Syrian Opposition confirms that it will attend peace talks


HNC confirms it is coming to #Genevaiii to participate in discussions with the @UN, not for negotiations. #Syria


Statement by Secretary @JohnKerry on the #Syria negotiations in Geneva: 


.@statedeptspox Kirby on @UN-led talks in Geneva on #Syria




Syrian Opposition requests implementation of humanitarian clauses of resolution 2254 (bombardments-sieges) ahead of peace talks and sends letter to Secretary General for an update on the matter





HNC on International Media

(tweeted by HNC)



"But before engaging in negotiations, he told Amanpour, his group must see implementation of humanitarian provisions in a U.N. Security Council resolution passed in December, the first such agreement in the Syrian war."

Link to Resolution 2254


("Where are the promises and pledges for improving humanitarian conditions?")

Riyad Hijab to @camanpour@SyrianHNC "completely serious" in such peace talks, and willing to go at any moment." 


"#Assad does not want a political solution," HNC Riyad Hijab @MediaPmoffice tells @camanpour @CNN  #Syria



Breaking news: @HNCsyrian says it will not attend tomorrow's talks in #Geneva, as humanitarian conditions not met. 


#Syrian High Negotiating Committee (HNC) press release (arabic) about invitation to UN peace talks: 




UK Foreign Office provides update


What does the Syrian Opposition Higher Negotiations Committee want? #PeaceForSyria

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What does the "DontgotoGeneva" sentiment represent?


Syrian activists launch #DontgotoGeneva campaign asking opposition to boycott talks



"The next post says "don't go to Geneva because people are being killed by air strikes, barrel bombs and hunger. Don't give legitimacy to [President] Assad to continue killing us and don't allow his thugs to control you behind closed doors." "



"This post by one activist says: "Do not go to Geneva. We did not sacrifice all this blood and half a million martyrs to share the government with a criminal gang and their fake opposition."


"Below, one man asks another: "What do you think of Geneva 3?" The other man answers him saying: "Is there bread?"




UN Syria Envoy address to Syrians ahead of peace talks


THE DAILY WRAP: @UN News roundup w/ today's news on #Syria, #Burundi, #Ethiopia, @unisdr and much more -


 Pinned Tweet

UN Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura's message to the women, men & children of Syria, ahead of #SyriaTalks


Special Envoy for Syria de Mistura's message to women, men & children ahead of #SyriaTalks 


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UN Envoy: You have seen enough conferences, two of them have already taken place. This one cannot fail. #SyriaTalks


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How to address humanitarian concerns during talks?


.@AmbassadorPower's remarks to the press following UNSC meeting on #Syria.


.@AmbassadorPower: @UNOCHA & @WFP presented more harrowing statistics on the grim humanitarian situation in #Syria.


Russia is bombing on behalf of Syria gov—surely it cld use leverage to get Assad to allow aid to reach starving ppl


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HNC address to the United States Committee on Foreign Relations

Riyad Hijab @MediaPmoffice spoke with SFRC Chairman @SenBobCorker on the Geneva Peace Talks on #Syria 


US Presidential Candidates on Syria policy

Where do US presidential candidates stand on #Syria issues since the most recent debates?


TSI's Candidate Tracker is updated with on the latest #Syria policy from recent debates: 

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We are excited to announce launch of #SiegeWatch monitoring project with @PAXforpeace. Visit our new site:  #Syria



UK Foreign Office on the Fall of al-Sheikh Miskeen


26 Jan 2016

UK Special Rep for #Syria's statement on the fall of al-Sheikh Miskeen to regime forces & #Russia-n/#Asad offensive.

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On the role of a charismatic leader for the rebel groups (armed opposition)

Excerpt from source tweeted below:

Russia’s Military Campaign in Syria Contradicts Push for Geneva Compromise


"At least 20 rebel leaders have been assassinated since Russia launched its intervention, most notably Zahran Alloush on December 25. His death came one week after an international contact group, led by Russia and the United States, met in New York to prepare for the upcoming Geneva talks. Although Alloush, the leader of a major Islamist rebel group, Jaish al-Islam, espoused radical Islamist views, he remained a key figure who had the potential to effect change within rebel ranks had a peace deal been concluded with the Syrian government. Alloush was a powerful leader with support from Saudi Arabia and Turkey, and, unlike other major Islamist rebel groups, had previously demonstrated a willingness to negotiate with the regime. In late 2014, Alloush signaled his interest in a possible localized cease-fire with the regime in the eastern Damascene suburb of Douma—a Jaish al-Islam stronghold.


The cease-fire was never realized, but it revealed that Alloush was, despite his hardline Islamism, a rebel leader amenable to compromise. It is highly probable that Alloush would have been incorporated in any unity government and presented as the leader of Syria’s legitimized Islamist camp—if such a process came to fruition out of the current diplomatic effort. Alloush’s inclusion may have also prompted the key—and genuine—endorsement of Saudi Arabia and Turkey of the peace process, which is now met with disinterest in Riyadh and Ankara."


Nusra has facilitated humanitarian access at some instances

"as if several Nusras and ISILs, with varying characteristics, exist"

#Syria Crisis: A @Parlio Community Q&A with U.N. Adviser @Fayoumyy | 

Q: Were you involved in negotiations with the terrorist groups like ISIS and Al-Nusra? If so, how was that experience?


