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Syria's War

Breaking news coverage of developments in Syria's War and the broader regional conflict, including allegations of the deadly use of chemical weapons and the international community's response

  • Here are Secretary of State John Kerry's full remarks, made Monday, on the Geneva 2 conference: 

    I thank Joint Special Representative Brahimi for his efforts to bring the regime, the opposition, and the international community together for this important meeting at an important time.

    We have long underscored that there is no military solution to the violence in Syria that has taken more than 100,000 lives and displaced millions. The conference on January 22 is the best opportunity to implement the Geneva Communiqué and form a new transitional governing body through mutual consent—an important step toward ending the suffering of the Syrian people and the destabilizing impact of this conflict on the region.

    This horrific conflict began as a peaceful protest by Syrians who aspire to live in a country where freedom, dignity, and equal treatment under the law are protected. Now, in order to end the bloodshed and give the Syrian people a chance to meet their long-deferred aspirations, Syria needs new leadership.

    We are well aware that the obstacles on the road to a political solution are many, and we will enter the Geneva conference on Syria with our eyes wide open. No one should underestimate the difficulties ahead. In the coming weeks, the regime and the opposition will need to form their delegations, and we will continue to work in concert with the UN and our partners on remaining issues, including which countries will be invited to attend and what the agenda will be to advance the Geneva Communiqué framework for political transition.

    To contain the growing threat from extremism and foreign fighters within Syria, and to ensure respect for Syria’s territorial sovereignty, we cannot delay the work of establishing a transitional government. Since foreign states have considerable influence on the factions waging war within Syria, they too have an important role to play. While it is ultimately up to the Syrian people to form a new government and bring an end to the conflict, the United States and our partners can help get them there.

    The thousands of men, women, and children suffering in Syria today cannot wait for us to meet in Geneva for their cries to be heard. The Assad regime must stop using starvation as a weapon of war and immediately begin providing greater humanitarian access to besieged communities. The international community must be proactive and diligent in drawing greater attention to this issue and putting the necessary pressure in place to change behavior on the ground.


  • Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said on Tuesday that Tehran was prepared to take part in the Syria peace talks in Geneva, slated for January 22, if invited.

    "Participation of Iran in Geneva 2 is in our view an important contribution to the resolution of the problem. We have said all along that if Iran is invited, we will participate without any preconditions," Zarif told Iran's Press TV.

    Iran is the main backer, along with Russia, of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in a conflict that has lasted more than two years, killed more than 100,000 people and uprooted millions more.

    Tehran's participation in the peace talks would likely strengthen any agreement reached in Geneva.
    But for Western governments, Iran's reluctance to endorse last year's international accord on Syria has been a bar to its attendance at the talks, widely referred to as "Geneva 2".

    Washington has opposed Iran attending the talks because it has not signed on to a core element of the so-called "Geneva 1" framework. This says a future Syrian government must be formed by "mutual consent" of the authorities and the opposition, a stance the United States says means Assad cannot stay in power.

    But relations between Iran and Washington, frozen for decades, have improved sharply since the election in June of President Hassan Rouhani who promised to pursue a policy of "constructive engagement" with the West in order to win relief from international sanctions over Iran's nuclear program.

    At the same time, however, Iran has maintained its unswerving support for the Assad government.
    Zarif said resolving the Syria crisis was an issue of "national importance" for Iran and whether invited or not, Tehran would continue to work for a peaceful solution.

    He also denied reports that Syria was discussed during Iran's nuclear talks with six world powers in Geneva last week.

    [Reuters]
  • Key Syria rebel group won't join talks unless Assad told to step down

    The head of the Free Syrian Army (FSA) said Tuesday that opposition forces loyal to him would not join a planned peace conference in Switzerland in January if it allows any possibility of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad remaining in power.

    During a phone interview with Al Jazeera, FSA chief Gen. Salim Idriss said: "We won’t go if Geneva doesn't say clearly Assad must go." He also said the rebels will not halt fighting during the conference.

    The United Nations said Monday that Syria's government and opposition will hold their first peace talks, in Geneva on Jan. 22, an attempt to halt the nearly three-year-old civil war that has killed more than 100,000 people, including 11,000 children. However, the uncertainty over the FSA’s attendance raises questions about who will join and what it may ultimately be able to accomplish.

