2016-02-04: #SupportSyrians London Conference

@SupportSyrians      supportingsyria2016.com/


UN Geneva retweeted

$10 bn - largest amount raised in a day for a humanitarian crisis at #London #SupportSyrians Conference



Declaration on #protection, #SyrianRefugees & political transition from co-hosts of the @SupportSyrians conference: bit.ly/1S4CbUG

Posted 2016-02-04:


Want to follow #SupportSyrians conference as it happens? We’re live tweeting and you can also tune into livestream: http://ow.ly/XVGlh 


Infographic explaining the #SupportSyrians Conference, happening today in London with the UN Secretary-General. pic.twitter.com/mxapEZXxYp


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2016-01-11. Siege of Madaya, Syria: Humanitarian emergency. Aid arrives today. 


UN - OCHA Syria - World Food Program,  International Red Cross - Syria Red Crescent, EU


2016-01-11 12:53 PM CET

1st convoy of #EU funded aid to #Madaya #Foah & #Kefraya is on its way. We must prevent more starvation&suffering.


First convoy of EU funded aid to the people of #Madaya #Foah and #Kefraya on its way. We must prevent starvation and more suffering.


UN Geneva retweeted
OCHA_Syria's avatar

#UN supported humanitarian convoy on the way to reach people in #Madaya #Foah #Kafraya #Syria together w @ICRC #SARC pic.twitter.com/ttUEzCkN0g

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Joint convoy with @SYRedCrescent @UN to #Madaya, Foua & Kefraya includes food, medical supplies & blankets. #Syria

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Food + supplies being loaded by @WFP, @ICRC, @SYRedCrescent + others to aid besieged residents of #Madaya, #Syria

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Syrian Coalition retweeted
garethbayley's avatar

Aid reportedly due to #Madaya #Foah #Kafraya today. Access to almost 400,000 ppl in besieged areas in #Syria vital to relieve suffering.




2015-11-03: €62 million in humanitarian aid by the EU to support Syrians displaced inside the country

European Commission @EU_Commission 2015-11-03

€62 million in humanitarian aid to support Syrians displaced inside the country europa.eu/rapid/press-re… #Syria pic.twitter.com/yGc6JjQeZo

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The 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."

NYT's S.Hilton, citing the Oxford economist P. Collier


Excerpt from the NYT article by By by Steve Hilton published on 2015-09-10 Link


 “The Oxford economist Paul Collier has proposed a plan for “job havens” bordering Syria, using an existing, but empty industrial zone minutes from the largest refugee camp in Jordan, where a future Syrian economy could be incubated, providing both an income and an incentive to stay for millions of displaced people.


The economist Hernando de Soto, backed in part by the United States Agency for International Development, has cataloged the vast untapped value of the informal economy in countries like Egypt, Tunisia and Algeria. If these assets were formalized, people across the region could own property, grow businesses and develop the desire to stay and build stable societies. We should put pressure on their rulers to implement the necessary legal reforms by cutting aid payments until they do it.


The Obama administration led the establishment of the Open Government Partnership, a well-designed effort to promote public sector accountability worldwide. Now let’s give it real teeth: make trade deals and market access contingent on progress toward its goals. We have plenty of leverage if only we’d use it to pursue long-term structural reform.”


(end of excerpt)





Excerpt from the cited above article written by Oxford economist Paul Collier published on 2015-09-02


"Just minutes from the Za’atari camp is an empty industrial zone, fully equipped with infrastructure. This could be a perfect haven of employment, the means by which Europe could incubate Syrian post-conflict recovery. This zone alone is large enough to employ the labour force of Za’atari several times over. The people working there would recover their autonomy, and have a prospect of relocating to Syria when the war is over. The zone could house Syrian businesses that cannot continue to function at home, as well as a cluster of global companies producing for the European market. It could employ both Syrians and Jordanians. Europe could provide the incentives which make this happen. Each job created could attract a subsidy financed out of the money Europe quite rightly earmarks for assistance to fragile states, and their work could be given open access to European markets.


Once peace returns, these businesses could relocate with their returning Syrian workforce, while also continuing to operate in Jordan with their Jordanian workforce. The Jordanian authorities would be supportive because it offers a credible alternative to the permanent settlement which they fear, and would attract global firms to Jordan. The approach could be replicated with Syria’s other neighbours.


Job havens would not only assist refugees; indirectly they would help the five million displaced who remain in Syria. In return for European assistance, the neighbouring governments could be asked to re-open their borders. Accessible and attractive safe havens across the border would be a lifeline for these internally displaced people. As firms and workers relocated to the havens, it would put further financial pressure on Assad."


(end of excerpt)




January 2015: ECHO Commissioner Christos Stylianides visits Zaatari Camp

Facebook Album  By UNHCR Jordan

EU Audiovisual Services 




With UNICEF and Save the Children in Zaatari refugee camp

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Having fun with Syrian children in Zaatari camp. Kids must remain kids!

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UN Special Envoy Angelina Jolie visits Zaatari Camp

2013: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/video/news/video-1012332/Angelina-Jolie-visits-Syrian-refugees-Jordans-Zaatari-camp.html


2012: http://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-19562478


Actress Angelina Jolie (R), the U.N. refugee agency's special envoy, listens to Norway's Foreign Minister Espen Barth Eide speak during a news conference at the Al Zaatri refugee camp, which is hosting Syrians displaced by the conflict, on World Refugee Day, in the Jordanian city of Mafraq, near the border with Syria June 20, 2013.— Reuters Photo


A handout picture made available by the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) shows US actress Angelina Jolie (R) holding a baby as she visits a family of syrian refugees in their apartment in Amman on June 19, 2013. — AFP Photo







Tweets on the Refugee Crisis




 EUHomeAffairs retweeted

Andrew Byrne ‏@aqbyrne  Sep 2 [Financial Times correspondent]

Some rays of light. Hungarian volunteers have set up an outdoor projector playing "Tom & Jerry" for kids. #keleti

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Budapest Keleti railway station, Hungary





No one at the National Team is indifferent to Europe’s refugee crisis. All our thoughts are with those people.

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Huffington Post 09/04/2015 citing the tweet below mentions:

"one of the men who most dramatically impacted human civilization in the last decade was the son of a Syrian who migrated to the U.S. in 1954.

Perhaps you've heard of him. His name was Steve Jobs. "

Photo of Steve Jobs by by Norman Seeff

Steve Jobs, credit Apple site, screengrabSteve, programming, credit: Apple



A Syrian migrants' child.

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Steve Jobs


"Jobs co-founded Apple in 1976 to sell Wozniak's Apple I personal computer. The duo gained fame and wealth a year later for the Apple II, one of the first highly successful mass-produced personal computers."

"Beginning in 1997 with the Think different campaign, Jobs worked closely with designer Jonathan "Jony" Ive towards a line of devices that would have larger cultural ramifications: the iMaciTunesApple Stores; theiPod; the iTunes Store; the iPhone; the App Store; and the iPad."












