* The Geneva II talks stalled Monday over the question of President Bashar al-Assad’s role in a future Syrian government, with the regime putting forward a statement of principles that did not involve a political transition, focusing instead on preserving the country’s sovereignty and state institutions and on fighting “terrorist” groups, reports the Turkish Hurriyet Daily News. “We are doing what the situation allows, what the market can bear,” said UN Envoy to Syria Lakhdar Brahimi, speaking to reporters Monday. “Tomorrow we are going to put forward the Geneva Communiqué,” Brahimi added. “Then we are going to decide with them how we are going to proceed in discussing its many elements,” which include the formation of a transitional government.
The Syrian National Coalition meets in Geneva. Photo courtesy of the Syrian National Coalition.
* The Islamic State of Iraq and a-Sham (ISIS) on Monday rejected a proposal to end three weeks of intense violence among armed factions in northern Syria, declaring that it would continue “fighting those who fight it, taking revenge from and curtailing the power of those who have wronged it without any hesitation.” (Translation available here.) ISIS called on those parties that had signed on to the truce to articulate a “clear” position regarding their attitudes toward democracy and secularism, concepts that ISIS insist violate Islamic sharia law. The proposal, which began circulating on social media on Thursday, January 23, is called the Umma Initiative, and called for an “immediate ceasefire in all parts of Syria.” A number of rebel formations–most notably the Islamic Front, Jaysh al-Mujahideen, the Syrian Revolutionaries Front, and Jabhat a-Nusra–had endorsed the plan prior to ISIS’ rejection.
* Syrian National Coalition spokesman Louay Safi said in a press conference Monday that the regime is refusing to let humanitarian aid enter besieged portions of Homs, one day after UN Envoy to Syria Lakhdar Brahimi announced a verbal agreement between the regime and opposition delegations that would allow women and children to leave the city while leaving open a window to discuss the entry of humanitarian aid. Deliberately starving citizens “is a crime against humanity,” said Safi, adding that the shelling Homs had intensified during the first three days of negotiations, with 244 civilians killed.
* ISIS has released more than 100 prisoners taken from rebel groups fighting against it in northern Syria and returned their weapons to them on the condition that they pledge “not to fight against Muslims,” reported the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights Tuesday. Meanwhile, Jaysh al-Mujahideen kidnapped an ISIS emir in the Aleppo village of Kafr Homra, reported pro-opposition Syrian news site Zaman al-Wasl.
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