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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

  • Brahimi: We are one name short of agreement on participants. On Iran, we haven't agreed yet. #Geneva2
  • Brahimi: Syrian opposition will form their delegation not before 27th December as we hoped but not too late after that.
  • During a press conference Friday, Syria mediator Brahimi said he is angry and disappointed at continuing fighting in Syria and called for the end of use of barrel bombs, Reuters reported. 

    Brahimi also discussed the much contested issue of who will be attending the upcoming Syrian peace talks, saying the list of participants to the Geneva 2 conference is one name short of agreement, with Iran's involvement being blocked by the US, according to Reuters.

    On the issue of Iran attending the conference, Brahimi told reporters in Geneva Iranian officials have said that if they're not present to Geneva 2, it's not the end of the world, they will still work with him, Reuters reported. 
  • Brahimi: Aid is not reaching the people that need it. Prisoners are detained for no reason. People kidnapped all over Syria for no reason.
  • Brahimi: Let me express strong disappointment...and anger about what is going on in Syria.
  • On Friday, representatives from the United States, Russia and the United Nations met in Geneva to discuss the upcoming Syria peace talks. UN Geneva has posted a few pictures of the meeting to its Facebook page.

    Here is Wendy Sherman, the head of the US delegation: 


    And here is Mikhail Bogdanov, Russia's deputy minister for foreign affairs




  • Photo: Friday's Syria talks between US, Russia, UN on upcoming peace conference (@UNGeneva ) http://pbs.twimg.com/media/Bb8NNreCAAABghe.jpg alj.am/J20Yrw

  • The United Kingdom has said it will assist in destroying Syria's chemical weapons stockpile, The Associated Press reported Friday morning.

    As part of that, the British government has said it agreed to destroy 150 tonnes of two industrial-grade chemicals at a commercial facility, according to Reuters. The British government will also provide a navy vessel to escort Danish, Norwegian cargo ships carrying the Syria stockpile, Reuters reported.
  • Western diplomats are increasingly saying that President Bashar al-Assad keeping power is a better option for Syria than the country being ruled by Islamist militants, Russia's foreign minister was quoted as saying on Friday.

    "Not only in private meetings but also in public comments, the idea is occurring to some Western colleagues that ... Assad remaining in office is less of a threat for Syria than a takeover of the country by terrorists," Sergei Lavrov told RIA news agency in an interview published on Friday.

    Russia has been Assad's most important supporter during Syria's civil war. It says his removal from power must not be a precondition for holding peace talks.

    [Reuters]
  • On Thursday, there was a pre-Geneva 2 meeting concerning the role women can play in Syria's peace talks. 

    Syrian women discussed not only the importance of having a voice in the future of their country, but of the challenges they have faced thus far. 

    Below is an excerpt of the speech UN Women Executive Director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka gave on the role of Syrian women in the peace process.

    The inclusion of women in peace talks is not just essential to building sustainable peace based on the needs and concerns of all Syrians. It is a basic democratic right and essential for lasting peace. By including the perspectives of half the population, the path is paved for a society built on the principles of inclusion and justice.  

    In our close work with Syrian women, we have heard their repeated calls to be included in the delegations and negotiations, and I would like to commend your efforts in this regard as well. 

    Of course, the needs are enormous, and we must do more as UN Women, and the UN system as a whole, to support Syrian women.


  • The civil war in Syria is forcing doctors to choose between the opposition or the government, The Wall Street Journal reported Thursday night. 

    From the Journal: 

    Makeshift clinics have proliferated in the rebel-held north, but shifting battle lines have made it harder to keep them hidden from government forces or separated from rebel operations, said Syrian doctors and international medical groups.

    Five of the six field clinics in the north were hit by government airstrikes this fall, doctors at three of the hospitals said.

    The al-Bab Hospital, which sits in a town in Aleppo province now controlled by al Qaeda-linked rebels, has been bombed five times, medics at the hospital said. Its medical staff has relocated from one building to another so many times they now keep much of their equipment in ready-to-move boxes.