European Commission @EU_Commission 2015-08-08

12.2 million #Syrians are in need of humanitarian assistance. Info on #EU's response: bit.ly/1HqIqXS @eu_echo pic.twitter.com/vcxlOifdGB



USAID has given over $1.2 billion to @WFP for Syrian operations, including over $530M inside #Syria & over $693M for Syrian refugees.


.@USAID Provides Additional $65 million for Critical Food Assistance to Syrians. #Syria



This contribution will help keep @WFP programs operating through November and avert an imminent shutdown. #Syria



European Commission @EU_Commission
23 Apr 2015
Statement by the EU leaders following the special meeting of the European Council on #migrationEUeuropa.eu/!DF48rK#euco


European Commission @EU_Commission
23 Apr 2015
Next step for action: mid-May, the European Agenda for Migration ec.europa.eu/priorities/mig…#migrationEU#EUCO













Syria Deeply @SyriaDeeply
["An independent single-topic news site focusing on stories and commentary about the war in Syria. Analysis and breaking news about Syria".] (Followed by UN Geneva)
24 Apr 2015
U.N. invites Syrian parties to peace talks in Geneva in May reuters.com/article/2015/0… #Syria




Syrian Coalition @SyrCoalition
24 Apr 2015
The Syrian National Coalition Calls for a No-fly Zone and Creation of Safe Spaces Inside #Syria ow.ly/M2Sag #NoFlyZoneSyria

“Therefore the Syrian National Coalition reiterates its calls on the international community to urgently establish a no-fly zone across Syria to: provide immediate protection for millions of Syrians from the barrel bombs and chemical weapons; create safe spaces to allow free and unfettered access to aid urgently needed on the ground; to create the space for moderate and civilian structures to provide basic services to Syrians and stop extremists filling the ungoverned space; and begin to create conditions and space that will allow the return of Syrian refugees and stop so many Syrians risking their lives to flee their homes.”



From a tweet by Aron Lund @aron_ld on 2015-04-23:  “ #Jordan will demand "safe zone" in south #Syria from UN, king meets Obama in Mayeldorar.com/node/74770 “



Article posted by Aron Lund on April 20, 2015 at the “Carnegie endowment for International Peace – “Syria in Crisis” section:

”According to Badareen’s sources, the king also discussed the technicalities of establishing a 'security belt to protect Jordan’s border with Syria and Iraq.' In a follow-up article published on April 19, Badareen added that such “security belts” could serve to house refugees on the other side of the border instead of in Jordan—and that this would require tacit cooperation with armed factions, including the Nusra Front in Syria."


UNICEF MENA @UNICEFmena  [UNICEF Middle East & North Africa]
.@eu_echo grants €1.1 million to @UNICEFJordan for emergency cash assistance to the most vulnerable Syrian refugees http://uni.cf/1OdZ7zB 






Kenneth Roth@KenRoth  [Executive Director, Human Rights Watch]
21 Apr 2015
EU migrant boat arrivals in 2015--half from Syria, Eritrea, Somalia, Afghanistan (much violence & repression): UNHCR. 





Claude Moreas, Chair of the European Parliament's Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs Committee with responsibility for migration and related issues in an interview of Al Jazeera on 2015-04-22 made the remark that it is important to know the scale of the problem. In the case of Syria, the neighbouring countries have no choice but to take up millions of refugees. (4 millions as reported in January - source further down this page - and these countries already have extremely difficult problems to face on their own, which is something that puts in risk the stability of the neighbouring region).




European Commission
21 Apr 2015
The 10 point action plan on #migrationEU adopted by EU Foreign & Home Affairs Ministers europa.eu/!KV34kT








Kenneth Roth @KenRoth
2 Apr 2015
For the Palestinian refugees of Yarmouk, first it's Assad's siege, and now it's ISIS's attack. trib.al/4ZBDOlZ


Another article:  http://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-32147888









Juliette Touma@JulietteTouma  ·  Mar 29
[#UNICEF spokesperson on #Syria regional crisis- previously covered #Iraq#Libya and #Palestine] (Spokesperson for special envoy for Syria crisis Staffan de Mistura)
Media from all over the world in #Kuwait to cover #Syria crisis #childrenofsyria @UNICEFmena






Juliette Touma @JulietteTouma  ·  Mar 29
His Excellency #Kuwait minister information talks about humanitarian efforts 2 help #childrenofsyria @PalomaUnicef





Juliette Touma @JulietteTouma  ·  2015-03-31
Here we go! #Kuwait pledging #syria conference kicks off @secgen @ValerieAmos @StephDujarric stay tuned @UNICEFmena











Samantha Power @AmbassadorPower
 Came to #Kuwait to announce new $507 million US pledge to help meet gargantuan needs of Syrian ppl. Remarks: go.usa.gov/3gymQ

Remarks at the Third International Humanitarian Pledging Conference for Syria, Kuwait City, Kuwait
Samantha Power
U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations 

“More than four years after the conflict began, people across Syria are struggling to survive in a state of perpetual siege. We all know the numbers. Half of Syria’s pre-war population has been displaced. More than 12.2 million people inside Syria now need humanitarian assistance, including 5.6 million children. 5.6 million kids, and that is just inside Syria.”
“The needs are growing by virtually every measure; the UN’s humanitarian appeal for Syria this year is $8.4 billion, the largest in history, and $3.4 billion more than last year’s appeal.”
“…the United States is pledging $507 million, in addition to the nearly $3.2 billion we have provided since the conflict began.”
“This year, the regime has denied 30 of the United Nations’ 33 requests for such convoys…”



Christos Stylianides retweeted 2015-03-31
[European Commissioner for Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Management - EU Ebola Coordinator]
New Europe @New_Europe
The EU Commissioner for Humanitarian Aid & Crisis Management @StylianidesEU at #K3@EU_Commission to pledge $500m.pic.twitter.com/10Lnka48DX




EU Humanitarian Aid @eu_echo  ·  2015-03-31
At #KuwaitIII, largest donor #EU doubles 2014 pledge to #SyriaCrisis with almost €1.1 billion http://bit.ly/1G2Y5Sf 

Together, the European Commission and Member States pledged close to €1.1 billion – double the overall EU pledge at the 2014 conference. The EU continues to be the largest donor to the Syria crisis.

Of the total, the European institutions are contributing €500 million in humanitarian aid, early recovery and longer-term stabilisation assistance. This nearly triples the contribution from last year.


EU Humanitarian Aid @eu_echo  ·  2015-03-31
#EU has been the leading donor to the #SyriaCrisis with over €3.35 bln mobilised http://bit.ly/1Nunsvg #KuwaitIII



Syria Deeply @SyriaDeeply  2015-03-31 ["An independent single-topic news site focusing on stories and commentary about the war in Syria. Analysis and breaking news about Syria".] (Followed by UN Geneva)





Sweden Pledges €1.6bn Aid to #Syria  newsweek.com/sweden-pledges…







Third International Humanitarian Pledging Conference for Syria. 

