Syrian opposition blames Syrian and Russian ‘arrogance’ for failure of talks

Friday 12/02/2016
Army of Islam’s Mohammed Alloush

GENEVA - The main Syrian opposition group is unlikely to return to Geneva for indirect peace talks because of Syria and Russia’s “arrogant” and “merciless” bombardment campaign, the opposition’s chief negotiator said.
Mohammed Alloush, who represents the powerful Army of Islam group, told the Associated Press on February 4th that the opposition did not withdraw from UN-sponsored proximity talks in Geneva because it “didn’t want to get blamed” for their failure. However, he added that the opposition could not return to negotiations while the bombing continued.
UN Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura announced on February 3rd there would be a “temporary pause” in the indirect peace talks between the government and opposition, saying the process would resume on February 25th.
The announcement came as Syrian troops and their allies intensified their offensive, capturing several areas in the northern Syrian province of Aleppo and ending a more than three-year siege of two Shia villages.
Alloush said the Syrian government and Russia, which has been carrying out air strikes in support of its ally since September 30th, were behind the failure of the talks.
“The reason behind the collapse of the talks in Geneva was the arrogance of the Syrian regime and the arrogance of the merciless Russian air strikes on civilians,” said Alloush.
The Russian Defence Ministry said its warplanes hit 875 targets in Syria in the first week of February, including in the area of the government offensive.
Alloush said that the main opposition group, the High Negotiations Committee (HNC), would not return to talks “as long as the situation remains the same.”
“The political process will not be launched as long as Russia, the regime and Iran want to win militarily the battle on the ground,” he added.
He said that, although the Syrian government and Russia’s military intervention is increasing “the pain of Syrians”, he did not believe they would be able to achieve a decisive military victory in Syria, pointing to how the balance of power has shifted regularly since the war broke out in March 2011.
Peace talks in Geneva had a rocky start, with both the government and opposition denying that they had even formally begun.
The HNC has demanded an end to Syrian and Russian bombardment, a lifting of sieges imposed on 18 rebel-held areas and the release of political detainees, including women and children.
The opposition said none of these conditions had been met, other than a small concession by government to allow two dozen trucks carrying emergency aid to enter two besieged suburbs of Damascus.
The Syrian government and Russia say Alloush’s Army of Islam is a terrorist organisation. Alloush said that those who bomb civilians and use chemical weapons against their people are terrorists, referring to Syrian President Bashar Assad’s government.
The 45-year-old political chief of the Army of Islam was the cousin and brother-in-law of the group’s founder, Zahran Alloush, who was killed in a government air strike near Damascus in December.
Alloush, who has a degree in Islamic Studies and worked in publishing in Saudi Arabia until the war began five years ago, said that if Assad is removed the opposition wants elections in Syria.
(The Associated Press)