    Some 50 international doctors, including the heads of global medical bodies, warned that Syria's health services were at "a breaking point," in a letter published in the medical journal The Lancet in September. The war, doctors said, is restricting medical care for millions of Syrians on all sides.

    "Systematic assaults on medical professionals, facilities, and patients are breaking Syria's health care system and making it nearly impossible for civilians to receive essential medical services," the letter said.


  • Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov says the West is beginning to acknowledge Syria's President Assad poses less of a threat to the country than Islamists gaining power, Reuters reported Friday, citing RIA.
  • Russia blocked a U.N. Security Council statement on Thursday that would have condemned the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad for recent missile and "barrel bomb" attacks on civilians, including children, U.N. diplomats said.

    The council's failure to approve the U.S.-drafted statement elicited an angry reaction from Washington.

    "We are very disappointed that a Security Council statement expressing our collective outrage at the brutal and indiscriminate tactics employed by the Syrian regime against civilians has been blocked," said Kurtis Cooper, a spokesman for the U.S. mission to the United Nations.

    "These barrel bombs - and the explosive materials contained within them - further underscore the brutality of the Assad regime and the lengths they will go to attack and kill their own people, including women and children," he said.

    "Surely, at a minimum, the Security Council should be able to condemn such barbarities," Cooper added.

    He did not say who blocked the statement, though several council diplomats said on condition of anonymity that the Russian delegation demanded the removal of any reference to the Assad government in the draft statement, after which Western council members decided to withdraw the proposed text.

    A spokesman for the Russian mission declined to comment.

    [Reuters]
  • UN: Systematic disappearances widespread in Syria

    U.N. panel said Thursday it believes the Syrian government is committing a crime against humanity by making people, most of them young men, systematically vanish, and that rebels have also recently begun making their opponents disappear.

    The expert panel said it found "a consistent country-wide pattern" of Syrian security, armed forces and pro-government militia seizing people in mass arrests or house searches and at checkpoints and hospitals, then making them disappear — and denying that the people exist. 

    The disappearances are "part of a widespread campaign of terror against the civilian population," and amount to a crime against humanity, the U.N. Syria war crimes panel, chaired by Brazilian diplomat and scholar Paulo Sergio Pinheiro, reported. The panel pressed Syria's government to provide information on the whereabouts of missing individuals and called on both sides to stop the practice.

  • NPR has put the Syrian crisis into stark reality with its latest piece that proclaims 11,420 children have died so far in the country's civil war.

    From NPR:

    The civil war in Syria presents so many staggering figures — millions of refugees, billions of dollars in destruction — looking back to its beginning in the spring of 2011.

    But there is one number that seems to encapsulate the tragedy like no other: 11,420.

    That's the number of children killed in the conflict, according to the independent Oxford Research Group in London.


    For more, including audio interviews with children who have lived through the war, head over to NPR
  • The United Nations has released its official statement on enforced disappearances in Syria: 

    Enforced disappearances are being committed on a wide scale throughout Syria as part of a campaign of intimidation and as a tactic of war, according to a report published today by the United Nations panel investigating human rights violations in the country.

    "Without a trace: enforced disappearances in Syria", the second thematic report by the independent international Commission of Inquiry on Syria, concludes that there are reasonable grounds to believe that acts of enforced disappearances were committed by Government forces as part of widespread and systematic attacks against the civilian population amounting to a crime against humanity.

    The report is an attempt to shed light on this largely overlooked trend which has persisted since the beginning of the uprising in Syria and draws on first-hand interviews conducted by the Commission over the period between March 2011 and November 2013.