Remarks by António Guterres, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. 

Kuwait City, 31 March 2015





On the regional impact of the refugee crisis:

"It is hard to imagine the economic, social and demographic impact on the economies and societies in Lebanon and Jordan, in Northern Iraq, Turkey and Egypt. The number of Syrian refugees registered in Lebanon would be equivalent to 22.5 million refugees coming to Germany and 88 million arriving in the United States. Jordan is facing a similar situation due to the enormous population increase. Turkey has already spent 6 billion USD in direct assistance to refugees, and issued a landmark decree that gives Syrian refugees access to the labor market. Iraq, on the other hand, has become completely engulfed in the Syria conflict, and hosts Syrian refugees alongside the 2.5 million of its own citizens that have become internally displaced since early 2014."




Children out of school:

"One of the risks that worry me most continues to be the growing threat of a lost generation of Syrian children. With half of all school-aged refugee children and another 2 million in Syria out of school, the number of young people at risk is staggering. They have already lost their childhoods to a terrible war and are now also facing lost futures."




"The Gulf region has shown enormous generosity, with over 2 billion dollars from Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and other GCC countries in the past two years to the Syria and Iraq crises, both through multilateral and via their own channels".




Strong cultural/religious bonds with humanitarian assistance - Islam providing relief

"Last year here in Kuwait, I spoke about the deep roots that link modern refugee law to Islamic law and tradition. But there is much more uniting us all. There are a number of studies on the convergence of international humanitarian law and Islamic traditions and legal texts. (…) And even if one strictly looks at humanitarian assistance, there are clear parallels between the approach of international humanitarian organizations and Zakat, the third pillar of Islam, which includes the obligation to provide assistance to the poor and the needy, the fuqara and masakeen. And as the Prophet (PBUH) said, the best charity is that which is given without one hand knowing what the other is giving, without boasting about it, and with the first focus being on the needs of the people."








Syria Deeply @SyriaDeeply Mar25
["An independent single-topic news site focusing on stories and commentary about the war in Syria. Analysis and breaking news about Syria".] (Followed by UN Geneva)
Civil society groups from across Syria launch campaign to urge peace talks, end barrel bombs nwsdp.ly/58ggbpic.twitter.com/BBDQefNCkw




Kenneth Roth@KenRoth · Mar 24
[Executive Director, Human Rights Watch,  New York, hrw.org]

New campaign by "non-violent Syrian activists" to stop the barrel bombs--main civilian killer. http://trib.al/NjdrQ3F




From the civil society site “Planet Syria”@PlanetSyria






We began by outreaching non-violent Syrian activists directly or through online questionnaires to ask for their views on how to end the violence.



We then drafted a statement based on the findings from that survey and went back to Syrian groups asking them whether they would be prepared to add their names to the call.



Over 85 organizations across Syria representing over 17,000 people signed up.















"The Kofi Annan peace plan for Syria or the six-point peace plan for Syria was launched in March 2012 by the Arab League and the United Nations (UN), when the violent Syrian conflict or civil war had raged for a year."










Action Group for Syria – Geneva I :

UN - Arab League - EU

UN Security Council permanent members (China, France, Russia, UK, US) & Turkey




"In a statement*, the Group called for all parties to immediately re-commit to a sustained cessation of armed violence, to fully cooperate with UN monitors, and to implement the six-point plan put forward by Mr. Annan without waiting for the actions of others.

The six-point peace plan calls for an end to violence, access for humanitarian agencies to provide relief to those in need, the release of detainees, the start of inclusive political dialogue, and unrestricted access to the country for the international media."



"Amongst other things, the Council's resolutions 2042 and 2043 dealt with the deployment of monitors, including those of the UN Supervision Mission in Syria (UNSMIS), which recently suspended the patrols of its observers due to the escalating violence on the ground.

The Council established UNSMIS in April to monitor the cessation of violence in Syria, as well as monitor and support the full implementation of a six-point peace plan put forward by Joint Special Envoy Annan."





(formatting modifications, highlighting)


Action Group for Syria



Final Communiqué







  1. On 30 June 2012:
    o    the Secretaries-General of the United Nations and the League of Arab States,
    o    the Foreign Ministers of China, France, Russia, United Kingdom, United States, Turkey,
    o    Iraq (Chair of the Summit of the League of Arab States),
    o    Kuwait (Chair of the Council of Foreign Ministers of the League of Arab States) and
    o    Qatar (Chair of the Arab Follow-up Committee on Syria of the League of Arab States), and
    o     the European Union High Representative for Foreign and Security Policy
    met at the United Nations Office at Geneva as the Action Group for Syria, chaired by
    o    the Joint Special Envoy of the United Nations and the League of Arab States for Syria.




2. Action Group members came together out of grave alarm at the situation in Syria. They strongly condemn the continued and escalating killing, destruction and human rights abuses. They are deeply concerned at the failure to protect civilians, the intensification of the violence, the potential for even deeper conflict in the country, and the regional dimensions of the problem. The unacceptable nature and magnitude of the crisis demands a common position and joint international action.




3. Action Group members are committed to the sovereignty, independence, national unity and territorial integrity of Syria. They are determined to work urgently and intensively to bring about an end to the violence and human rights abuses and the launch of a Syrian-led political process leading to a transition that meets the legitimate aspirations of the Syrian people and enables them independently and democratically to determine their own future.




4. To secure these common objectives, the Action Group members



(i) identified steps and measures by the parties to secure full implementation of the six-point plan and



Security Council resolutions 2042 and 2043, including an immediate cessation of violence in all its forms;



(ii) agreed on guidelines and principles for a political transition that meets the legitimate aspirations of the Syrian people; and



(iii) agreed on actions they would take to implement the above in support of the Joint Special Envoy’s efforts to facilitate a Syrian-led political process. They are convinced that this can encourage and support progress on the ground and will help to facilitate and support a Syrian-led transition.




Identified steps and measures by the parties to secure full implementation of the six-point plan and Security Council resolutions 2042 and 2043, including an immediate cessation of violence in all its forms




5. The parties must fully implement the six-point plan and Security Council resolutions 2042 and 2043. To this end:




o All parties must re-commit to a sustained cessation of armed violence in all its forms and implementation of the six-point plan immediately and without waiting for the actions of others. The government and armed opposition groups must cooperate with UNSMIS with a view to furthering the implementation of the above in accordance with its mandate.




o A cessation of armed violence must be sustained with immediate, credible and visible actions by the Government of Syria to implement the other items of the six-point plan including:



o Intensification of the pace and scale of release of arbitrarily detained persons, including especially vulnerable categories of persons, and persons involved in peaceful political activities; provision without delay through appropriate channels of a list of all places in which such persons are being detained; the immediate organization of access to such locations; and the provision through appropriate channels of prompt responses to all written requests for information, access or release regarding such persons;




o Ensuring freedom of movement throughout the country for journalists and a non-discriminatory visa policy for them;



o Respecting freedom of association and the right to demonstrate peacefully as legally guaranteed.



o In all circumstances, all parties must show full respect for UNSMIS’ safety and security and fully cooperate with and facilitate the Mission in all respects.



o In all circumstances, the Government must allow immediate and full humanitarian access to humanitarian organizations to all areas affected by the fighting. The Government and all parties must enable the evacuation of the wounded, and all civilians who wish to leave to do so. All parties must fully



adhere to their obligations under international law, including in relation to the protection of civilians.




