Syrian opposition prepares for Geneva talks with Turkish officials in Ankara
Sevil Erkuş - ANKARA
REUTERS photoTurkish Foreign Ministry Undersecretary Ümit Yalçın met political and military representatives of the Syrian opposition on Feb. 3 in Ankara to prepare for a meeting in Geneva on Feb. 20, Turkish Foreign Ministry sources told the Hürriyet Daily News.
Riad Hijab, the general coordinator of the High Negotiations Committee, President of the Syrian National Council Enes el Abde, representatives of opposition military groups participating in the Astana talks, the Syrian Kurdish National Council and Syrian Turkmen representatives are expected to attend the preparations. Some Druze and Alawite religious scholars will also attend the meeting.
United Nations Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura has asked the opposition to assemble its list of participants as soon as possible.
Russia, Turkey and Iran are expected to discuss the current cease-fire in Syria and monitor its implementation, the modalities of the truce monitoring system and observe enforcement measures in a meeting in Astana on Feb. 6.
The latest round of Syria peace talks, organized by Iran, Russia and Turkey, was held in Kazakhstan’s capital, Astana, on Jan. 24.
The talks had ended with a joint statement from Russia, Turkey and Iran about the consequences of the talks and agreed on a trilateral mechanism to support the fragile cease-fire. They had not stated how much of the cease-fire could be maintained.
Several media outlets affiliated to Syrian opposition groups have reported that the head of the opposition’s delegation in Astana, Mohammed Alloush, was misrepresented and smeared by Russia.
Alloush has reportedly denied claims that armed rebel groups had agreed to cooperate with Syrian regime forces and its ally forces in fighting Jabhat al-Nusra and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).
Damascus says to deliver letters to UN over Turkey’s operation in Syria
Meanwhile, Damascus said Feb. 2 that it delivered two letters to the United Nations Security Council rebuking Turkey’s military operations in northern Syria.
“In recent days, Turkish armed forces have carried out an incursion into Syrian territory and have occupied some Syrian villages, including two west of Al-Bab,” said the letters, sent by the foreign ministry and published by SANA.
“This represents a flagrant violation of Syrian sovereignty and of the principles and purposes of the UN Charter and the rules of international law,” they said.
Turkey launched its ongoing Euphrates Shield operation on Aug. 24, 2016, in order to clear its border of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and Syrian Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD) forces, which Ankara regards as terrorist organizations.
Turkish forces along with Ankara-backed Free Syrian Army (FSA) fighters have been fighting to capture al-Bab from ISIL since early December last year.
After the evacuation of Aleppo from rebel forces one month ago, Syrian regime forces backed by Russia and Iran have launched an assault to take the whole of the Aleppo province, which also comprises of al-Bab.
The Syrian regime letters accused Ankara of supporting “terrorism” and said the Security Council should act to “put an end to the violations of the Turkish regime.”
Meanwhile, a total of 47 ISIL militants were “neutralized” in the last 24 hours as part of the Euphrates Shield operation in northern Syria, the military announced on Feb. 3.
Turkish authorities use the word “neutralized” to refer to militants who are killed, wounded or otherwise incapacitated.
The Turkish Armed Forces also hit 135 ISIL targets in northern Syria, the General Staff said in a statement to mark the operation’s 164th day.