    Investigations uncovered a consistent country-wide pattern in which people, mainly adult males, have been seized by the Syrian security and armed forces, as well as by pro-Government militias, during mass arrests, house searches, at checkpoints and in hospitals. The Government has perpetuated a system of arrests and incommunicado detention that is conducive to enforced disappearances. In some instances, the disappearances appeared to have a punitive element, targeting family members of defectors, activists, fighters as well as those believed to be providing medical care to the opposition.


  • The Syrians accused of 'devil worshipping' who can't go home

    SHARIYA, Iraq — Across the Middle East, Syrian refugees dream of returning to the homes they were forced from by war.

    Not 38-year-old Suleiman Rasho. Rasho is a Yazidi, a member of a small, ancient sect with roots in Iraq that has long been persecuted for a belief system far removed from other religions in the region.

    As Syria continues to fall apart in the grip of civil war, Rasho does not see a future there for Syrian Yazidis, a community that numbered no more than 50,000 before the conflict.

    “It is impossible for Yazidis in the Middle East,” he said. “I do not think I will be able to go back to Syria.”

    In the Middle East, the Yazidis’ small numbers mean they have little command over their destiny and have to rely on others for protection. As extremist groups increase their hold on parts of war-torn Syria and Iraq edges closer to a civil war of its own, many Yazidis find themselves in a familiar spot: trying to flee or waiting in fear.

    “Wherever Yazidis go, they will be killed and persecuted,” said Baba Sheikh, the elderly spiritual leader of the religion.

    Read more at Al Jazeera America
  • Syrian Kurds are demanding their own delegation at the upcoming Geneva 2 peace talks, Reuters reported early Thursday. 

    From Reuters: 

    Syrian Kurds are demanding their own delegation separate from both the government and opposition at next month's peace talks in Switzerland aimed at halting the conflict in Syria, Kurdish political leaders said on Thursday.

    The Kurds say they need independent representation because their demands in negotiations over Syria's future are distinct from those of the government or the opposition Syrian National Coalition that seeks to end President Bashar al-Assad's rule.

    "The Coalition are no different from Assad's Baath party rule when it comes to their position on the Kurds. They do not recognize the rights of Kurds to live on their land with recognition of their basic rights, including the right to administer their own region," said Abdelsalam Ahmed, a leading figure in the Democratic Union Party (PYD).


  • According to United Nations investigators, secret detention is part of Syria's 'campaign of terror,' Reuters reported early Thursday. 

    From Reuters: 

    Syrian activists and other citizens have vanished into secret detention as part of a "widespread campaign of terror against the civilian population" by the Damascus government, U.N. investigators said on Thursday.

    The state-run practice of enforced disappearances in Syria - abductions that are officially denied - is systematic enough to amount to a crime of humanity, they said in a report.

    Some armed groups in northern Syria, especially the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), have also begun to abduct people into incommunicado detention and denied their captivity, tantamount to the crime of enforced disappearances, it said.

    ISIL has also sought ransoms or prisoner exchanges, which constitute separate war crimes, it added.


  • The Geneva 2 preparation meeting concerning the participation of women in Syria has begun. Many people from Human Rights Watch — including Peter Bouckaert, Julie de Rivero and Liesl Gerntholtz — are live tweeting the event. 

    According to people at the meeting, it appears Lakhdar Brahimi, the UN-Arab League envoy to Syria, left as the Syrian women began to speak. 


    Attendees are using the conference to make their case for why it is so important women be involved in peace negotiations for their country. 


    Women also shared their stories about their lives in Syria, according to the Human Rights Watch employees on the ground



  • #UN :Some armed groups especially ISIL also abducting people, denying their captivity; tantamount to the crime of enforced disappearances
  • #UN :Syrian activists &others vanished into secret detention part of "widespread campaign of terror against civilian population" by govt

  • The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres thanked the European Union for a contribution of $87 million (€63 million) for displaced Syrians by the European Commission's Humanitarian Aid department (ECHO):

    This is the largest single contribution UNHCR has received from the European Union. This assistance will allow UNHCR to provide vital support to those most impacted by the largest humanitarian crisis the world is facing. Today's announcement comes two days after the UN and partners launched an appeal for US$6.5 billion for Syria, the largest amount requested for a single humanitarian emergency.

