February 9, 2014
The second round of the Geneva II peace talks is slated to begin Monday in Switzerland amidst low expectations: The conference’s first round concluded January 31 with little tangible progress. The Syrian government delegation reluctantly agreed to base further negotiations on the Geneva I Communiqué—which calls for the establishment of a transitional governing body with full executive powers—and the two sides reached a tentative agreement to evacuate citizens from besieged Old Homs while allowing aid into the neighborhoods.
This agreement was finally put into effect Saturday, only to have the United Nations aid convoy come under fire that injured one aid worker and killed five Homs residents. Another convoy reentered the city Sunday, and was again shelled. The source of the attacks remains unknown, but UN officials have speculated that militias loyal to the regime were responsible. Meanwhile, since the start of negotiations, the Syrian government has sustained a campaign of bombarding rebel-held areas of Syrian cities—particularly Aleppo—with “barrel bombs,” improvised bombs with little accuracy and great destructive capacity.
One day before Geneva’s second round is set to begin, two Islamist militias fighting in Syria—Jaish al-Mujahideen and the Islamic Union for Soldiers of the Levant—released a joint statement Sunday expressing their skepticism toward resuming the Geneva talks amidst the current circumstances. The statement warns that those parties that are prepared to negotiate with the regime “bear a large portion of the moral responsibility for what has been done to the Syrian people,” and insists that their participation in Geneva II will stand as “a vicious stab to the body of the Syrian revolution” unless it achieves four goals, including an end to regime blockades and the release of detained women and children. The two signatory groups released a similar statement prior to the first round of negotiations; the earlier statement, however, was signed by the Islamic Front, which ranks as Syria’s strongest rebel coalition and whose signature is conspicuously absent from the new statement.
The original statement in Arabic. Photo courtesy of Haleb Today.
The full translation is below:
Statement regarding the second round of the Geneva II negotiations
After the obvious terrorist messages from the murderous, criminal regime accompanying the convening of Geneva II, including the evil barrels which have killed women and children, sometimes burying them alive under the debris and other times forcing them to flee their homes and leaving them homeless in various areas inside and outside Syria…
These continuous messages, which began with Scud missiles, then proceeded to chemical shelling, and ended with barrel bombs, are night and day an open challenge from the savage regime to the international community, expressing its disdain for it and all its initiatives.
The Syrian revolution has become distinct from its counterparts elsewhere in the region, as the mujahideen are fighting a two-front war against the regime on one side, and the terrorism that the regime created on the other, which the government uses as a pretext at Geneva. The mujahideen believe that the regime and the terrorists are two sides of the same coin, seeking to achieve the same goal.
Human rights organizations documented the number of martyrs last January, describing it as the bloodiest month since the beginning of the revolution. A total of 3,012 civilians were martyred, including 358 children and 225 women.
The whole world has witnessed this through the media, as Syria’s skies rain barrel bombs at a rate of more than 40 per day between Aleppo and the Damascus suburbs, leaving tons of corpses of innocent children under the rubble, and rockets across Syria have mowed down an average of more than 150 martyrs daily.
These numbers have been reported by official, competent sources, who indicate that the total number of martyred and wounded is still greater.
Most military and political forces previously warned that going to Geneva without clear, specific conditions would not lead to anything except more of the savage regime’s practice of murder and terror.
Nonetheless, we held silent during the negotiating period in order to see if it might produce some beneficial results, only to find ourselves bombarded, subjected to murder, destruction and displacement, not even sparing small children, women or the elderly.
The forces signing this statement emphatically warn those claiming to represent the Syrian people, who are quick to attend international meetings with no consideration for the sanctity of the blood of martyrs, for bereaved women and mothers of the detained, and for the injuries of the wounded. These parties bear a large share of the moral responsibility for what has been done to the Syrian people and their free revolution.
Although we have not entrusted any party with the right to negotiate with the criminal regime, and regardless of the conditions required for any political solution, we warn against any return to Geneva—in which we see no prospect for our people’s success—that does not accomplish the following:
- First: A pledge from those countries supporting the Assad regime to fully halt all forms of shelling in all areas of Syria.
- Second: An end to the forced displacement of civilians, [as is currently taking place with the international community’s] measures intended to displace the native residents of Homs under the entire world’s gaze.
- Thirdly: The release of detained women and children.
- Fourthly: The complete lifting of blockades in all parts of Syria, without exception.
Any return to Geneva that does not achieve these goals will be like a vicious stab to the body of the Syrian revolution, which the Syrian people will not forgive.
We call all of the leaders of the revolutionary political, military and civilian forces to tighten their ranks, and not divide in face of the great challenges that beset our revolution.
The signatories to the statement pledge to God Almighty that they will continue in their revolution against oppression and tyranny, sacrificing to defend the honor of the nation and the rights of the wronged, achieving a victory or attaining martyrdom.
The Islamic Union of Soldiers of the Levant
Saturday the 8th of Rabia al-Thani 1435
Agreed to 8th February 2014