UN Syria Envoy Offers to Negotiate Ceasefire in Last Rebel Stronghold

Yumo Yao_ Blog Summary_ Sep 2

Summary

The UN special envoy Staffan de Mistura for Syria has offered to travel to the countrys last opposition stronghold in the north of the country in an attempt to negotiate a ceasefire. Amid signs that the Syrian army of President Bashar al-Assad, backed by the Russian air force, is preparing to mount a major attack on Idlib. De Mistura acknowledged there was a high concentration of foreign fighters in Idlib, including an estimated 10,000 terrorists. He also warned that chemical weapons may be used by the government.

Many Syrian opposition supporters, including some in Islamist extremist groups, have been decanted in buses to Idlib over the past year as other towns fell to Assad. The process has set the scene for an inevitable final battle between the remnants of the opposition and the Syrian regime. It is not clear where any refugees from Idlib would travel inside Syria since the country is now largely under Assads control.

Syrias foreign minister, Walid al-Moualem, said government forces would go all the way in Idlib, and claimed Damascuss chief target was Islamist militants, mainly from Al-Nusra Front. Moualem, speaking after talks with his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, said Syria would not use chemical weapons in any offensive and that it did not have such weapons.

 In an attempt to avert a US attack, likely to be mounted via cruise missiles fired from a US fleet stationed in the Mediterranean, Russia announced it was beginning its own major naval exercise in the Mediterranean on Saturday. Russian Ministry of defence said more than 25 warships and support vessels and around 30 planes, including fighter jets and strategic bombers, would take part in the Mediterranean drills from 1 to 8 September. They would involve anti-aircraft, anti-submarine and anti-mining exercises. Ships from Russias northern, Baltic and Black Sea fleets would take part, as would vessels from its Caspian Sea flotilla.

 

 

 

UN Syria Envoy Offers to Negotiate Ceasefire in Last Rebel Stronghold

 

The UN special envoy for Syria has offered to travel to the country’s last opposition stronghold in the north of the country in an attempt to negotiate a ceasefire.

 

Staffan de Mistura called for all sides to allow time for humanitarian corridors to be set up, amid signs that the Syrian army of President Bashar al-Assad, backed by the Russian air force, is preparing to mount a major attack on Idlib. Mistura wants to avert an assault that could lead to death and destruction on the scale that that saw thousands killed in Aleppo last year.

 

“I am once again prepared … personally and physically to get involved myself … to ensure such a temporary corridor would be feasible and guaranteed for the people so that they can then return to their own places once this is over,” De Mistura said in Geneva.

 

He made a similar offer to break the siege of Aleppo last year, but this was spurned by Assad.

 

De Mistura acknowledged there was a high concentration of foreign fighters in Idlib, including an estimated 10,000 terrorists, but said it would be better to set up humanitarian corridors to evacuate civilians than rush into a battle that could prove to be a “perfect storm”.

 

He also warned that chemical weapons may be used by the government.

 

Many Syrian opposition supporters, including some in Islamist extremist groups, have been decanted in buses to Idlib over the past year as other towns fell to Assad. The process has set the scene for an inevitable final battle between the remnants of the opposition and the Syrian regime.

 

“The lives of 2.9 million people are at stake, and international mutually threatening messages and warnings and counter-warnings are taking place in the last few days,” De Mistura said.

 

It is not clear where any refugees from Idlib would travel inside Syria since the country is now largely under Assad’s control. De Mistura said: “It would be a tragic irony, frankly, if at almost the end of … a territorial war inside Syria, we would be witnessing the most horrific tragedy to the largest number of civilians.”

 

Syria’s foreign minister, Walid al-Moualem, said government forces would “go all the way” in Idlib, and claimed Damascus’s chief target was Islamist militants, mainly from Al-Nusra Front.

 

Moualem, speaking after talks with his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, said Syria would not use chemical weapons in any offensive and that it did not have such weapons. There have been widespread US warnings that the Syrian military are preparing to use chemical weapons as it is has done in the past to crush opposition forces.

 

The US government has promised it will intervene again if any evidence emerges that chemical weapons have been used.

 

In an attempt to avert a US attack, likely to be mounted via cruise missiles fired from a US fleet stationed in the Mediterranean, Russia announced it was beginning its own major naval exercise in the Mediterranean on Saturday, a move the Kremlin said was justified by a failure to deal with militants in Idlib province.

 

“This hotbed of terrorists [in Idlib] does really not bode anything good if such inaction continues,” the Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters on a conference call.

 

The Russian defence ministry said more than 25 warships and support vessels and around 30 planes, including fighter jets and strategic bombers, would take part in the Mediterranean drills from 1 to 8 September.

 

They would involve anti-aircraft, anti-submarine and anti-mining exercises. Ships from Russia’s northern, Baltic and Black Sea fleets would take part, as would vessels from its Caspian Sea flotilla. The Marshal Ustinov guided-missile cruiser would lead the drills.

 

“In the interests of ensuring the safety of shipping and air traffic and in line with international law, the areas of the exercise will be declared dangerous for shipping and flights,” the ministry said.

 

 

Source: The Guardian, Patrick Wintour, August 30, 2018. Photo credit to Omar Haj Kadour/AFP/Getty.