Elfayoumy: A number of Security Council resolutions have designated ISIL and Al-Nusra as terrorist organizations, hence the U.N. cannot be involved in political negotiations with either. However, in some instances and for humanitarian purposes, a kind of contact took place. I cannot disclose much about that, but I would say that Nusra is way different from ISIL, in its composition, behavior and scope of activities. I would also say that it's not about groups of innately violent psychopaths. A degree of pragmatism was shown when needed, especially with Nusra. Military context, financial capabilities, geographical location, ratio of foreign fighters and pre-existing local culture have a strong impact on the attitudes and behaviors of the groups, which might appear sometimes as if several Nusras and ISILs, with varying characteristics, exist.






Parties are invited to proximity talks starting on 2016-01-29 with three objectives: 

Constitution, Governance, Elections


Parallelly: Cease-fire, Humanitarian aid


Constitution: Could we continue from the constitutional reform initiated by the Syrian government in the beginning of 2012 in response to the Syrian uprising?


From :

"Constitutions that are drafted pursuant to a violent conflict can play an important role in promoting national reconciliation. Specific provisions relating to transitional justice can create an opportunity to turn a new page while at the same time offering redress to victims of violence and repression."



Reference to the 2012 constitutional reform in the interview of Ribal Al-Assad, (Prodemocracy Campaigner in Syria, and cousin of Syrian President) by Oksana Boyko for RT


Full interview here:

Transcript of the first part of the interview follows this post.




Oksana Boyko: "There were some changes, some movements on the political front to make the Syrian political system more liberalized. Surely, it wasn't enough; I mean I am not going to discuss the quality of those changes. "


Worlds Apart caption : Syria held a constitutional referendum in 2012 to allow political pluralism



Information from wikipedia,_2012

A constitutional referendum was held in Syria on 26 February 2012. In response to the Syrian uprising, President Bashar al-Assad ordered a new constitution to be drafted.[1] The referendum was not monitored by foreign observers.[2]


The new constitution would set a limit of two seven-year terms for future presidents and also removed Article 8 of the constitution of Syria, which states that "the Arab Socialist Ba'ath Party leads the state and society."[3]


Political parties

The text removes Baath party monopoly over the political life in Syria. The constitution also states that political parties cannot be founded on ethnic, religious, regional and tribal basis.[4] Any planned political party must get the government's permission and approval before it is to be formed.[5]



Syria Constitution 2012 translated by the UN


Assessment of the Syrian Constitution by


27 February 2012

In response to months of persistent demonstrations, uprisings and violence, the Syrian state has engaged in a number of reforms. In February 2012, a committee of experts that was appointed specifically for the purpose of drawing up a new constitution for the country submitted its final draft to the president. The draft was published shortly thereafter and is set to be put to a referendum within weeks. Sources that are close to Syria’s ruling party have hailed the draft as a major advance towards achieving genuine democracy and satisfying protesters’ demands. Others have retorted that the draft amounts to little more than window dressing and will make little or no difference to the manner in which Syria and Syrians are governed. This short commentary offers some initial thoughts on the draft and where it is likely to lead the country.

Content from the full article here:


Excerpt from the interview:

Oksana Boyko: “there were some changes, some movements on the political front to make the Syrian political system more liberalized. Surely, it wasn't enough; I mean I am not going to discuss the quality of those changes. “


Worlds Apart caption : Syria held a constitutional referendum in 2012 to allow political pluralism


Ribal Al-Assad: “You have not allowed political parties. (...) Yes, they made some changes, but they were very slow at the beginning. They said « we need time to study the new constitution, we need time to study the laws, how to set up new political groups ». Well, it took too long. Things were moving very fast in the Middle East.


Things had started changing in Tunisia, in Libya, in Egypt. And of course, people who had seen what was going on there, were encouraged by that and wanted these changes in Syria. (…)


O.B.: OK Ribal, point taken. You believe that the Syrian Government acted way too slowly.



Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) Mission to Syria and


Lebanon (January 2015)


Notes from press point:

"But we have to start from something.

To start from the Parliament.

The International Community should help the parliament strengthen its capacity to deliver its mandate.

The parliament should not be viewed as an appendage to the regime. It is important that the parliament is seen as credible and legitimate."


Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU)

An Institution which is described as “The global organization of parliaments” and works closely with the UN (in Geneva).

The IPU is the international organization of Parliaments (Article 1 of the Statutes of the Inter-Parliamentary Union). It was established in 1889.


The Union is the focal point for world-wide parliamentary dialogue and works for peace and co-operation among peoples and for the firm establishment of representative democracy.


The IPU supports the efforts of and works in close co-operation with the United Nations, whose objectives it shares. The Union also co-operates with regional inter-parliamentary organizations, as well as with international intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations which are motivated by the same ideals.


The site of the Union's Headquarters is Geneva (Switzerland).


Created in 1889 on the initiative of two parliamentarians and men of peace, William Randal Cremer (United Kingdom) and Frédéric Passy (France), the Inter-Parliamentary Union was the first permanent forum for political multilateral negotiations. The Union was founded in Paris in 1889. Since 1921, theUnion's Headquarters has been permanently based in Geneva (Switzerland).



The IPU mission included discussions with the President of Syria, Bashar al-Assad, “the Speaker of the Syrian Parliament, Mohammad Jihad al-Laham, the Parliamentary Reconciliation Group, political opposition within and outside of parliament, religious leaders and representatives from minority groups and local communities.”





Available at UNOG site (The United Nations Office in Geneva)

Listen/Download Press Conferences:


27 January 2015

IPU Press Conference Q & A on IPU mission to Syria and Lebanon

Martin Chungong, IPU Secretary General


(Less than 9 minute statement followed by Q&A)


Personal Listening Notes from the Press Conference audio file

We came back from Syria with an enhanced understanding of the situation.

We visited Syria to gain understanding of the situation on the ground.

We talked with the president, members of the parliament, the opposition and religious leaders.

The parliament should represent all the clusters of the Syrian people.