    Read more at Al Jazeera America
  • Iran's Zarif says if invited, his country will attend the Syria peace talks in Geneva without preconditions, Reuters reported at 5:20 a.m. ET on Tuesday.
  • The Arab League has said it a press statement that it welcomes Jan. 22 as the declared date for the Geneva 2 conference on Syria. However, Nabil Elaraby, secretary-general of the Arab League, expressed regret at the delay in convening the peace talks, saying that every day that passes increases the death toll and destruction in Syria.

  • According to Zeina Karam and John Heilprin from the Associated Press, the recently announced Geneva 2 meeting could be building up off the momentum of the successful Iran nuclear talks. Iran playing ball with Western countries concerned over its nuclear ambitions could in turn become a 'positive regional player':

    U.N. spokesman Martin Nesirky played down the possibility that the negotiations with Iran played a direct role in the movement on Syria, which followed a meeting in Geneva of senior diplomats from the U.S., Russia and the U.N.

    The two tracks "are very separate, both tracks have been going on in different formats, in different locations," he told reporters. "So I would simply say that it was a good weekend for diplomacy."

    Still, a senior member in the main, Western-backed Syrian opposition coalition expressed hope the nuclear deal would transform Iran into a "positive regional player," relinquishing its support for Assad.

    "We hope the Iranian nuclear deal will provide impetus for a Syria deal," Abdelbaset Sieda of the Syrian National Coalition told The Associated Press. "The Iranian government must cut relations with the regime and leave the choice to the Syrian people."

    A break between Iran and Assad is unlikely in the short term given the foothold the alliance gives Tehran in the Arab world. Still, a thaw between Iran and the U.S. - which backs the opposition coalition - could prompt Tehran to encourage Assad to make concessions, at least enough to keep talks going.

    Read more at the Associated Press
  • The White House is expressing hope that newly announced Syrian peace talks will bring new leadership to the war-torn country.

    White House spokesman Josh Earnest says removing Syrian President Bashar Assad is the goal of talks scheduled for Jan. 22 in Geneva.

    The talks would be the first meeting of Syria's government and opposition groups since the beginning of a 3-year-old civil war that has killed more than 100,000 people and destabilized the region.

    Earnest told reporters traveling with President Barack Obama Monday that the talks are "the best opportunity" to form a new transitional government and end the suffering of the Syrian people. Earnest stressed there are many challenges ahead and said the process will be "very difficult."

    [Associated Press]
  • The White House says it welcomes the Geneva conference on peace in Syria, according to Reuters. However, it cautions, many challenges remain. 
  • Secretary of State John Kerry has released a statement on the upcoming Geneva 2 peace talks: 

    U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE

    Office of the Spokesperson

    For Immediate Release November 25, 2013

    2013/1475

    STATEMENT BY SECRETARY KERRY

    Geneva Conference on Syria

    I thank Joint Special Representative Brahimi for his efforts to bring the regime, the opposition, and the international community together for this important meeting at an important time.

    We have long underscored that there is no military solution to the violence in Syria that has taken more than 100,000 lives and displaced millions. The conference on January 22 is the best opportunity to implement the Geneva Communiqué and form a new transitional governing body through mutual consent-an important step toward ending the suffering of the Syrian people and the destabilizing impact of this conflict on the region.

    This horrific conflict began as a peaceful protest by Syrians who aspire to live in a country where freedom, dignity, and equal treatment under the law are protected. Now, in order to end the bloodshed and give the Syrian people a chance to meet their long-deferred aspirations, Syria needs new leadership.

    We are well aware that the obstacles on the road to a political solution are many, and we will enter the Geneva conference on Syria with our eyes wide open. No one should underestimate the difficulties ahead. In the coming weeks, the regime and the opposition will need to form their delegations, and we will continue to work in concert with the UN and our partners on remaining issues, including which countries will be invited to attend and what the agenda will be to advance the Geneva Communiqué framework for political transition.

    To contain the growing threat from extremism and foreign fighters within Syria, and to ensure respect for Syria's territorial sovereignty, we cannot delay the work of establishing a transitional government. Since foreign states have considerable influence on the factions waging war within Syria, they too have an important role to play. While it is ultimately up to the Syrian people to form a new government and bring an end to the conflict, the United States and our partners can help get them there.

