* U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry insisted that President Bashar al-Assad would not be part of a Syrian transitional government at the beginning of the long-awaited Geneva II conference in Montreux, Switzerland on Wednesday. After a week of frantic diplomatic shuffling, both the opposition Syrian National Coalition and representatives of the Syrian government are in attendance at the conference, but remain leagues apart.
“We will not accept less than the removal of Assad,” Bader Jamous, the secretary general of the Syrian National Coalition, told the media on Tuesday. Meanwhile, Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Moallem accused those present at the conference of supporting terrorism, charging that rebels from 83 nationalities were fighting inside Syria. “We can choose to fight terrorism and extremism together and to start a new political process, or you can continue to support terrorism in Syria,” he said.
Walid Moallem at Geneva II conference in Montreux. Photo courtesy of SANA.
* As fighting continued Wednesday pitting the Islamic Front’s Liwa a-Tawhid and Free Syrian Army factions against the Islamic State of Iraq and a-Sham in the town of Menbij in Aleppo province, Liwa a-Tawhid issued a statement Tuesday further condemning ISIS’s behavior. ISIS has committed “the most heinous crimes against mujahideen from various factions and combat brigades on Syrian land,” the statement read.
* The Kurdish People’s Democratic Union (PYD) declared autonomy in northern Syria Tuesday, Zaman al-Wasl reported. The PYD’s proposed autonomous region, backed by its powerful People’s Protection Units, envisions the creation of three administrative provinces centered in the Kurdish-populated territories of Afrin, Kobani and Qamishli, the proposed capital.
* The Islamic State in Iraq and a-Sham (ISIS) seized control of Division 17 in A-Raqqa, one of the Syrian regime’s last remaining outposts in the northeastern province, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported Tuesday. Since the beginning of open confrontation between ISIS and rebel groups, most prominently the Islamic Front, ISIS has retreated from positions in Idlib and Aleppo province, while consolidating control over a-Raqqa.
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