It could be said that the parliament is not legitimate because it is not representative of the Syrian people.


But we have to start from something.

To start from the Parliament.

The International Community should help the parliament strengthen its capacity to deliver its mandate.

The parliament should not be viewed as an appendage to the regime. It is important that the parliament is seen as credible and legitimate.



PRESS NOTE on 2015-01-16 ANNOUNCING THE MISSION (which has taken place) (Note that there is a sensitive image of two wounded children). The text is copied below.


Parliamentary mission to Syria to aid peace and anti-terrorism efforts


A mission to the Syrian Arab Republic and Lebanon led by Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) Secretary General Martin Chungong will mark the first on-the-ground effort of the global parliamentary community to help find a political solution to ending the Syrian conflict.

The mission in January will pave the way for a full fact-finding mission by MPs from across the world in the months to come.

Syria has dominated IPU concerns for several years now. Since 2012, several political resolutions have been adopted by IPU Members on the conflict and its humanitarian fall-out, the need to protect civilians and to stem the growth of terrorism.

Parliament’s role at the national and international levels to bring about national reconciliation, end violence and protect the security and rights of the Syrian people has been repeatedly stressed.

The IPU delegation will hold talks in Damascus after consultations with the Lebanese Speaker of Parliament Nabih Berry and government leaders in Beirut on the impact of the Syrian crisis on Lebanon.

Talks in the Syrian capital will be comprehensive and inclusive. They will include discussions with the Speaker of the Syrian Parliament, Mohammad Jihad al-Laham, the Parliamentary Reconciliation Group, political opposition within and outside of parliament, religious leaders and representatives from minority groups and local communities.

“The long duration of the conflict without much hope of resolution has created a vacuum now filled by extremism and terrorism. If there is to be any serious chance of tackling this dangerous and rapidly expanding phenomenon, there needs to be an end to the Syrian conflict and a genuine commitment to national reconciliation,” says IPU Secretary General Chungong. “This will provide a solid foundation for united and concerted action at every level to stem the horrific violence and human rights abuses that have now spread across much of the region.”

As the only entity that serves as an effective platform for mediating between the interests of society, a strong, representative parliament that oversees and holds government to account is critical to any political solution in Syria. It is a role that has been increasingly recognized.

“This mission is a card marker of parliamentary intent to mobilize action and dialogue on finding solutions. Parliaments have a unique role in efforts to bring peace to the region,” the IPU Secretary General adds.


The Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) is the global organization of national parliaments. It works to safeguard peace and drives positive democratic change through political dialogue and concrete action.





Foreign Affairs @ForeignAffairs · Jan 28 Tweeted:

How to stop Syria's civil war: Link to article


Foreign Affairs article by David C. Litt published on 2015-01-26


DAVID C. LITT is Executive Director of the Center for Stabilization & Reconstruction at the Institute for Defense & Business. He was previously a career U.S. diplomat and U.S. Ambassador to the United Arab Emirates.


(…) Yet the same skepticism surrounded the 14-year-long Lebanese civil war in the 1980s. And that horrific and seemingly intractable conflict finally ended in 1989 with what came to be known as the Taif Agreement, named after the Saudi Arabian city that hosted the Arab League–led negotiations.


Are the negotiations that produced the Taif Agreement an appropriate model for resolving the Syrian crisis?(…)


The success of the 1989 negotiations was in large part a product of tacit agreements and behind-the-scenes diplomacy among Lebanon’s neighbors, often facilitated by the U.S. embassies in their capitals. Effective negotiations provided clear channels of communication and stanched the misperceptions and misunderstandings that would otherwise have prevented consensus among Lebanon’s neighbors. Working concurrently, Cairo, Riyadh, Jerusalem, Washington, and others eventually persuaded the various Lebanese political factions into consensus.


A Syrian peace process would likely be more manageable, since the country does not suffer from the sort of complex ethno-sectarian disputes that were at play in Lebanon. The dynamics in Syria are in some ways simpler: a dictatorial regime is brutalizing its own citizens; a Sunni Arab majority is yearning for its rightful place in a participatory democracy; a mosaic of Syrian citizens, many of them non-Sunni or non-Arab, want to live and work in peace; and an Alawite minority is fearful of falling victim to indiscriminate reprisals. As with Lebanon, all victims of the current conflict are demanding their own version of justice. And the jihadist pretensions of the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) are actually alien to Syria’s history and culture.



2015-02-19: Interview of Ribal al-Assad, prodemocracy campaigner in Syria, director of the “Organisation for Democracy and Freedom in Syria” 

by Oksana Boyko (Worlds Apart, RT)


[Note that Ribal al-Assad is fluent in English, French (attended French school) and Arabic]




Organisation For Democracy And Freedom In Syria


Note: Bold font serves the purpose of grasping at once the main issue each speaker mentions. It serves recapitulation purposes.


[2.39] R.A.: From the beginning, the West, the international community has decided to let regional countries such as Turkey, Qatar, Saoudi Arabia to take the lead. (...) they have allowed those countries to pick and choose an opposition that was mainly Islamist in nature and you all remember how they set up at the time the Syrian National Council which was mainly made up of the Muslim Brootherhood. (...)


O.B.: I totally agree with you on your assertion that that the Syrian conflict was very much misrepresented from the very beginning. But before we go there,you make no secret that you happen to be a cousin of the current President Bashar al-Assad even though you have been all along very critical of him. You criticized him sharply long before the Arab spring and before he became a pariah in the eyes of the West. I am going to ask if you though, if over the last 4 years you ever sympathized with him and the kind of decisions that he had to take regarding the future of your country.