    The thousands of men, women, and children suffering in Syria today cannot wait for us to meet in Geneva for their cries to be heard. The Assad regime must stop using starvation as a weapon of war and immediately begin providing greater humanitarian access to besieged communities. The international community must be proactive and diligent in drawing greater attention to this issue and putting the necessary pressure in place to change behavior on the ground.


  • #SecKerry : Thousands of men, women, and children suffering in Syria today cannot wait for us to meet in #Geneva for their cries to be heard.
  • #SecKerry :To contain threat from extremism & to ensure respect for territorial sovereignty, cannot delay the establishing transitional govt
  • Speaking to press in #Geneva #UN Brahimi says Geneva 2 conference is opportunity for peace which musn't be wasted. http://pbs.twimg.com/media/BZ7oXM0CcAEsR1i.jpg

  • Secretary of State Kerry says the Syria peace conference that is scheduled for Jan. 22 is the 'best opportunity' to form a new transitional body, according to Reuters. 

    Kerry also said the United States is well aware of the obstacles to finding a political solution for the Syrian crisis and no one should underestimate the difficulties ahead, Reuters reported late Monday morning.

    Kerry went on to say the Syrian government and opposition still need to form their delegations for the Jan. 22 conference and decisions will need to be made on which countries will be invited to attend the Geneva 2 talks. 
  • # Brahimi: formation of the transitional governing authority will be one of the most important elements to be agreed on during #Geneva2 .
  • The list of participants for #Syria peace conference scheduled for January 22 has yet to be established, #UN envoy Lakhdar Brahimi
  • #Brahimi on #Geneva2 : Iran & Saudi Arabia to be considered as possible participants in the conference on 22 January. http://pbs.twimg.com/media/BZ7fzoxIMAAzq0o.jpg

  • Brahimi's press conference has ended at 11:01 a.m. ET. 
  • Brahimi adds: not all who want to come will be able to. #Geneva2
  • Brahimi says opposition delegation at Geneva 2 should be credible and representative.
  • Being realistic, a lot of the things that need to happen will happen after the conference starts, not before the conference starts, Brahimi said, in response to a question about a ceasefire.




  • When asked about a ceasefire, Brahimi said he 'strongly' appeals to the parties to observe one, echoing Ban Ki-moon that this is a 'huge opportunity for peace' that shouldn't be wasted. 
  • Brahimi: both sides should name delegations before end of year
  • Brahimi says Iran and Saudi Arabia are "among possible participants" in Geneva two.
  • Brahimi: We are still discussing the complete list of participants.  We are in touch both with the government and the opposition. We are asking them to name their delegations as early as possible.
  • Joint Special Representative for Syria Lakhdar Brahimi will speak to reporters about the Geneva 2 peace conference at 10:30 a.m. ET, according to the UN Spokesperson Twitter account
  • Ban Ki-moon: Jan. 22 Geneva peace talks on Syria to seek establishment of transitional government with full executive powers-@Reuters
  • And with that the press conference is already over. Ban spoke for about 10 minutes, that's a rough estimate, and did not take questions from reporters in the room. 

    Currently, it is unclear if Iran will attend the Geneva 2 peace conference. 
  • UN SG now speaking about #geneva2 . NOT taking any questions!!!
  • Sources : after first day, brahimi will chair talks with syrians only - 9 in opp delegation, 9 on govt side.
  • #geneva2 reliable sources tell me Geneva 2 will consist of one meeting with international players, chaired by UN SG.
  • Ban: As you have seen by now, I was pleased to announce the Geneva conference will take place on Wednesday, Jan. 22. 'At long last' the government and opposition will meet at the negotiating table instead of the battlefield. 




  • Opinion: The committee to save Syria

    The Middle East is in a state of emergency. Syria is at the verge of total collapse with catastrophic humanitarian consequences. Tens of thousands of Syrians have been killed by government and opposition forces, and more than seven million civilians have become refugees, either internally displaced or outside their country. World leaders have been trying to bring all parties involved in the conflict together for talks, dubbed the Geneva 2 conference and originally scheduled for Nov. 23, to discuss a political solution. These efforts have not succeeded thus far and have been marred with delays, particularly owing to the United States' inability to convince Syrian opposition leaders to participate in the talks. The United Nations said Monday that Syria's government and opposition will hold their first-ever peace talks in Geneva on Jan. 22, but it remains unclear which groups will be representing the opposition.

