out between rebel fighters from one side and regular forces along with Hezbollah on the other side in al-Qseir city and its Reef, reports of human losses from both sides. Several rebel fighters were killed and wounded by clashes with regular forces near the Shamsin town. Clashes are taking place in the entrances of A’rjoun village and the outskirts of the al-Dab’a military airport that regular forces have taken hold of. The civil hospitals in al-Qseir city are extremely short of medical supplies because of the siege by regular forces. In eastern Reef Homs the fields of Palmyra were bombarded by regular forces, no reports of human losses.

Reuters: Syrian opposition admits liberals to anti-Assad coalition ISTANBUL – Syria’s opposition, under pressure to broaden its Islamist-dominated leadership, struggled to overcome deep rifts on Thursday and form a united front for a proposed international conference to try to end the Syrian war.

Delegates at talks in Istanbul agreed to add 14 members of a liberal bloc led by veteran figure Michel Kilo to the 60-member assembly of the Syrian National Coalition, the closest body that Assad’s foes have to an overall civilian leadership in the two-year-old uprising against President Bashar al-Assad.

That partial breakthrough followed seven days of talks and required the intervention of Turkey and Western and Arab nations. They fear that unless deep fissures in the opposition ranks are healed, the chances of a successful Geneva peace conference soon, sponsored by Russia and the United States, are slight.

But many hurdles remain in the process to choose new leaders for a coalition that has been rudderless since March and to name a provisional government that could strengthen what are now weak links with rebel units inside Syria.

A U.S. State Department spokeswoman said there was no deal yet but the coalition was working on one and Washington was “hopeful that the opposition will vote to elect leadership and to come to a conclusion on how they will expand their membership”.

“We … expect when they make their final decisions we will be able to work with those leadership members and move forward in planning the Geneva conference,” she said.

The coalition is controlled by the powerful Muslim Brotherhood and a faction loyal to Mustafa al-Sabbagh, a businessman who has been Qatar’s point man for channelling financial and armed support to the opposition.

Thursday’s announcement would give Kilo’s bloc 14 seats, short of the 25 he had demanded, and also add more allies of Sabbagh’s and other factions to the assembly. It has yet to be finalised.

Kilo sounded optimistic. “We have reached an agreement. I think we need some time to prepare before we embark on the leadership selection process,” he said.


But a formal vote to approve Kilo’s bloc entry was delayed late on Thursday and negotiations stretched into another night.

A member of the Sabbagh bloc said: “Internal procedures must be respected and Kilo cannot be allowed to shove his way into the coalition.”

Sabbagh and Kilo are also negotiating the admission of 14 other members of activists’ groups inside Syria and finding a neutral mechanism to choose them.

Agreement has yet to be reached on Free Syrian Army demands to be represented in the coalition, coalition sources said.

The shape of the new coalition, if it is formalised, could lessen the dominant influence of Qatar and give Saudi Arabia more influence in opposition politics as Riyadh backs the Kilo bid and improves its ties with the brotherhood.

Lebanese Shi’ite guerrillas from Iranian-backed Hezbollah are openly fighting alongside government forces in Syria. Opposition sources say Saudi Arabia is keen to play a greater role in backing the Sunni-led opposition against Assad, who belongs to the Alawite sect, an offshoot of Shi’ite Islam that has controlled Syria since the 1960s.

Kilo, a multi-lingual, soft-spoken former political prisoner, came out of the meeting room accompanied by a senior official of the Muslim Brotherhood, which lent de facto support to Kilo in the haggling over the expansion of the assembly.

The Brotherhood has good links with Qatar and is also influenced by Turkey which gave Brotherhood members fleeing President Hafez al-Assad’s repression refuge in the 1980s.

Kamal al-Labwani, a maverick member of the coalition, said a rapprochement between the liberal and Islamist wing of the opposition could help it undercut Russian attempts to have figures among the representatives of the opposition at Geneva who are willing to allow Assad to stay in power.

“It is very dangerous to allow an opposition delegation to go to Geneva without sticking to the goals of the revolution, or accept an early ceasefire under the excuse that the people are tired, without guarantees that the regime will depart,” Labwani said.

“An incomplete peace that awards a de facto pardon to Bashar and his cohorts will be far more costly than a continuation of the war.”

(Additional reporting by Lesley Wroughton in Washington; Editing by Andrew Roche)

Russian, U.S. and U.N. officials to meet on Syria on June 5

MOSCOW – Russian, U.S. and U.N. officials will meet next week to prepare for a proposed peace conference in June between warring sides in Syria, U.N. and U.S. officials said on Thursday.

“We can confirm that on 5 June 2013 in Geneva, US, Russian and UN officials will hold a three-way meeting to further the preparations for the international conference on Syria envisioned under the U.S.-Russian initiative,” a U.N. spokeswoman said in a statement.

The meeting was agreed to in talks last week between Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said.

Guardian: Syria: Assad says government is to receive missiles from Russia

30 May 2013: President’s claim raises tensions after indication by senior Israeli figures that delivery may prompt pre-emptive attack

BBC: Assad warns Israel against strikes

Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad warns Israel it will respond in kind to any future air strikes and hints at an offensive in the Golan Heights.