R.A.: No, unfortunately Oksana. Bashar al-Assad could have done things differently in Syria. We hoped that he could have done things differently. We hoped that he could have allowed political parties to exist in Syria and to be able to be formed peacefully. This would have not allowed those islamist groups to take advantage of this chaos that is going on. These would not have allowed regional countries who wanted to see their own interests by placing those islamists groups as a forefront. And unfortunately he did not listen. He did not want to listen. And I don't think it was because of him, I think itwas maybe because of the people he was surrounded by.


Worlds Apart capture | Ribal Al-Assad: If president Al-Assad had allowed plurality, islamists could not have taken advantage of chaos.


O.B.: I agree with you only partially here because it is sure that some people within his circle perhaps had personal reasons to act one way or another, butat the same time as someone who has covered this conflict from the very beginning, I know that, from the very beginning, in addition to those prodemocracy protests that were taking place all around the country, you also had terrorist attacks taking place all around the country. And even if you take the incident of Dara, the one that is often cited, the army supposedly brutally suppressed the protestors, I know for a fact that from the very beginning, within that crowd that came out to protest the detention of those teenagers there were armed people. There were people who were shooting, there were people who stormed the local TV center. Are you ready to conceit here that from the very beginning the Syrian military, the Bashar al-Assad circle had real reasons to be concerned about the security in the country knowing that there were a lot of fighters, a lot of weapons streaming into the country ?


R.A: Yes, it is true, Oksana, but usually when you see that there is, as they call it, if it is, a conspiracy or whatever coming from whatever other regions or countries, the way to counter it is not by using force, not just taking the decision unilaterally to go against, if there are such islamic groups. You first of all have to build a national unity government, you have to bring people together, people who believe in building the future of Syria peacefully together, you know into a genuinly democratic system. Because as you know only genuine democracy is able to protect those minority groups in Syria, and the beautiful mosaic that we have in Syria actually. Unfortunately they did not do that. We hoped really that they would bring together the people that at heart were genuine in seeing a peaceful transitional change and be all able to all work together into protecting Syria, into making a transitional change, into allowing elections, into allowing political parties to exist.



O.B.: With all do respect there were some changes, some movements on the political front to make the Syrian political system more liberalized. Surely, it wasn't enough; I mean I am not going to discuss the quality of those changes. 



Worlds Apart caption : Syria held a constitutional referendum in 2012 to allow political pluralism



A constitutional referendum was held in Syria on 26 February 2012. In response to the Syrian uprisingPresident Bashar al-Assad ordered a new constitution to be drafted.[1] The referendum was not monitored by foreign observers.[2]

The new constitution would set a limit of two seven-year terms for future presidents and also removed Article 8 of the constitution of Syria, which states that "the Arab Socialist Ba'ath Party leads the state and society."[3]

Political parties


The text removes Baath party monopoly over the political life in Syria. The constitution also states that political parties cannot be founded on ethnic, religious, regional and tribal basis.[4] Any planned political party must get the government's permission and approval before it is to be formed.[5]



O.B.: But I would like to bring you back again to the military sort of dimension of that conflict. I am not going to defend here the military tactics of the Assad government, the death toll of Syria as you said speaks for itself. But we also have to keep in mind that a significant portion of that death toll belongs to the Syrian Army, you know to the soldiers, to the security forces personel; which suggests that this conflict wasn't one dimensional. It was not just the army killing innocent civilians, it was an active combat from both sides. And my question to you is what other ways were open to President Assad and his circle other than to suppress those islamist rebels militarily. Do you believe in a political deal that you alluded to with groups like ISIS, Al-Nusra, Islamic Front, and many other groups even the so called moderate rebels, whatever, you know, that term means ?




R.A.: I am fully aware that a lot of people, around 80.000 of the people that have died out of those 200,000 belong to the military and the security services in Syria. I am fully aware of that, Oksana. We are not saying that it is one sided, of course. We know very well that there have been a lot of islamist groups from al-Qaeda to Al-Nusra to many Salafi groups who were actually running, who were at the helm of the Free Syrian Army. The Supreme Military Council of the Free Syrian Army was mainly made up of salafi extremist groups. And I have been warning for that for the past 4 years. I have spoken at the European Parliament, at the British Parliament, everywhere. We are warning of those groups. And I was the one also warning against arming those rebel groups because they are not as moderate as people are trying to show. We all know that. But I repeat and say : it was not to deal with it as the regime has done. You first have to build a strong national unity governement to be able together to defy and fight those islamists. Alone, as we have seen today, you cannot do much. Because you are seen by the world as a dictatoship. You have not allowed political parties. You were trying, as you said, yes, they made some changes, but they were very slow at the beginning. They said « we need time to study the new constitution, we need time to study the laws, how to set up new political groups ». Well, it took too long. Things were moving very fast in the Middle East. Things had started changing in Tynisia, in Libya, in Egypt. And of course, people who had seen what was going on there, were encouraged by that and wanted these changes in Syria. So, we should have not waited, we should have not wasted any time.



Worlds Apart caption : R.A. Aroung 80,000 of Syria's 200,000+ war victims were Syrian Army Soldiers.


O.B.: OK Ribal, point taken. You believe that the Syrian Government acted way too slowly. Let me ask you about the actions of the pro-democracy opposition here. Earlier on, you alluded to the very destructive Saudi and Turkish involvement in the Syrian conflict that allowed to turn it from a political struggle into a sectarian one. One thing though I do not undestand is why people like you or other democratic activists didn't see it coming. Because after all your own father has been involved in the dealing with the Hama uprising in the 80s. 


