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Syria Direct: News Update 01-30-2014

* The first round of face-to-face negotiations at the Geneva […]

30 January 2014

NewsUpdateJan2014* The first round of face-to-face negotiations at the Geneva II conference is set to end Friday, to be followed by a one-week break before round two. UN Envoy to Syria Lakhdar Ibrahimi stated on Wednesday that tangible progress was unlikely to come before the intermission: “To be blunt, I do not expect that we will achieve anything substantive.” Nonetheless, he insisted that he was pleased with the piecemeal progress made in the first week. “The ice is breaking slowly, but it is breaking.” 

* The Syrian government delegation to the Geneva II peace talks agreed Wednesday to base further negotiations on the six-point plan established following the Geneva I conference in June 2012. The government had previously refused to endorse the first Geneva Communiqué, which includes guidelines for a political transition but remains silent on the subject of President Bashar al-Assad’s role in a future government. Opposition spokesman Louay Safi called the announcement “a positive step forward,” despite the government’s statement that it had only “agreed to the first Geneva communiqué with some reservation. 

 * The Turkish armed forces opened fire Tuesday on an Islamic State in Iraq and a-Sham (ISIS) convoy in retaliation for cross-border fire, reported the Turkish daily Today’s Zaman on Wednesday. The retaliatory attack—which was in response to a mortar shell falling on the Turkish side of the border during ongoing clashes between ISIS and rebel groups in northern Syria—destroyed a pickup truck, a lorry and a bus.

* Human Rights Watch released a 38-page report Thursday detailing the Syrian government’s unlawful demolition of thousands of residential buildings in Damascus and Hama over the last two years. The report, entitled “Razed to the Ground: Syria’s Unlawful Neighborhood Demolitions in 2012-2013,” describes how the Syrian government’s demolition of entire neighborhoods “either served no necessary military purpose and appeared to intentionally punish the civilian population or caused disproportionate harm to civilians.”

A new Human Rights Watch report details the Syrian government’s unlawful demolition
of thousands of residential buildings. Photo courtesy of Human Rights Watch.

* Clashes continued for a third consecutive day between regime and opposition forces in Outer Homs Thursday, reported the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. The fighting has centered around the town of al-Hasn, and comes as a UN aid convoy continues to await the green light from the Syrian government to enter Homs’ besieged Old City. 

* The Syrian government has relinquished less than 5 percent of its roughly 1,300 tons of chemical materials, and will miss next week’s deadline to completely surrender its arsenal, Reuters reported Wednesday. A Western diplomat suggested to the agency that the Syrian government was deliberately stalling the process in order to assert its power on the chemical issue during the Geneva II talks. 


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