Syrian opposition accuses Damascus of 'stalling' talks

GENEVA, SWITZERLAND- The main Syrian opposition group at peace talks in Geneva accused Damascus on Sunday of "stalling", after its chief envoy demanded all sides condemn the deadly suicide assault in Homs this weekend.
The High Negotiations Committee (HNC) made the charge after the Syrian regime's chief negotiator Bashar al-Jaafari said any opposition delegates who refused to condemn the attack were "accomplices of terrorism."

"Jaafari is stalling, they don't want to start the political transition," HNC spokesman Salem al-Meslet told AFP in Geneva, where sputtering UN-sponsored peace talks are taking place.
He said that in previous Geneva meetings, and now this one, "the only word that the regime knows is terrorism. In fact he is stalling by only mentioning this word and the fight against terrorism.
"Just as he is insisting on condemning the incident that happened yesterday, we also demand the regime delegation to tell everyone that they are committed to political transition," he added.
UN Syria envoy Staffan de Mistura launched the fourth round of Geneva talks on Thursday, but as in previous meetings there appears little prospect of the two sides meeting face-to-face.
In Homs on Saturday blasts targeted two security service bases, killing dozens including a top intelligence chief and close confidant of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said in all 42 people were killed, but the provincial governor put the figure at 30 dead in the attacks claimed by former Al-Qaeda affiliate Fateh al-Sham Front.
The Syrian regime's delegation chief in Geneva vowed "retaliation" in response to the atrocity, and demanded all opposition delegates condemn it.
In response, HNC chief negotiator Nasr al-Hariri said: "Our positions are clear in condemning terrorism and terrorists".
When asked to clarify if that meant he condemned the Homs attacks, he said: "We condemn all terrorist operations committed by terrorist groups, and if what happened in Homs is a terrorist operation then my remarks are clear."
The Homs attacks came a day after 77 people, mostly civilians, were killed in a suicide bombing claimed by the Islamic State group in Al-Bab, said the Observatory. The jihadists were ousted from the northern town this week by Turkish-backed rebels.

Monday, February 27th 2017

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