There were calls to turn Syria into an Islamic State all the way back in the early 80's. And the Syrian Governement has been dealing with this issue for quite some time. Wasn't is more or less inevitable that those religious extremists that existed in Syria and that were in abundance in the neighbourhood that they would seize on this opportunity, that they would use pro-democracy demonstrations for their own purposes ?


Worlds Apart Caption : Hafez Al-Assad crushed islamic uprising in 1982 killing 20.000 people.


R.A.: Just let me say from the beginning that my father was not responsible for the Hama incident


O.B.: I never suggested it. But he was involved.


R.A.: Let me just say that my father has been telling them, and that my father has been telling the father (of the current president), President Hafez Al-Assadthat we needed some changes in Syria. That the only way we could protect Syria, the future of Syria and the future generation is if we have a genuine democracy in Syria. He was of course against Islamism and he is still against Islamism. And we are still against Islamism. And we have been warning for all of these things, we have been warning for corruption, we have been warning for all those people who have been using the regime to amass huge fortunes. We needed that change because we knew that any time that this kind of uprising would happen, that the islamists would of course jump on it. We know that the islamists with the backing of regional countries, as I said, Turkey, Qatar, Saudi would jump on such a situation because they would be terrified of seeing democratic change in their neighbourhood.


O.B.: With all due respect I do not remember many prodemocracy groups coming out early in the uprising and distancing themselves very sharply from those groups. I think that for the first two years into the Syrian conflict, the idea was that the enemy of Bashar al-Assad was my friend. And that applied as much to the West as to the domestic opposition groups in Syria. Was it not the case ?


R.A.: I am not sure about the others, but I am talking about myself and our group for example. We were never with those islamist groups. I have been warning from the first days actually, I was warning of this islamist opposition, I was warning that the Syrian National Council was made 80% of the SyrianMuslim Brotherhood and that it was not inclusive. And then I still continued on warning when they had the Coalition, when they had the leader (at that time) who criticized the US for listing the Al Nusra as a terrorist group. And I have been critical of all these. I have blamed the regime for not doing the changes, the radical changes for moving towards democracy quickly enough. But I have also been warning for those islamists groups, for arming those islamist groups and saying that if you are going to arm them, you are not sure who you are going to be arming exactly. You are going to be arming a lot of groups who are mainly islamist in nature, who are all being funded by Saudi, Qatar and Turkey. And their only interest is to fund groups that follow their salafist ideology, or the Muslim Brotherhood Ideology. (...)


(end of first part at 13.40 - ”The Syrian conflict was the first to expose fundamental differences between major powers (...)”)


Second part at 16.15




The vote of Syrians living abroad could determine the outcome of the elections

(AFP via @Annahar - tweet by F. Balanche) 


(cf.article 7 of joint statement of "Special contact group for peace in Syria" - Link)


Balanche @FabriceBalanche 2015-11-03

Le vote des Syriens de l'étranger, un piège pour Damas - An-Nahar via @Annahar


Translated excerpts:


"If 10 to 12 millions of Syrians are under regime control, an equal number lives in areas controlled by the opposition and abroad, estimates the geographer Fabrice Balanche, specialist of Syria at the Washington Institute."


citing AFP | Director of Syrian newspaper al-Watan, supporting the regime: “The countries that were hostile to Syria hadn’t allowed Syrians to vote at their embassies at the 2014 presidential election and today we see them asking fiercely for the vote of Syrian refugees or residents abroad. This raises questions concerning the intentions of these countries.”


The 2014 presidential election was held only at territories under regime control and embassies of countries that were friendly to the regime. Assad had been re-elected for a third term of seven years by obtaining 88.7% of votes, a result derided as a “parody of democracy” by the opposition and western countries.


Bassam Abu Abdullah, director of the Damascus Center for Strategic Studies, says that "elections can be held only in Syrian embassies according to the Constitution, not in camps or in any other place not within the Syrian sovereignty ".


"It is also necessary that voters have official papers, that they are not related to terrorists, that they are not criminals and that they have not been sentenced," says this professor of Political Science, supporting the regime.



EU External Action ‏@eu_eeas 30 Oct 2015

Final declaration on the results of the #SyriaTalks in Vienna as agreed by participants … #Syria


"7. Pursuant to the 2012 Geneva Communique and U.N. Security Council Resolution 2118, the participants invited the U.N. to convene representatives of the Government of Syria and the Syrian opposition for a political process leading to credible, inclusive, non-sectarian governance, followed by a new constitution and elections.  These elections must be administered under U.N. supervision to the satisfaction of the governance and to the highest international standards of transparency and accountability, free and fair, with all Syrians, including the diaspora, eligible to participate."



A. Blinken - Syria crisis

Arrived in Paris to meet w/ key partners on Syria crisis, continuing work in support of a political transition.



Civil Society and the Future of Syria

Civil Society and the Future of Syria



"It is not easy to pay attention to a young woman attorney trying to organize Syria’s lawyers as barrel bombs fall, hostages get beheaded, and the country empties itself of terrified, desperate people. It is easy to become persuaded that others trying to educate an otherwise lost generation are spitting into the wind, or that dedicated people providing the kindling for independent media are engaged in a fool’s errand."


"There are, to be sure, Syrian civil society assistance programs managed by various agencies of Western governments.(...)"



Balanche @FabriceBalanche  2015-10-21
Geneve 3 ou plutot Moscou 1 se prepare

BREAKING: Moscow says Russia, US, Turkish, Saudi foreign ministers to meet Friday about Syria.



"Russian Foreign Minister Hosts Syria's Main Opposition Group for Talks" in August 2015



US Secretary of State meets Syrian Coalition President, Khaled Khoja in April 2015





Major Syrian Political Opposition Forces


Interactive image by Al Jazeera at link:


President Hollande meets Syrian Coalition President, Khaled Khoja in March 2015

Press release



Getty Images

Syrian National Coalition President Khaled Khoja speaks to the reporters after a meeting with French President Francois Hollande (not seen) at the Elysee Palace in Paris, France, on March 05, 2015.