Agreed Principles and Guide-lines for a Syrian-led transition



6. Action Group members agreed on the following ‘Principles and Guide-lines on a Syrian-led transition’:



Any political settlement must deliver to the people of Syria a transition that:



• Offers a perspective for the future that can be shared by all in Syria;



• Establishes clear steps according to a firm time-table towards the realization of that perspective;



• Can be implemented in a climate of safety for all, stability and calm;



• Is reached rapidly without further bloodshed and violence and is credible.





I. Perspective for the Future



The aspirations of the people of Syria have been clearly expressed by the wide range of Syrians consulted. There is an overwhelming wish for a state that:



• Is genuinely democratic and pluralistic, giving space to established and newly emerging political actors to compete fairly and equally in elections. This also means that the commitment to multi-party democracy must be a lasting one, going beyond an initial round of elections.



• Complies with international standards on human rights, the independence of the judiciary, accountability of those in government and the rule of law. It is not enough just to enunciate such a commitment. There must be mechanisms available to the people to ensure that these commitments are kept by those in authority.



• Offers equal opportunities and chances for all. There is no room for sectarianism or discrimination on ethnic, religious, linguistic or any other grounds. Numerically smaller communities must be assured that their rights will be respected.




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.




• On this basis, there can be a review of the constitutional order and the legal system. The result of constitutional drafting would be subject to popular approval.




• Once the new constitutional order is established, it is necessary to prepare for and conduct free and fair multi-party elections for the new institutions and offices that have been established.




• Women must be fully represented in all aspects of the transition.




III. Safety, stability and calm



Any transition involves change. However, it is essential to ensure that the transition can be implemented in a way that assures the safety of all in an atmosphere of stability and calm. This requires:



• Consolidation of full calm and stability. All parties must cooperate with the transitional governing body in ensuring the permanent cessation of violence. This includes completion of withdrawals and addressing the issue of the disarming, demobilization and reintegration of armed groups.



• Effective steps to ensure that vulnerable groups are protected and immediate action is taken to address humanitarian issues in areas of need. It is also necessary to ensure that the release of the detained is completed rapidly.



• Continuity of governmental institutions and qualified staff. The public services must be preserved or restored. This includes the military forces and security services. However, all governmental institutions, including the intelligence services, have to perform according to human rights and professional standards and operate under a top leadership that inspires public confidence, under the control of the transitional governing body.




• Commitment to Accountability and National Reconciliation. Accountability for acts committed during the present conflict must be addressed. There also needs to be a comprehensive package for transitional justice, including compensation or rehabilitation for victims of the present conflict, steps towards national reconciliation and forgiveness.




IV. Rapid steps to come to a Credible Political Agreement



It is for the people of Syria to come to a political agreement, but time is running out. It is clear that:



• The sovereignty, independence, unity and territorial integrity of Syria must be respected.



• The conflict must be resolved through peaceful dialogue and negotiation alone. Conditions conducive to a political settlement must now be put in place.



• There must be an end to bloodshed. All parties must re-commit themselves credibly to the six-point plan. This must include a cessation of armed violence in all its forms and immediate, credible and visible actions to implement items 2-6 of the six-point plan.



• All parties must now engage genuinely with the Joint Special Envoy.




The parties must be prepared to put forward effective interlocutors to work expeditiously towards a Syrian-led settlement that meets the legitimate aspirations of the people. The process must be fully inclusive to ensure that the views of all segments of Syrian society are heard in shaping the political settlement for the transition. The organized international community, including the members of the



Action Group stands ready to offer significant support for the implementation of an agreement reached by the parties. This may include an international assistance presence under a United Nations Mandate if requested. Significant funds will be available to support reconstruction and rehabilitation.




Agreed actions Group members will take to implement the above in support of the Joint Special Envoy’s efforts to facilitate a Syrian-led political process



7. Action Group members will engage as appropriate, and apply joint and sustained pressure on, the parties in Syria to take the steps and measures outlined in paragraph 5.



8. Action Group members are opposed to any further militarization of the conflict.



9. Action Group members underscore to the Government of Syria the importance of the appointment of an effective empowered interlocutor, when requested by the Joint Special Envoy to do so, to work on the basis of the six-point plan and this communiqué.



10. Action Group members urge the opposition to increase cohesion and be in a position to ensure effective representative interlocutors to work on the basis of the sixpoint plan and this communiqué.



11. Action Group members will give full support to the Joint Special Envoy and his team as they immediately engage the Government and opposition, and consult widely with Syrian society, as well as other international actors, to further develop the way forward.



12. Action Group members would welcome the Joint Special Envoy’s further convening of a meeting of the Action Group should he deem it necessary to review the concrete progress taken on all points agreed in this communiqué, and to determine what further and additional steps and actions are needed from the Action Group to address the crisis. The Joint Special Envoy will also keep the United Nations and the League of Arab States informed.










The Geneva II Conference on Syria[1] (also called Geneva II Middle East peace conference[2][3] or simply Geneva II[4]) is a United Nations-backed international peace conference on the future of Syria[5] with the aim of ending the Syrian Civil War, by bringing together the Syrian government and the Syrian opposition to discuss[6] the clear steps[7] towards a transitional government for Syria with full executive powers.[8] The conference took place on 22 January 2014 in Montreux and on 23–31 January 2014 in Geneva (Switzerland).







Third International Humanitarian Pledging Conference for Syria 

In Support of the Syria Response Plan (SRP) and the Regional Refugee and Resilience Plan (3RP)



Information on the 2nd conference (2014): http://www.unocha.org/syria-humanitarian-pledging-conference
In Support of the Syria Response Plan (SRP) and the Regional Refugee and Resilience Plan (3RP) 



"Kuwait to host third Syria donors conference"  http://news.yahoo.com/kuwait-host-third-syria-donors-conference-182347250.html
"The Gulf state has hosted previous such conferences in the past two years which saw pledges of around $4 billion in aid, including $800 million from Kuwait."