    The first stumbling block to a political settlement is the opposition of the U.S., its regional allies and the Syrian opposition to Iran's attendance at Geneva 2. "We have tried again to persuade them that Iran is an important participant of the process, who plays a serious role in resolving the Syrian crisis and who can contribute positively, and that it is therefore necessary to invite the country to the conference,” said Russian Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Gennady Gatilov.

    Read more at Al Jazeera America
  • Report: Over 11,000 Syrian children killed in war, most by explosives

    Explosive weapons, including bombs, killed seven in 10 of the more than 11,000 Syrian children under the age of 17 who have died in Syria’s brutal civil war, according to a report released on Sunday.

    The Oxford Research Group, a London-based think tank, pooled data recorded by the United Nations and four Syrian human rights groups in order to calculate the causes of death of the 11,420 children aged 17 and under who have been killed during the Syrian war since it began in March 2011.

    Most often, they were killed by explosives, but also from executions and torture. Since March 2011, 113,735 civilians and combatants have been killed in the Syrian conflict.

    “What is most disturbing about the findings of this report is not only the sheer numbers of children killed in this conflict, but the way they are being killed,” said Hana Salama, a co-author of the report, in a release. “Bombed in their homes, in their communities, during day-to-day activities such as waiting in bread lines or attending school; shot by bullets in crossfire, targeted by snipers, summarily executed, even gassed and tortured. All conflict parties need to take responsibility for the protection of children, and ultimately find a peaceful solution for the war itself.”

    Read more at Al Jazeera America
  • Russian news agency Interfax, citing the Russian deputy foreign minister, is reporting there is no agreement yet on whether Iran will attend the Geneva 2 peace talks on Syria, according to Reuters.
  • The United Nations says that talks between Syria's government and opposition are going to take place in Geneva on Jan. 22.
    In a statement Monday, the United Nations said that the "Geneva conference is the vehicle for a peaceful transition that fulfills the legitimate aspirations of all the Syrian people for freedom and dignity, and which guarantees safety and protection to all communities in Syria."
    Previous attempts to bring the two sides together have failed mainly because of disputes over who should represent the Syrian opposition and government, and whether Iran, Saudi Arabia and other regional powers should be at the table.

    [Associated Press]
  • The United Nations has announced a date for peace talks between the Syrian government and the opposition. The conference, commonly dubbed the Geneva 2 talks, will be convened Wednesday, Jan. 22 in Geneva. 

    Here is the full statement from UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon's spokesperson: 

    New York, 25 November 2013 - Statement attributable to the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General on convening of the Geneva conference on Syria

    The Secretary-General is pleased to announce that he will convene the Geneva conference on Syria in Geneva on Wednesday, January 22, thus bringing the Syrian Government and opposition to a negotiating table for the first time since the start of the Syrian conflict.

    The Secretary-General expresses deep appreciation to the Initiating States, the Governments of the Russian Federation and the United States, as well as to other Member States and Joint Special Representative Brahimi for their hard work that has brought us to this point.

    We will go to Geneva with a mission of hope. The Geneva conference is the vehicle for a peaceful transition that fulfills the legitimate aspirations of all the Syrian people for freedom and dignity, and which guarantees safety and protection to all communities in Syria.  Its goal is the full implementation of the Geneva Communiqué of 30 June 2012, including the establishment, based on mutual consent, of a transitional governing body with full executive powers, including over military and security entities.

    The Secretary-General expects that the Syrian representatives will come to Geneva with a clear understanding that this is the objective, and with a serious intention to end a war that has already left well over 100,000 dead, driven almost nine million from their homes, left countless missing and detained, sent tremors through the region and forced unacceptable burdens on Syria’s neighbors.

    Noting the Security Council's endorsement of the full implementation of the Geneva Communiqué in Resolution 2118 (2013), the Secretary-General will expect all regional and international partners to demonstrate their meaningful support for constructive negotiations. All must show vision and leadership. All can begin working now to take steps to help the Geneva conference succeed, including toward the cessation of violence, humanitarian access, release of detainees and return of Syrian refugees and internally displaced to their homes.  