President Hollande meets Syrian Opposition Leader Khaled Khoja


Francois Hollande meets Syrian Coalition President Khaled Khoja





Khoja: "Political Solution in Syria Should Begin Where Geneva-II Ended" …

Interview with the president of the Syrian National Coalition, Khaled Khoja 

Published on August 2015

Excerpts (titles added by the author site):


Towards a transitional government and elections

"If there is a political solution, it should begin where Geneva-II ended. Both sides, the regime and the opposition, would agree on a transitional government and lead transition on the basis of the principle of mutual acceptance. Then, elections would take place, Syrian people would elect who they want, establish a new parliament, and a new constitution would be written. Otherwise, from our perspective, it is not possible to reduce the problem to a war against terrorism or early elections. Syrian people will not accept this sort of maneuvers."


Coalition has a quasi-parliamentary structure

"We, as the Coalition, have a structure that is in conformity with stable democracies, not a situation of revolution. In my opinion, the formation of the Coalition that way was a fundamental mistake, because the decisions are made through competition and conflict on a democratic ground. The Coalition involves all ethnic elements in Syria and the whole political spectrum, such as the Kurdish groups, Arab tribal representatives, liberals, FSA representatives, local government representatives and Muslim Brotherhood. So, the National Coalition for the Syrian Opposition and the Revolutionary Forces has a quasi-parliamentary structure."


Restructuring of the Coalition 

"We took steps to bring FSA under one roof. It will be concluded in the up coming days. We abolished the former military committee. We are establishing a new High Military Command with sixty members from all active groups. It will be led by a chief of general staff. This com mand will be more realistic in reflecting the ground and have stronger relations with the Coalition. We initiated this step six months ago and it has come to an end point. Our relations with the groups on the ground are good; and now we strengthened it even more."


Assistance to the Coalition

"Unfortunately, politically we could not get the assistance that we expected from the countries that make up the Group of Friends of the Syrian People. Even the support is almost gone. No support is coming from Trust Fund; nothing has come through the interim government. For conducting political activi - ties, we, as the Coalition, are in need of financial resources."


On De Mistura efforts

"Regarding the working groups, De Mistura invited 216 people that he had previously chosen to Geneva for consultation. 130 of this 216 people remained anonymous. After the consultation, De Mistura wants to form four working groups from the people and groups he invited to deal with the issues of constitution, security, counterterrorism, reconstruction and domestic peace. By this way, the main issue of the interim government, which Assad’s representatives wanted to keep away from the table at Geneva-II, is being postponed."


"Because here again, the regime and the FSA will not come together and talk on Syria’s security. Again, the regime will be somewhere and the FSA will be somewhere else, if that happens. As opposition, there is one group close to Moscow and one group close to Egypt. Another opposition group emerged in Astana. These will give separate suggestions; De Mistura will evaluate them, and then say that the four groups gave such suggestions. However, where is the Geneva Declaration at this point, where is the interim government?"


Khaled Khoja

January 2015: "The appointment of Khaled Khoja, a 49-year-old Damascus-born doctor and businessman not linked to any international sponsors, is widely perceived as a step towards a possible breakthrough to restart talks with the Syrian regime."


Note: Khaled Khoja has been recently reelected.

February 2015: SNC and Coordination Commission agreed on draft roadmap at Paris Meeting

Feb 27th, 2015 by The Syrian National Coalition

SNC, Coordination Commission Approve



"Dahowd said representatives from the two opposition groups met in Paris from Sunday to Tuesday, at talks hosted by France but carried out without international involvement."


"It was Syrian-Syrian. There was no foreign power involved. No one was in our meetings, and that was very good," he told AFP.


"The National Coalition is the key political representative of Syria's opposition and is officially recognised by much of the international community.


The NCCDC, which is also known as the National Coordination Body, is part of the country's small so-called "tolerated" opposition, operating inside Syria under tight restrictions."


June 2015: SNC and Coordination Commission agreed on finalized roadmap

"Rival Syrian opposition blocs unite over roadmap"





19-21 September: J. Kerry meets UK Foreign Secretary and German Foreign Minister - Remarks on Syria from press availability


Secretary @JohnKerry's remarks with Foreign Secretary @PHammondMP after their meeting: 

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John Kerry: "But we need to get to the negotiation. That’s what we’re looking for, and we hope Russia and any – Iran, other countries with influence, will help to bring about that, because that’s what’s preventing this crisis from ending. We’re prepared to negotiate. Is Assad prepared to negotiate, really negotiate? Is Russia prepared to bring him to the table and actually find the solution to this violence?


(...) We’ve made it very clear that we’re not being doctrinaire about the specific date or time. We’re open. But right now, Assad has refused to have a serious discussion and Russia has refused to help bring him to the table in order to do that. So that’s why we’re where we are."



Department of State ‏@StateDept  Sep 21

.@JohnKerry's joint press availability with German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier: 

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President of the European Council, Donald Tusk, in preparation of the 23rd September EuroCouncil, visits Egypt and Jordan, including Za'atari camp. Commends Jordan's generosity.


(European Council: Heads of States EU28) 


This weekend I go to Egypt & Jordan incl. a refugee camp. Will report findings incl. from trip to Turkey to extra #EUCO next week


Good talks with President Al-Sisi today in Cairo incl. on #refugeecrisis. My press remarks 

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I commend Jordan's generosity in helping Syrian refugees. Good talks w/ King Abdullah today 



Visit to Za'atari refugee camp in Jordan. We must help Syrian refugees to a better life closer to their homes






It has been mentioned in the media that the Gulf States with their extraordinary building capacities could help alleviate the accommodation problem of refugees. This could apply to the recently cited solution about the industrial zone close to Za'atari camp.