    "We must do whatever we can to help those who have lost everything through this conflict. One of UNHCR's priorities is to bolster support in the neighboring countries during the winter, where the vast majority of Syrian refugees live and where needs are greater than ever. UNHCR welcomes the support from the European Union," said High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres.

    EU Commissioner for Humanitarian Aid Kristalina Georgieva said "Our collaboration with the major UN agencies is vital to the overall relief assistance being provided by Europe for this terrible crisis. Working together has enabled us to reach many of the millions of men, women and children who are suffering as a result of this tragic conflict."

    Over 2.3 million people have fled Syria since the beginning of the conflict in March 2011, in one of the largest refugee exoduses in recent history, while 6.5 million people are displaced inside Syria. The EU's contribution will support the work of UNHCR and its partners in providing humanitarian assistance to people displaced in Syria, Lebanon, Jordan and Iraq.

  • In his first-ever media interview, Abu Mohammed al-Joulani, leader of the Nusra Front, told Al Jazeera the conflict is nearing end. Speaking to Al Jazeera Arabic correspondent Tayseer Allouni, Joulani said that they "will achieve victory soon":

    In his first-ever televised interview, Abu Mohammed al-Joulani, the leader of Jabhat al-Nusra, ruled out peace talks with President Bashar al-Assad and warned that Arab states should be cautious of the recent improvement of Iran-US ties.

    "The battle is almost over, we have covered about 70 percent of it, and what's left is small. We will achieve victory soon. We pray to God to culminate these efforts with victory. It's only a matter of days," he said in an exclusive interview with Al Jazeera's Tayseer Allouni from an undisclosed location in Syria.

    Al-Joulani added that al-Nusra - designated by the UN, the US and other western countries as a terrorist organisation - would not accept the outcome of the upcoming international conference in Geneva scheduled for January.

    For the interview with Al Jazeera, al-Joulani asked that his face be hidden because of security fears. Little is known about the Al-Qaeda leader, but it is believed that he had joined the self-declared jihadist group several years ago to fight US forces in Iraq.



  • The U.N. General Assembly approved a resolution initiated by Saudi Arabia expressing outrage at "widespread and systematic gross violations" by Syrian authorities.

    The resolution also expresses "grave concern at the spread of extremism and extremist groups" in Syria.

    The resolution is highly critical of the regime of President Bashar al-Assad. It also condemns the "large-scale use" of chemical weapons.

    The Syrian ambassador to the U.N., Bashar Ja'afari, called the resolution "outrageously hostile."

    General Assembly resolutions are not legally binding, but they are a strong expression of world opinion. The divided Security Council, whose resolutions are legally binding, is largely stalled on taking strong action on the Syria conflict.

    [Associated Press]
  • Just after the interview with al-Joulani on Al Jazeera, Jabhat al-Nusra's official twitter account @JbhtAnNusrah has been suspended.
  • The United States is urging the U.N. Security Council to condemn violence by all parties in Syria and express outrage at Syrian government airstrikes, especially this week's indiscriminate use of heavy weapons in Aleppo that killed more than 100 people.

    A proposed council statement would express deep concern at the escalating level of violence in the Syrian conflict, including the use of SCUD missiles and "barrel bombs" in Aleppo.

    The draft, obtained Wednesday by The Associated Press, would reiterate the council's call for greater access for humanitarian workers, and welcome the Jan. 22 peace conference in Geneva to try to end the Syrian conflict.

    Council members have been deeply divided over Syria. The U.S. Mission said the statement will be adopted if there are no objections by Thursday morning.

    [Associated Press]
  • The mother and brother of a British surgeon who died in a Syrian prison days before his planned release this week are pleading with authorities to return the man's body and put an end to their family's 13-month ordeal.