European Commission ‏@EU_Commission 2015-03-13
Statement by @StylianidesEU on the 4th anniversary of the crisis in #Syriahttp://europa.eu/!JR38hG @MajaEUspox
(Note: This statement of the European Commissioner for Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Management cites the humanitarian conference and also a Syria facts sheet)






US HAS MOBILIZED OVER $3 BILLION IN ASSISTANCE (information on the US now added to this subsection that had been published earlier)







Department of State @StateDept  Feb 2015
Today, @StatePRM and @theOFDA announced $125 million in humanitarian assistance to @WFP to help feed Syrian refugees. go.usa.gov/33WnQ

U.S. Embassy Syria @USEmbassySyria Feb 2015
The United States provides $125 Million to the World Food Program for the #Syria Crisis. goo.gl/jFdo2P







European Commission @EU_Commission · Jan 29

#EU steps up humanitarian assistance to #Syria crisis: http://europa.eu/!dY79fV 





European Union Press Release

EU steps up humanitarian assistance to Syria crisis


Brussels, 29 January 2015


The European Union is increasing its assistance to the Syria crisis by €136 million in humanitarian funding, half of which will go to needs inside Syria, and the other half to Syrian refugees and host communities in neighbouring Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan and Iraq.

The funding was announced as Commissioner for Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Management Christos Stylianides, and Commissioner for European Neighbourhood Policy and Enlargement NegotiationsJohannes Hahn, are in Lebanon and Jordan on a joint visit to discuss the growing needs of Syrian refugees and the growing burden on neighbouring countries.



The European Union, with its Member States, is one of the leaders of the international humanitarian response to the Syria crisis, having mobilised over €3.25 billion in assistance. Including today's top-up, the European Commission alone has provided €817 million in humanitarian funding.

Of this new humanitarian funding half will go to needs inside Syria, and the other half to neighbouring countries hosting Syrian refugees. This includes €37 million to Lebanon and €20 million to Jordan in 2015.










(Retweeted by J.Touma, Spokesperson for special envoy for Syria crisis Staffan de Mistura, UNICEF spokesperson on Syria regional crisis)






UN News Centre @UN_News_Centre (2015-03-12)

4 years of war: @UN urges support to end #Syria'n 'nightmare of suffering' ow.ly/Kfg3E#WhatDoesItTakepic.twitter.com/jDxgkyqlDG














UN Geneva @UNGeneva (2015-03-12)

UN Geneva workers add their voices, asking #WhatDoesItTake to stop the #SyriaCrisispic.twitter.com/vMrj763Ctf






"Dateline Damascus: fighting on all fronts"


by Robert Dulmers and Teun Voeten 22 February 2015


"For 12 days, two Dutch journalists travelled all over Assad’s Syria. They spoke with high-ranking officials in government and generals at the front lines. A unique look behind the scenes."Article by Robert Dulmers and Teun Voeten 22 February 2015





5 February 2015 (published on 20 February 2015)
United Nations Human Rights Council Secretariat

#CommissionofInquiry on #Syria releases its latest report (A/HRC/28/69) accessible here: goo.gl/6Vb6mI #humanrights #HRC


Met w/ UN Comm of Inquiry for #Syria last week re: their 9th report on suffering & atrocities in #Syria. Read it here bit.ly/1e8gHgH


(Page 8)

Consequences of the failure of the State to protect civilians

49.       Government forces have directed attacks against the civilian population. The attacks have included widespread shelling and bombardment of civilian-inhabited localities andthe targeting of civilians for arrest, detention and disappearance on the basis of their association or perceived opposition to the Government. The coordination and active participation of government institutions indicates that the attacks are conducted as a matter of State policy. As part of this widespread attack on the civilian population, government forces have perpetrated murder, torture, rape and acts of enforced disappearance.



50.          Where frontlines have stalled, the Government has employed a strategy of controlling the population, combining long-lasting sieges with continuous air and ground bombardment. Civilians are targeted on the basis of their perceived opposition to the Government. Merely living in or originating from certain neighbourhoods leads to targeting. In a particularly brutal military campaign, the Government intensified its widespread and systematic attack against the civilian population of Aleppo in October 2013 to punish and terrorize civilians for supporting or hosting armed groups in an apparent strategy to erode popular support for those groups. Government forces are now employing a similar strategy in ArRaqqah, with total disregard for the distinction between civilian and military targets.


(Page 16)

109.    Although a number of initiatives have been introduced to put an end to the four-year old conflict in the SyrianArab Republic, to date they have fallen short of achieving a political solution. Notable among those was the six-point peace plan presented by the Joint Special Envoy of the United Nations and the League of Arab States on the Syrian Crisis, Kofi Annan, on 27 March 2012. The plan principally called upon the Government of the Syrian Arab Republic to engage in an encompassing political process, to cease military hostilities and to allow humanitarian aid to areas affected by the fighting. Shortly afterwards, in April 2012, the United Nations Supervision Mission in the Syrian Arab Republic was appointed with the aim of monitoring the declared ceasefire to which the Government and armed opposition had initially committed. On 16 June, the mission was suspended when hostilities resumed.



110.    The final communiqué of the Action Group for Syria (Geneva communiqué), issued in June 2012,[1] remains one of the most serious attempts to resolve the conflict politically. It provides a road map for a peaceful transfer of power through the establishment of a transitional governing body with executive powers. After his appointment in August 2012, the Joint Special Representative of the United Nations and the League of Arab States, Lakhdar Brahimi, immediately called for the implementation of the terms of the Geneva communiqué. After months of negotiations and a persistent diplomatic push by the United States of America and the Russian Federation with the parties to the conflict, a conference (“Geneva II”) was held in Montreux, Switzerland, on 23 January 2014. Negotiationsbroke down after two rounds of talks between the Government and the opposition, mostly represented by the Syrian National Coalition (SNC). The main issue of contention centred on priorities on the negotiation agenda, given that the Government insisted on addressing terrorism before engaging on issues pertaining to the transitional government, which the SNC rejected.



111.    The prospects for a political solution have been further complicated by the multiplication of armed actors on the ground. The drastic territorial expansion of ISIS coupled with the continued fragmentation of FSA-affiliated groups has made it impossible to achieve a comprehensive ceasefire or broader political agreement. It has further weakened the stance of the SNC as its leverage over these groups progressively declined. Recent efforts have been geared towards “harmonizing” the relations of SNC with influential armed groups on the ground, while also engaging with the internal political opposition. The latest meeting in Cairo, held on 22 January 2015 between the SNC and members of the internal opposition, was specifically aimed atcreating a common platform. A final 10-point document was endorsed by a majority of participating members. It called for a peaceful transition to a democratic and civil system, while stressing that the Geneva communiqué remained the basis for negotiations with the Government.



112. The initiative taken by the Russian Federation in January 2015 was aimed at bringing together members of the opposition and the Government.The main external opposition bloc, the SNC, declined the invitation, while members from various internal opposition groups agree to attend.Consensus was reached on the need to preserve the sovereignty and unity of the Syrian Arab Republic; the rejection of foreign interference; fighting terrorism as a priority; and ending the civil war through peaceful means.