Link to page siteThe Syria-Jordan empty industrial zone, fully equipped, minutes from the largest refugee camp in Jordan: the place where "a future Syrian economy could be incubated, providing both an income and an incentive to stay for millions of displaced people."





On the strategic importance of Syria for Russia


The Guardian - Martin Chulov

"Meanwhile, Syrian opposition groups have been pushing towards the Latakia coast. “(Russia’s) first task is to make sure that the Idlib-based rebels do not make it to Latakia,” said Butter. “If rebels make it to Latakia, Tartus would come under pressure, and Russia would probably have to give up its naval access/base/facilities there.”


Russia has maintained a naval base and intelligence post in Tartus, north of Latakia, for almost 50 years. Its existence has been seen as a raison d’etre for Moscow’s staunch support of the Assad regime throughout the war."



Russia’s position on Syria

Analysis by Brookings Institute - Pavel K. Baev and Jeremy Shapiro

Tweeted on 2015-09-16 by Brookings @BrookingsInst




“A small-scale intervention in the form of, say, a deployment of a squadron of Su-34 strike fighters to a base in the government-controlled city of Lattakia is possible. It would still require a big logistical effort and a Russian Marine battalion in order to ensure the base’s security, but at least Russian planes would be able to deliver strikes against the Islamic State (or ISIS).”

"A squadron in air force, army aviation, or naval aviation is mainly a unit comprising a number of military aircraft and their aircrews, usually of the same type, typically with 12 to 24 aircraft, sometimes divided into three or four flights, depending on aircraft type and air force."


"That the Russian government is even considering deploying such a costly and militarily irrelevant force to the Syrian charnel house reflects Russia’s worrying position in Syria. Russia’s proxy in the Syrian war, the Bashar Assad regime, has suffered several setbacks in recent months, including the ISIS advance through central Syria and opposition victories in Idlib. Worse, from Moscow’s point of view, the recent success of the opposition results in part from increased and improved foreign assistance from Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and Qatar, as well as the United States. While the regime is unlikely to collapse any time soon, it has been weakened just as Russia is becoming more fearful of ISIS’s rapid spread."


"(…) . In response, Russian President Vladimir Putin has increased Russian material assistance to the regime and conducted a lot of high-level networking this summer, courting Saudi Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman Al Saud, Egypt’s President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, and King Abdullah II of Jordan. He found little interest in his idea of building an anti-ISIS coalition that would include Assad."










Tweet by the White House

Read the latest on the Syrian refugee crisis and what the U.S. is doing to help → 




Latest Press Information on Syria Politics


MiddleEast Institute@MiddleEastInst 2015-09-04

Putin says Assad agrees to early parliamentary polls


"Putin said the Russian-backed Syrian leader agreed with him that "political changes are necessary" in Syria.

"The Syrian president agrees with this... right up to the point of holding early parliament elections and establishing contacts with the so-called healthy opposition and engaging them in governing," Putin said in a televised speech at an economic forum in far eastern Russia.


Syria last held parliamentary elections in May 2012, which were boycotted by the opposition and denounced by the international community. The next elections are in theory scheduled to take place in 2016."

Putin said Russia was "ready to facilitate this dialogue inside Syria."



 Liz Sly retweeted 


"There was no immediate comment from Syrian officials on ­Putin’s remarks. And the Russian president did not specify any groups among Syria’s fragmented and weak opposition that would share power with Assad.


Most of Assad’s Syrian opponents demand the leader’s ouster as part of any solution to the war. Russia and Iran, which is also a backer of Assad, reject that."






[In the case a country faces a national crisis, a caretaker government is assigned to take the country to elections. Should this be the focus of diplomatic efforts?]


"Holding early parliamentary elections now in Syria isn’t feasible because Assad only controls part of the country, and a vote would serve only to shore up his rule in those areas, said Sami Nader, head of the Beirut-based Levant Institute for Strategic Affairs."


“How can you organize a fair election in a country that’s shattered by war, with no security, fair electoral law or freedoms?” he said. Any elections held now “will allow only those living in regime-held areas and opposition figures tolerated by the regime to run,” he said.




The Geneva I communiqué



II. Clear Steps in the Transition

The conflict in Syria will only end when all sides are assured that there is a peaceful way towards a common future for all in Syria. It is therefore essential that any settlement provides for clear and irreversible steps in the transition according to a fixed time frame. The key steps in any transition include:


• The establishment of a transitional governing body which can establish a neutral environment in which the transition can take place. That means that the transitional governing body would exercise full executive powers. It could include members of the present government and the opposition and other groups and shall be formed on the basis of mutual consent.


• It is for the Syrian people to determine the future of the country. All groups and segments of society in Syria must be enabled to participate in a National Dialogue process. That process must not only be inclusive, it must also be meaningful—that is to say, its key outcomes must be implemented.



Article on Syria by Frederic C. Hof 


Is there a political future for President Bashar al-Assad in #Syria?…



"News that Iran may submit a Syria peace plan to the United Nations combined with ongoing Syria-related talks between Moscow and Washington brings to the fore the perennial question of Bashar al-Assad (...) 


The Obama administration wanted to assure the Syrian opposition that its diplomacy in Geneva had placed Assad in the political past tense.


Russia wanted to assure Assad it had conceded nothing of value at Geneva and was fully behind him.