    The conflict in Syria has raged for too long. It would be unforgivable not to seize this opportunity to bring an end to the suffering and destruction it has caused.


  • A powerful blast ripped through a pickup truck in the south Syria province of Deraa early Wednesday, killing 21 people including four children, a monitoring group said.

    "Twenty-one people were killed in the Nawa area (of Deraa), among them four children and six women, in a blast that detonated as their vehicle went past Tal al-Jumua," where a battalion of troops loyal to President Bashar al-Assad is positioned, said the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

    [AFP]
  • A general director of Doctors Without Borders is calling for greater access for humanitarian aid in Syria to help people affected by the country's civil war.

    Christopher Stokes also urged the international community to show the same urgency to secure access for such assistance as it did to rid Syria of its chemical weapons.

    Stokes said the recent access granted to weapons inspectors proves areas that have long been sealed-off can be opened if the political will exists.

    Doctors Without Borders currently operates four clinics in opposition-held areas, and clandestinely supports 70 in government-controlled territory.

    Stokes said Tuesday that the government has not authorized the group to work in Syria.

    [AP]
  • None of Syria's chemical weapons sites are under rebel control, the key opposition National Coalition said on Tuesday.

    The assertion came after the head of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons said one abandoned site was in a rebel-held area and that inspectors from a UN-OPCW team were hoping to visit it.

    In a statement, the Syrian National Coalition opposition grouping said it backed the UN-OPCW mission but insisted none of the weapons sites were under rebel control.

    "There are chemical sites under regime control that Free Syrian Army brigades are laying siege to but there are no chemical sites at all that are controlled by the rebel brigades," the Coalition said.

    The statement said the Coalition and rebel command sought "full cooperation with all international missions to facilitate their work and ensure their full protection".

    [AFP]
  • Syrian warplanes bombed several rebel-held areas on Tuesday and opposition fighters fired mortar rounds and homemade rockets at Damascus on the first day of a major Muslim holiday, activists said.

    The fighting during Eid al-Adha, or the Feast of Sacrifice, showed how entrenched both sides have become in Syria's civil war, now in its third year.

    Previously, combatants occasionally attempted to observe holiday cease-fires.

    [AP]
  • Syria's President Bashar al-Assad has jokingly said he should have been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, AFP reports, citing a pro-Damascus Lebanese newspaper.

    The prize, which was given to the global chemical weapons watchdog on Friday, "should have been mine," Assad said, according to Al-Akhbar newspaper.

    Assad made the remark "jokingly", the daily said, as he commented on the award on Friday of Nobel Peace Prize to the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, which is working in Syria to destroy the Assad regime's massive chemical arsenal by mid-2014.
  • Three of the kidnapped Red Cross aid workers and Red Crescent volunteer have been freed in Syria, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) reported.

    The ICRC is still waiting for information on the remaining three kidnapped staff members.

    [Reuters]
  • Russia on Monday urged the United States to do everything in its power to bring the Syrian opposition to peace talks after a key group said it would not attend a proposed conference in Geneva.

    "We very much expect our American partners and other countries, which not only have influence on various opposition groups but also ... encourage these opposition groups to continue fighting, to realise their responsibility for creating conditions for performing their share of the work for convening Geneva 2," Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said.

    George Sabra, the president of the Syrian National Council, the biggest member of the opposition National Coalition, said on Sunday that the group would not attend suggested peace talks in Geneva.

    First proposed in May, the Geneva-2 talks have been repeatedly pushed back and are now expected in take place in mid-November.
  • The state-run SANA news agency is reporting that a malfunction at a Syrian power station has caused electrical outages in several provinces, including the capital Damascus.

    "Power supply is down in several provinces in the center, south and coastal regions of the country as a result of a malfunction at a power plant," SANA quoted electricity minister Imad Khamis as saying.

    It's unclear where the affected power station is, or what caused the malfunction.


  • Two car bomb blasts rocked central Damascus near the Syrian TV and Radio building in Umayad Square on Sunday evening, according to state broadcaster SANA. Casualties are unconfirmed, with one Russia Today corespondent in Damascus reporting that two security guards were killed.

    This video from a Damascus-based media activist is described as showing smoke rising from the TV and Radio building.

    According to Sana the car bombs were planted in a Hyundai and a Honda car.

    [Source: EyeDamascus via Storyful]
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