113.    The expansion of extremist groups has also hardened the negotiating position of the Government and its willingness to make concessions. TheGovernment has consistently set the end of external military support to armed groups and the so-called “fight against terrorism” as preconditions for any political or transitional process. It has also refused to recognise the SNC as a unified entity and has instead focused its efforts on engaging with the internally tolerated opposition.



114.    The current step-by-step approach adopted by Special Envoy of the Secretary-General Staffan de Mistura aims to address the fragmentation of the conflict by focusing on a localized freeze of hostilities in Aleppo city. It emphasizes a bottom-up approach to resolving the conflict through the reinforcement of localized agreements that can be replicated on a larger scale, facilitating a gradual transition towards a wider political solution. No specific plan has been presented to date, but success of the Aleppo freeze will be a litmus test for the success of this model in other areas.



115.    While a gradual transition with solid confidence-building measures could reduce hostilities locally and improve humanitarian conditions, it will ultimately need to address a longer-term perspective. Although the Geneva communiqué provided an framework for a political settlement, contentious issues remain, including the scope and nature of the opposition’s representation in any transitional arrangement. President Assad’s role in the transitional phase remains a deeply contentious issue among the parties. These aspects must be addressed before a lasting agreement can be seriously contemplated.



           B.     Involvement of external actors



116.    Beyond the internal escalation, triggered in March 2011 by the Government’s excessive use of force against largely unarmed protests, several external actors have contributed to the militarization process that transformed the unrest into a brutal civil war.



                1.      Involvement of influential States on both sides of the conflict



117.    Since the uprising began, some States have endeavoured to influence the conduct of various parties according to their geopolitical interests. Their support extended to the financial and military realms, giving the warring parties, though unequally, the required capabilities to escalate or at least maintain their engagement. In particular, countries in the region are competing for influence over the belligerents, gradually transforming the Syrian crisis into a regional contest.



118.        Critical financial and military assistance injected by different States into the conflict has fuelled the warring parties’ unwillingness to compromise as they continued to believe that they could prevail militarily.







"Following fierce clashes in Aleppo in recent days, the medical humanitarian organisation Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders (MSF) urges all parties to the conflict to facilitate the evacuation of the wounded.



People have been trapped by fighting and aerial bombardments in the northern Syrian city for months."



“Our paramount concern is that the clashes block the only road open between Aleppo and the northern border with Turkey, making it almost impossible to run the ambulance services and provide medical and humanitarian assistance to the people trapped by war in eastern Aleppo,” adds Ayora.















After UN humanitarian groups performed localized agreements with fighters on all sides of the conflict near the Syrian city of Homs, convoys delivering food supplies for one month as well as medical supplies could reach people in the battle zones of the city on 2015-01-16







“Two more convoys over the coming days will deliver food to 75,000 people, she added, 30 percent of the estimated quarter of a million people the United Nations says are trapped in besieged areas across Syria.”


“The U.N. peace envoy to Syria, Staffan de Mistura, has said he wants to start focusing on brokering “freeze zones,” or local truces, in the northern city of Aleppo rather than a peace plan for the whole of the divided country.



"This is why ... we have put on the table the proposal of a freeze of heavy fighting in Aleppo, and eventually the return for a united, reconstructed Syrian city as it used to be because it is a symbolic microcosm of all of Syria," De Mistura told a news briefing in Geneva on Thursday, saying that Islamic State rebel forces were "only 20 miles away from Aleppo".”









BY OKSANA BOYKO (Worlds Apart, RT)





Organisation For Democracy And Freedom In Syria http://www.odf-syria.org/



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 thoseprodemocracy 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 verybeginning, 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 oppositionhere. 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 ownfather 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












SC and National Coordination Commission Agree on a Roadmap for a Political Solution in Syria ow.ly/JGPRdpic.twitter.com/2iCz8TtYJv




Thursday, 26 February 2015



Syrian Coalition and National Coordination Commission Agree on a Roadmap for a Political Solution in Syria



In an effort to proceed with intra-opposition consultations, two delegations from the Syrian Coalition and the National Coordination Commission met in Paris in an attempt to lay out a common vision for a solution needed to stop the killing and destruction taking place all across Syria.



The two sides agreed on a draft roadmap for a political solution based on the document of basic principles for a political settlement in Syria, drawn up by both sides in previous meetings. The two sides are yet to discuss the draft roadmap for approval.










The National Coordination Committee for the Forces of Democratic Change, or National Coordination Body for Democratic Change[1] (NCC or NCB is a Syrian bloc chaired by Hassan Abdel Azim consisting of 13 left-wing political parties and "independent political and youth activists".[2] It has been defined by Reuters* as the internal opposition's main umbrella group.[3]



Web site: http://syrianncb.org/

 * Reuters: http://www.trust.org/item/?map=damascus-meeting-calls-for-peaceful-change-in-syria









Information (selected dates) from the following timeline: http://www.aucegypt.edu/GAPP/CairoReview/Pages/articleDetails.aspx?aid=579
Combined with wikipedia information.





August 23, 2011: Syrian factions inside and outside of Syria form the Syrian National Council to oppose the Al-Assad regime.



The Syrian National Council is a Syrian opposition coalition, based in Istanbul (Turkey), formed in August 2011 during the Syrian civil uprising (escalating into civil war) against the government of Bashar al-Assad. Initially, the council denied seeking to play the role of a government in exile, but this changed a few months later when violence in Syria intensified. The Syrian National Council seeks the end of Bashar al-Assad's rule and the establishment of a modern, civil, democratic state.



February 4, 2012: Russia and China veto the draft UN Security Council resolution supporting Arab League call for Bashar Al-Assad to resign and demanding all parties cease violence and reprisals; Secretary of State Hillary Clinton criticizes the veto as a “travesty” and calls for “friends of democratic Syria” to unite against Al-Assad.







The Group of Friends of the Syrian People[1] (sometimes: Friends of Syria Group or Friends of the Syrian People Group or Friends of Democratic Syria or simply Friends of Syria) is an international diplomatic collective of countries and bodies convening periodically on the topic of Syria outside the U.N. Security Council. The collective was created in response to a Russian and Chinese veto on a Security Council resolution condemning Syria; American president Barack Obama has stated that it was organized by the United States.[2]




 History: The group was initiated by then-French president Nicolas Sarkozy [3], and its first meeting took place on 24 February 2012 in Tunisia.[4]



​February 24, 2012: Friends of Syria conference in Tunis demands that Bashar Al-Assad cease the use of violence and allow humanitarian aid into the country, and calls on the UN to send a peacekeeping mission to Syria.




April 1, 2012: Friends of Syria conference in Istanbul recognizes the Syrian National Council as the representative of Syrian opposition; United States agrees to send communication equipment to rebels, while Arab nations pledge more than $100 million in financial support; United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) opens the Domiz camp in Iraq for Syrians fleeing the conflict.