This will be problematic for Iran. It will not want to risk the passing of the Assad regime unless a Syrian government able and willing to do as Tehran pleases with respect to Iranian-orchestrated Syrian support for Hezbollah in Lebanon replaces it. Track two discussions with informed Iranians suggest that Tehran doubts that any replacement can replicate the reliability of the genuine article: Bashar al-Assad."





What is the strategic importance of Syria for Iran?



Fabrice Balanche: Lecturer at the University of Lyon 2 and Director of a Research Group on the Mediterranean and the Middle East 

(Fabrice Balanche in an expert on Syria)

Why Iran is standing by its weakened, and expensive, ally Syria …


"Syria represents the vital geo-strategic cog connecting Tehran to Hezbollah, the nucleus of an “axis of resistance” against Israel and Western ambitions for the Middle East.


In February 2014, Mehdi Taeb, a senior Iranian cleric, underlined the importance of Syria to Iran in stark terms, saying it is a “strategic province for us.”


“If the enemy attacks us and wants to take either Syria or [the Iranian province of] Khuzestan, the priority is to keep Syria,” he said. “If we keep Syria, we can get Khuzestan back too, but if we lose Syria, we cannot keep Tehran.”

Map of Iran

Map of Iran with Khūzestān highlighted



The loss of Aleppo, Syria’s largest city and the country’s commercial engine, would represent a major psychological blow to the regime. But Iran’s strategic interests in Syria do not require Assad’s control over the entire country, only the vital corridor connecting Damascus to Tartous on the Mediterranean coast, which runs adjacent to the border with Lebanon. That corridor would enable Iran to continue providing weapons to Hezbollah.


“Iran is not committed to the person of Bashar al-Assad.… They’re committed to preserving their interests in Syria,” says Karim Sadjadpour, senior associate in the Middle East Program of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.


No partners other than Assad regime

However, Iran has invested so heavily in the regime – to the exclusion of other parties in Syria – that Tehran has little choice but to double down on its embattled ally.


“Outside the regime, Iran has no contacts in Syria. Syrian businessmen trade with other Arab countries,” says the former Syrian official, adding, ironically, that the billions of dollars handed by Iran to Syria “is financing Syrian imports from Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states, not from Iran.”


(end of excerpts)


2015-09-08 Rouhani: Iran ready to hold talks on Syria with US, Saudi



What is the strategic importance of Syria for Russia

Maria V. Zakharova, Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman:

"We have always said that we do not support Assad in a personal capacity but that we support the legitimately elected president of Syria," spokeswoman Maria Zakharova told AFP.

“The problem is that the West cannot show one example of how they would manage the Syria story right after,” Ms. Zakharova said. “What is the West planning to do right after? Do they have a magic wand that will transform Syria from civil war to economic prosperity?”

Putin’s comments indicate he’s not ready to accept U.S. and European demands for Assad’s departure at this stage, said Irina Zvyagelskaya, a senior fellow at the Russian Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Oriental Studies in Moscow.

Even so, Russia isn’t committed to preserving his rule indefinitely, she said.

“It’s a signal that we won’t stick to Assad at all costs, but we consider the most important thing is to preserve Syria as a state,” Zvyagelskaya said. “Otherwise you risk total chaos.”











The "self-government revolution" in Syria



Kenneth Roth ‏@KenRoth Jul 28

Syrian local councils and civil society are leading under-radar revolution in self-governance. 


Washington Post article - By Frederic C. Hof -July 26


The self-government revolution that’s happening under the radar in Syria


Frederic C. Hof, a senior fellow at the Atlantic Council’s Rafik Hariri Center for the Middle East, served as a special adviser for transition in Syria at the State Department in 2012.


Excerpts (in different order):


The alternative to Assad is arising from Syria’s grass roots. That alternative needs to be nurtured and protected by the United States and its partners. And it needs to be connected to external structures recognized by the West as legitimate.

A grassroots movement (often referenced in the context of a political movement) is driven by a community's politics. The term implies that the creation of the movement and the group supporting it are natural and spontaneous, highlighting the differences between this and a movement that is orchestrated by traditional power structures. Grassroots movements are often at the local level, as many volunteers in the community give their time to support the local party, which can lead to helping the national party.


Were the Syrian Interim Government to install itself inside the country now, it would be pushing buttons connected to nothing. It would be clueless. It would be instantly irrelevant.


Self-government at local levels is taking root in Syria and forms the basis for what should come next.

There are today hundreds of local councils throughout non-Assad parts of Syria. Some operate clandestinely in areas overrun by the so-called Islamic State.


These local councils are supported by a vast network of civil society organizations — the kinds of voluntary professional associations that undergird Western democracies. All of this is new to Syria. It is the essence of the Syrian Revolution.


This combination of local councils and civil society organizations is a cocktail of bottom-up, localized efforts. The women and men risking all for their neighbors are heroes. Yet these heroes are literally unsung. Everyone in Syria knows of Assad and his rapacious family. Many in Syria know the names of exiled opposition figures and leaders of armed groups inside the country. Yet those who represent Syria’s future political elite are largely unknown. Getting these battle-tested leaders into Syria’s national political mainstream is essential.


The challenge is to build links between a Syrian opposition-in-exile recognized by the United States and others as the legitimate representative of the Syrian people and those on the ground who are earning legitimacy the old-fashioned way.


Young activists tell sad stories about trying and failing to attract the interest of the opposition’s “Syrian Interim Government” in Gaziantep. They offer compelling accounts about providing vocational training for women while Assad’s bombs fall, about promoting independent judiciaries in the face of Assad’s despotism and the sectarian alternatives, and about helping local councils educate children so that young Syrians can be kept out of the clutches of armed extremists.


End of copied excerpts