Syria Peace talks in jeopardy

Syria Peace talks in jeopardy

A United Nations peace envoy said a militant attack in Syria on Saturday was a deliberate attempt to wreck peace talks in Geneva, while the warring sides traded blame and appeared no closer to actual negotiations.

Suicide bombers stormed two Syrian security offices in Homs, killing dozens with gunfire and explosions including the head of military security, prompting airstrikes against the last rebel-held enclave in the western city.

“Spoilers were always expected, and should continue to be expected, to try to influence the proceedings of the talks. It is in the interest of all parties who are against terrorism and are committed to a political process in Syria not to allow these attempts to succeed,” U.N. mediator Staffan de Mistura said in a statement.

A still image taken from a video uploaded to a social media website purports to show air strikes in the rebel-held al-Waer area of Homs

De Mistura has met the two sides separately in Geneva while he tries to get agreement on how talks to end the six-year-old conflict should be arranged.

He has warned not to expect any quick breakthrough and to beware of letting the violence derail any fragile progress, as happened repeatedly in the past. A ceasefire brokered by Russia and Turkey with Iran’s support is increasingly being violated by both sides.

A man tries to put out a fire at a site hit by airstrikes in the rebel-controlled town of Ariha in Idlib province

The jihadist rebel alliance Tahrir al-Sham, which opposes the talks — although it has fought alongside factions that are represented there — said that five suicide bombers had carried out Saturday’s attack. It celebrated with the words “thanks be to God” but stopped short of explicitly claiming responsibility.

Tahrir al-Sham was formed this year from several groups including Jabhat Fateh al-Sham, which was formerly known as the Nusra Front and was al Qaeda’s Syrian branch until it broke formal allegiance to the global jihadist movement in 2016.

After a 2-1/2 hour-long meeting with de Mistura, the Syrian government’s lead negotiator Bashar al-Ja’afari spoke to reporters and repeatedly demanded the opposition condemn the attacks or face the consequences. – Reuters

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