Syria talks focus on ‘terrorism’

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17 Jul 2019

Syria’s warring sides focused on “terrorism” during a sixth day of talks in Geneva, sparring over who was to blame for the violence tearing their country apart.


For the first time in days, the two sides appeared to have agreed on the topic of discussion, but while they both wanted to talk about “terrorism” their interpretations of who was behind the violence differed widely.

The delegation from President Bashar al-Assad’s regime has long insisted the talks must first address “terrorism” by jihadists and armed groups in the opposition, as well as countries like Arab monarchies and Turkey that support them.

It points out that halting the violence was the first item on the Geneva I communique – the never-implemented roadmap to peace adopted in 2012 and the focus of the current talks.

The opposition National Coalition delegation, however, maintains that setting up the transitional government called for in Geneva I must come first, and must entail Assad’s departure, something the regime flatly rejects.

On Thursday morning, the regime delegation presented a text it wanted the other side to agree on, urging all states to “prevent and stop the funding of terrorist acts”.

The text, obtained by AFP, also insisted that “fighting terrorist organisations and driving them out of Syria is a common objective and duty for every Syrian”.

The opposition rejected the communique as “one-sided” and “unacceptable”, delegations spokesman Louay Safi told reporters, pointing out that the text failed to denounce “the regime’s crimes against humanity”.

The opposition representatives had presented a massive file about “the regime’s violence against the people,” he said.

“The biggest terrorist in Syria is Bashar al Assad,” a source close to the opposition negotiating team told AFP.

“The regime wants to talk about terrorism. Barrel bombs are terrorism. Starving populations to death is terrorism. Torture, imprisonment are terrorism.”

Despite a constant combative tone, relations between the two sides appeared to be thawing, UN mediator Lakhdar Brahimi said on Wednesday.

“The ice is breaking, slowly, but it is breaking,” he told reporters, adding though that he did not expect “anything substantive” to come out of the initial round of talks that are set to conclude Friday.

But he stressed that simply getting the parties talking for the first time since the conflict erupted in March 2011 was an important step.

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