November 11, 2012: Syrian National Council and other factions form the 'National Coalition of Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces" (note: abbreviated "Syrian Coalition" (SC) previously "Syrial National Coalition (SNC)"); Moaz Al-Khatib, a Muslim cleric, is named coalition president; the coalition’s goals include overthrowing the Al-Assad regime and establishing a “democratic and pluralistic civil state".






The National Coalition of Syrian Revolution and Opposition Forces commonly named the "Syrian Coalition" previously "Syrian National Coalition" is a coalition of opposition groups in the Syrian civil war that was founded in Doha, Qatar, in November 2012.




Note: Official Web Site: http://en.etilaf.org/



Note: President and Presidential/Political Committee elections were held on 5th January 2015. New President is Khaled Khoja, a 49-year-old Damascus-born doctor and businessman. (Reuters)




Information (modified) from the following wikipedia link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/National_Coalition_for_Syrian_Revolutionary_and_Opposition_Forces








European Union



19 November 2012



"Legitimate representatives of the aspirations of the Syrian people"[39]



United States



12 December 2012



Sole legitimate representative of the Syrian people[50]



Arab League



26 March 2013



Arab League membership[42]






As of 17 November 2012, Monzer Makhous was recognised by France as a representative of the National Coalition.





On 23 November, Qatar asked the coalition to appoint an ambassador, becoming the first Arab country to publicly announce it will accept an envoy from the new opposition body.[56] The SNCs embassy in Qatar was opened on 27 March 2013.[57]



On May 5, 2014, the Coalition was officially granted diplomatic status with the Washington office formerly recognized as a Foreign Mission in the US.






ALL DIPLOMATIC MISSIONS AT THE SYRIAN COALITION SITE LINK: http://en.etilaf.org/coalition-units/coalition-embassies.html


Mission at the US: http://www.etilaf.us/








Five of the groups (with indication of "strength") from the link:














Islamic Front






Merger of major rebel groups.[109]



Sunni Islamism[111]



Free Syrian Army






Main opposition group. Initially an umbrella term for defected Syrian soldiers, later became more organized.



Diverse, MostlyIslamism



Ajnad al-Sham Islamic Union






Merger of Damascus area rebel groups[117]






Authenticity and Development Front










Army of Mujahedeen






Coalition of Aleppo area Islamist rebels formed to fight ISIL.











The Free Syrian Army (FSA) is a group of defected Syrian Armed Forcesofficers and soldiers,[14][15] founded during the Syrian uprising or civil war on 29 July 2011[16] by five[15] or seven defected Syrian officers.[16][17] The group defined "all [Syrian] security forces attacking civilians" as their enemies,[16][17] and said its goal to be "to bring down the system"[16] or "to bring this regime down".[15]

90 percent of the FSA consists of Sunni Muslims,[21] but a small minority are (ShiaAlawites[21] and some Druze fought in FSA units. About 15 % of FSA units are Kurds[22]. Some FSA units are led by Druze.[23] As for further ethnic minorities, a Palestinian rebel commander in the Yarmouk enclave in southern Damascus in 2012 considered his rebel brigade to be part of FSA.[24]


Background of desertions: The first defections from the Syrian army during the Syrian uprising may have occurred end of April 2011 when the army was sent into Daraa to quell ongoing protests. There were reports that some units refused to fire on protesters and had split from the army.[36] Video footage showed civilians helping defecting soldiers who had been shot for refusing orders.[37]


Defections, according to unverified reports, continued throughout the spring as the government used lethal force to clamp down on protesters and lay siege to protesting cities across the country, such as BaniyasHamaTalkalakh, and Deir ez-Zor, and there were reports of soldiers who refused to fire on civilians and were summarily executed by the army.[38]


Relations with the political opposition, the National Coalition of Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces


The Free Syrian army supports the National Coalition for Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces, a coalition of Syrian opposition groups created in November 2012 that includes many SNC members in its council.[26



According to the classification scheme at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_armed_groups_in_the_Syrian_Civil_War


Free Syrian Army




The Syria Revolutionaries Front (Arabic: جبهة ثوار سوريا‎, Jabhat Thowar Suriyya, SRF, also translated Syrian Rebel Front[1]) is an alliance formed in December 2013 by Free Syrian Army (FSA) brigades, as a response to the merger of Islamist Syrian Rebels into the Islamic Front.[14] Following initial clashes, the Islamic Front and the Syrian Revolutionaries Front agreed to reconcile later that month.[15] 




The Islamic Front (Arabic: ‏الجبهة الإسلامية‎, al-Jabhat al-Islāmiyyah) is a merger of seven rebel groups involved in the Syrian civil war[3] that was announced on 22 November 2013.[13] An anonymous spokesman for the group has stated that it will not have ties with the Syrian National Coalition,[14] though a member of the political bureau of the group, Ahmad Musa, has stated that he hopes for recognition from the Syrian National Council in cooperation for what he suggested "the Syrian people want. They want a revolution and not politics and foreign agendas."[15] The group is widely seen as backed and armed by Saudi Arabia.[16][17][18]







THE SYRIAN TOWN RAQQA OCCUPIED BY ISIS  (termed “ISIS de facto capital”)




(a town about 160km east of Aleppo)

















Fabrice Balanche: “Now, I have a database of population statistics in 6,000 Syrian localities, as well as neighborhood-level databases for the ten major cities.”



http://carnegieendowment.org/about/ : Founded in 1910, Carnegie is the oldest international affairs think tank in the United States. It is known for excellence in scholarship, responsiveness to changing global circumstances, and a commitment to concrete improvements in public policy.




 Posted by: Aron Lund Friday, January 30, 2015



"As one of the leading French experts on Syria, Fabrice Balanche has an unusual focus. His field of study is political geography, chronicling the interplay between power, community, and territory. As an assistant professor of geography at the Université Lyon 2 and the director of its Groupe de Recherches et d’Etudes sur la Méditerranée et le Moyen-Orient, or GREMMO, he frequently appears in French media (…).



His research is increasingly finding its way into English, but most of it is in French—so francophone readers are encouraged to have a look at his recent work and to follow him on Twitter. Today, Fabrice Balanche has kindly agreed to be interviewed by Syria in Crisis to explain his methods of mapping the Syrian war and to present his views of the situation.



Please tell us a few words about how you got involved with Syria.



I began working on Syria in 1990, when I was writing my master’s thesis. Between 1992 and 2000 I worked on a long study of the relations between the Alawite community and the authorities in Syria, as part of a doctoral thesis on political geography. It was published in 2006 as La région alaouite et le pouvoir syrien. During this period, I lived in Syria for six years. I described the sect-based clientelism that structured Syrian society, and my conclusion was that at the time of former Syrian president Hafez al-Assad’s death in June 2000, Syria found itself in the same situation as Yugoslavia at the death of its president, Josip Broz Tito, and that it was therefore at risk of suffering the same fate.