    Fatima Khan said the government has not released the body of her son Abbas, an orthopedic surgeon from south London who had been imprisoned since last November after traveling to rebel-held Aleppo to offer his medical services.

    "If you wouldn't give him to me alive, at least give me his dead body," she said between sobs during an interview with Reuters on Wednesday.

    She said she would not accept the Syrian government's invitation to send a team of foreign doctors to perform an autopsy on her son's body in Damascus.

    "We don't want an investigation," she said. "He's dead now, just give us his body and we'll go."

    [Reuters]
  • State Dept.: Report that Assad staying in power as part of talks is completely false, maintains position he must go.
  • State Dept.: Encouraged Syrian opposition to put together 'wide-ranging' delegation for Geneva 2.
  • State Dept.: Have not met with Islamic Front in Syria yet, but 'open' to meeting in future.
  • US and Russia consider Syria peace plan that keeps Assad in power

    Western nations have confirmed the Syrian opposition's worst fears by indicating that peace talks next month may not lead to the removal of President Bashar al-Assad, and that his Alawite minority will remain key in any transitional administration, opposition sources told Reuters.

    The message, delivered to senior members of the Syrian National Coalition at a meeting of the anti-Assad Friends of Syria alliance in London last week, was prompted by the rise of Al-Qaeda and other hard-line groups among the vast and disjointed anti-Assad movement, the sources told Reuters.

    Most recently, a powerful coalition of hard-line fighters took over a border crossing and arms depots near Turkey belonging to the moderate Free Syrian Army (FSA), prompting the United States and U.K. to cut off aid to the FSA in northern Syria.

    "Our Western friends made it clear in London that Assad cannot be allowed to go now because they think chaos and an Islamist militant takeover would ensue," said one senior coalition member who is close to officials from Saudi Arabia.

    Read more at Al Jazeera America
  • Amnesty International has released its 2013 Annual Report on Syria. The report is an extremely detailed look at the various human rights violations reported in the country and covers everything from attacks on journalists, to attacks on health workers, to poor treatment of those in custody. 

    From the report's introduction: 


    The internal armed conflict between government forces and the opposition, composed of the Free Syrian Army (FSA) and other armed opposition groups, was marked by gross human rights abuses, war crimes and crimes against humanity. Government forces, which were responsible for the vast majority of violations, carried out indiscriminate attacks on residential areas using aircraft, artillery shells, mortars, incendiary weapons and cluster bombs. Together with their support militias, they arrested thousands of people, including children, subjecting many to enforced disappearance. 

    Torture and other ill-treatment of detainees were commonplace; at least 550 were reported to have died in custody, many after torture. Others were extrajudicially executed. Security forces’ snipers continued to shoot peaceful anti-government demonstrators and people attending public funerals. Health workers treating the wounded were targeted. A climate of impunity reigned both for past and ongoing gross human rights violations. Armed groups fighting against the government also committed gross abuses, including war crimes. 

    They tortured and/or summarily killed government soldiers and militia members after taking them prisoner and carried out indiscriminate bombings that killed or injured civilians. Hundreds of thousands of people were forced to flee their homes; the UN estimated that over 2 million people were internally displaced and living under conditions of extreme hardship within Syria, and that since the beginning of the conflict almost 600,000 had fled as refugees to neighbouring countries, where conditions were often harsh. It was not possible to confirm whether any death sentences were imposed or if executions were carried out.

  • The Associated Press breaks down the most important questions about the OPCW's newly released plan for destroying Syria's chemical weapons, including a detailed look at the timeline and who is footing the bill. 

    From the AP: 

    HOW ARE THE CHEMICALS GETTING TO PORT?

    This is one of the most risky stages of the operation. Uzumcu says Syria has drawn up a plan for transporting chemicals from 12 storage sites to the port of Latakia.

    While there will be no foreign troops on the ground to help secure the transport, countries are sending vital equipment.

