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Syria Direct: News Update 01-26-2014

* UN Envoy to Syria Lakhdar Brahimi described the first […]

26 January 2014

NewsUpdateJan2014* UN Envoy to Syria Lakhdar Brahimi described the first face-to-face negotiations between Syrian government and opposition delegations in Geneva as having proceeded in “half-steps,” with opposing contingents speaking to one another not directly but through the veteran mediator, reported The Daily Star. The first day of talks Saturday centered on pursuing a ceasefire in the long-besieged city of Homs, while Sunday’s talks will focus on prisoner exchanges. No concrete agreements had been reached as of Sunday morning.

Lakhdar Librahimi UN Envoy Lakhdar Brahimi says negotiations moving in “half-steps.”

* Abu Siaf al-Ansari, an al-Qaeda leader in the northern Lebanese city of Tripoli, released a voice recording Saturday pledging his allegiance to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, Emir of the Islamic State of Iraq and a-Sham (ISIS). He directed the message to all Muslim sheikhs, and the body of religious scholars specifically, asking that they refrain from criticizing ISIS.

* The Kurdish People’s Protection Units clashed with fighters from the ISIS, Jabhat a-Nusra, and other Islamist battalions for control of al-Manajeer, on the outskirts of the city of Ras al-Ayn in northeastern al-Hasakah province Saturday night, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. The fighting, which has killed at least five fighters from the Islamist groups, has brought together ISIS and Jabhat a-Nusra along the Turkish border even as they fight each other elsewhere in the country.

* The Free Syrian Army took control of two checkpoints along the Syria-Lebanon frontier on Saturday following clashes that left 15 regime and Hezbollah soldiers dead, according to the pro-opposition daily Zaman al-Wasl. The seizure comes as regime and opposition forces continue to struggle for dominance of the Syrian-Lebanese border.

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