    The United States is supplying nearly 3,000 container drums, loading, transportation, and decontamination equipment. Washington also is providing GPS locators that will let authorities track the chemicals. Russia is providing large capacity and armored trucks, water tanks, and other logistical supplies. It has also indicated the possibility of helping with security for cargo operations at the port and in Syrian territorial waters. China is providing surveillance cameras and 10 ambulances.


  • Many Alawites angry victims of Aug 4 attack picked w/shovels & hastily buried in shoddy graves in #Latakia #Syria http://pbs.twimg.com/media/BbxAAmkCIAEL5CA.jpg

  • The airstrike on Aleppo has continued into the fourth day, The Associated Press reported Wednesday. 

    From the AP: 

    Syrian warplanes dumped explosive-laden barrel bombs over opposition-held parts of the northern city of Aleppo on Wednesday, the fourth day of a relentless offensive to drive rebels out of the contested city, activists said.

    The assault has killed more than 165 people in the first three days, according to the British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, an activist group.

    The intensity of the campaign suggests that President Bashar Assad's government is trying to crush opposition in Aleppo, Syria's largest city and once its commercial hub, ahead of an international peace conference scheduled for late January in Switzerland.

    Aleppo has been a major front in Syria's civil war since the rebels launched an offensive there in mid-2012, and the city has since been carved into opposition- and government-held areas.


  • Ahmet Üzümcü, the director-general for the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, has submitted to the OPCW Executive Council a plan for destroying Syria's chemical weapons outside the country, the organization announced early Wednesday. 

    Üzümcü's plan aims to destroy Syria's priority chemicals by March 31, 2014, and other chemicals by June 30, 2014. 

    The major highlight from Üzümcü's opening statement to the Executive Council is the various countries that will play a role in destroying Syria's chemical weapons: 

    The highlights of the plan are the decisions of a number of States Parties to provide crucial 
    and substantial assistance. As I announced in my statement to the Council on 29 November, 
    the United States of America will provide facilities necessary to neutralise the priority 
    chemicals on board one of its vessels at sea. 
     
    Denmark and Norway will provide vessels and military escorts for the maritime 
    transportation of the Syrian chemicals, and subsequently for the transportation of chemicals 
    that are to be disposed of at commercial facilities. Finland has offered chemical weapons 
    emergency-response capabilities. Italy has decided to offer a port for the transloading of the 
    priority chemicals from the Danish-Norwegian vessel to the United States ship. 
     
    For the transportation of chemicals from the storage sites to the port of Latakia, States Parties 
    have similarly provided or committed essential materials and equipment. Apart from 
    supplying nearly 3000 container drums of various capacities, the United States of America is
     
    providing GPS locators, loading, transportation, and decontamination equipment. The 
    Russian Federation is providing large capacity and armoured trucks, water tanks, and other 
    logistical supplies. It has also indicated the possibility of further monetary or material 
    assistance, as well as security for cargo operations at the port and in Syrian territorial waters. 
    China is providing surveillance cameras and 10 ambulances. Once again, these contributions 
    are specific to the transportation and destruction of Syrian chemical weapons outside its 
    territory. 


  • Syria has denied a visa to one of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapon's South Korean inspectors, fueling speculation that Syria is trying to conceal covert military cooperation with North Korea. The move could also be in contravention of the treaty signed by Syria pledging to destroy their chemical weapons. Bloomberg reports:

    The Syrian government has refused to issue a visa to a South Korean chemical-weapons inspector with the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons to join its personnel rotation there, according to the diplomats, who have knowledge of the matter and asked not to be identified because they're not authorized to discuss it.

    The Chemical Weapons Convention, the global treaty on chemical arms destruction that Syria signed on Oct. 14, doesn't permit members to screen inspectors by nationality, and doing so may constitute non-compliance under both the convention and the disarmament agreement brokered by the U.S. and Russia.

    The inspector’s visa trouble undercuts public reports by Sigrid Kaag, the head of the joint UN-OPCW mission, of "constructive cooperation" by the Assad regime. Two of the four diplomats said Kaag privately notified the South Korean government of her failure to negotiate the inspector's travel papers during a Nov. 25-30 visit to Damascus, and also said it would be difficult to secure them in the future.

    The inspector awaiting a visa to travel to Syria is a former South Korean defense ministry official, according to a South Korean official who wasn't authorized to speak publicly and asked not to be named.

  • The chief U.N. chemical weapons investigator in Syria says there should be a new investigation to determine who was responsible for chemical weapons attacks that killed hundreds in the conflict-wracked country.

    Ake Sellstrom, who led a team that confirmed the use of chemical weapons in a major attack on Aug. 21 near Damascus, said in an interview late Monday that if there is no accountability, "I will think it's sad."

    Sellstrom said using chemical weapons is "a hideous crime...so it's logical that this should be followed up and brought to court somehow, or brought to a tribunal, or brought to something."

    He said his team gathered "lots of facts," but not enough to determine "the guilty party in this."

    To determine who used chemical weapons, Sellstrom said, a much broader investigation is needed.

    He told reporters last Friday that his team did not have the freedom of a police force in carrying out its investigation.

    There are "a lot of other facts with the Syrian government, with the opposition, with several capitals," he said, citing possible information on transport of chemical weapons, on militias, and on conversations that may have been overheard and recorded as well as other intelligence. Key witnesses could also be found in Syria and at the sites of the attacks, he added.

    "Someone must have given the order," Sellstrom said. "There must have been consequences somewhere - and that we could be able to pick up if people are willing to give that information to (a) member state or to such an inquiry."

    [Associated Press]
  • Earlier today, State Department spokesperson Marie Harf said that Ambassador Ford is currently in Turkey having meetings with members of the Syrian opposition - excluding the Islamic Front. 
  • Residents react while calling for help as they hold an injured man that survived shelling after what activists said was an air strike from forces loyal to Syria's President Bashar al-Assad in Takeek Al-Bab area of Aleppo, December 17, 2013. REUTERS/Saad AboBrahim

  • Our colleagues at Al Jazeera English have created an interactive infographic about Syrian refugee children. According to the UNHCR, there's over 1.1 million child refugees. Over two-thirds of those live in Jordan or Lebanon, and of those, more than 3,700 are living without one or both of their parents. Visit the interactive and click through.


    Visit the interactive at Al Jazeera English
  • Western nations have indicated to the Syrian opposition that peace next month talks may not lead to the removal of President Bashar al-Assad and that his Alawite minority will remain key in any transitional administration, opposition sources said.

    The message, delivered to senior members of the Syrian National Coalition at a meeting of the anti-Assad Friends of Syria alliance in London last week, was prompted by rise of Al Qaeda and other militant groups, and their takeover of a border crossing and arms depots near Turkey belonging to the moderate Free Syrian Army, the sources told Reuters.

    "Our Western friends made it clear in London that Assad cannot be allowed to go now because they think chaos and an Islamist militant takeover would ensue," said one senior member of the Coalition who is close to officials from Saudi Arabia.

    Noting the possibility of Assad holding a presidential election when his term formally ends next year, the Coalition member added: "Some do not even seem to mind if he runs again next year, forgetting he gassed his own people."

    The shift in Western priorities, particularly the United States and Britain, from removing Assad towards combating Islamist militants is causing divisions within international powers backing the nearly three-year-old revolt, according to diplomats and senior members of the coalition.

    Like President Barack Obama's rejection of air strikes against Syria in September after he accused Assad's forces of using poison gas, such a diplomatic compromise on a transition could narrow Western differences with Russia, which has blocked United Nations action against Assad, but also widen a gap in approach with the rebels' allies in the Middle East.

    [Reuters]
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