In the December 2011 edition of Outre-Terre, a French geopolitical journal, you wrote an article entitled “Géographie de la révolte syrienne.” It described a Syrian conflict predetermined by social and sectarian factors, with an armed opposition almost entirely rooted in the Sunni Arab majority population—particularly among disaffected social groups such as the rural poor—whereas minority and upper- and middle-class areas either remained passive or actively supported the president. It was one of the first comprehensive studies of the sectarian and socioeconomic dimensions of the conflict, published long before such arguments became commonplace in the media, at a time when both sides were still in complete denial about Syria’s sectarian problem. How did you arrive at these conclusions?



I wasn’t surprised by the outbreak of crisis in Syria. Rather, I found it surprising that the country hadn’t exploded a few years earlier, given that its socioeconomic indicators were all in the red. There were social tensions related to poverty, territorial tension between the center and the periphery, and sectarian tension—and they all overlapped.



The 1991 Infitah, or economic opening, and the accelerated liberalizing reforms under President Bashar al-Assad created a social inequality that proved impossible to manage for Syria’s rigid bureaucracy, while simultaneously increasing sectarian frustrations, notably against the Alawites. The old Baathist system had by then been exhausted. Syria’s economy was in urgent need of some breathing space, but the young president could not turn Syria into a “tiger economy.” It would have challenged the entire system of power that had been methodically constructed by his father.



We therefore moved into a civil war that would quickly shatter Syria’s fragile sectarian coexistence, which had in the preceding years relied more and more on repression and less and less on the redistribution of Syria’s national wealth.



But why didn’t the mainstream media and political debate in the West pick up on these problems until much later?



The media refused to see the Syrian revolt as anything other than the continuation of revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt, at a time of enthusiasm over the Arab Spring. Journalists didn’t understand the sectarian subtleties in Syria, or perhaps they didn’t want to understand; I was censored many times.



Syrian intellectuals in the opposition, many of whom had been in exile for decades, had a discourse similar to that of the Iraqi opposition during the U.S. invasion of 2003. Some of them honestly confused their own hopes for a nonsectarian society with reality, but others—such as the Muslim Brotherhood—tried to obfuscate reality in order to gain the support of Western countries.



In 2011–2012, we suffered a type of intellectual McCarthyism on the Syrian question: if you said that Assad was not about to fall within three months, you would be suspected of being paid by the Syrian regime. Members of the exile opposition’s Syrian National Council went on TV, one after the other, to assure us that the rare sectarian mishaps were all the work of Assad’s intelligence services, that the situation was under control, and that the Syrian National Council had a plan that would avert any risk of civil war. And with the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs having taken up the cause of the Syrian opposition, it would have been in bad taste to contradict its communiqués. As Georges Malbrunot and Christian Chesnot note in their new book, Les chemins de Damas: “it’s better to be as wrong as everyone else than to be right alone.”



Was the Syrian conflict influenced by sectarianism from the beginning or did the sectarian issues emerge later?



From the beginning, the Syrian conflict was sectarian, social, and political. These three factors were interrelated, because sectarian divides are everywhere in Syria. The revolt started in an attempt to get rid of Assad, the state bureaucracy, the Baath Party, the intelligence services, and the general staff of the Syrian Arab Army. But all of these bodies are packed with Alawites, over 90 percent of whom work for the state.



You could follow the sectarian patterns across the map. In mixed Alawite-Sunni areas, the protests only took place in the Sunni areas. In Latakia, Banias, and Homs, the demonstrators clashed with Alawite counterdemonstrators. This pro-Assad mobilization was not simply organized by the government. Rather, it was part of the phenomenon of urban asabiyya (communal solidarity) that has been so well described by Michel Seurat in the case of Tripoli. In the Daraa Province, the population is almost exclusively Sunni and the demonstrations naturally spread—but they stopped right at the border of the Druze-populated Sweida Province, which did not sympathize with them at all. In Aleppo, the divisions were mainly social, between the well-to-do and poorer people, and between indigenous city dwellers and new arrivals from the countryside who lived in the slums. But the sectarian factor was present in Aleppo too, with Christians remaining staunchly pro-regime and the Kurds playing their own game, as we have seen with the autonomous cantons in Afrin, Ein al-Arab (Kobane), and Qamishli."















Kenneth Roth @KenRoth
Executive Director, Human Rights Watch 
New York hrw.org 





(...) since the Syrian government turned over its chemical weapons, its most notorious weapon has been the barrel bomb—an oil drum or similar container filled with high explosives and metal fragments. The air force typically drops these bombs from a helicopter hovering at high altitudes to avoid anti-aircraft fire. From that height, they are impossible to target with any precision. Barrel bombs simply tumble to earth, killing far more Syrian civilians than IS.
Barrel bombs are so inaccurate that the Syrian military does not dare use them near the front lines, for fear of hitting its own troops. Rather, it drops them on areas held by rebel groups, knowing that they will destroy apartment buildings, hospitals, schools and other institutions of civilian life. In Aleppo, some civilians who have not fled the country have moved their families nearer the front line, preferring snipers and artillery to the horror of the barrel bombs.
(...) because of their inaccuracy, barrel bombs have little if any military significance. They have been used almost exclusively for killing civilians. Ending their use is unlikely to have an appreciable effect on the balance of power between the Syrian government, the rebels and IS.





Photo from AP Images












(with the participation of the Russia Foreign Minister of Defence Sergei Lavrov)









Russia's Lavrov says fighting 'terrorism' should unite Syrian opposition, Damascus









"MOSCOW: Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov urged the Syrian opposition and representatives of the Damascus government Wednesday to join forces to combat the threat of terrorism.



Talks between elements of the Syrian opposition - not including the Western-backed National Coalition - and government representatives began in Moscow as an attempt to revive stalled peace efforts in the four-year conflict"










Russia wants to see a “secular, prosperous” Syria where the rights of all are protected, Lavrov told representatives of both sides Wednesday at their third day of meetings. It supports inclusive national dialogue without preconditions to end a conflict that has drawn “terrorists of all stripes” to the country, he said.










Lavrov: Post-crisis Syria will be stable, sovereign, secular, and prosperous country






Moscow, SANA – Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said that Russia is committed to resolving the crisis in Syria and will continue to provide all sorts of aid to the Syrians to help realize the unity of their people and to strengthen steadfastness of the Syrian state in confronting terrorism and building a new future.






During his meeting with delegations of the Syrian government and opposition figures in Moscow on Wednesday, Lavrov said “we are open to all sides that seek to help launch a political process in Syria on the basis of the UN Charter.”






(…) after overcoming the crisis, Syria will regain stability as a sovereign, secular state that enjoys territorial integrity and prosperity.



He said that realizing these goals can only be done by employing a political solution in a manner specified by the Syrians and the Syrians alone, noting that all Syrians are aware of the risk posed by imposing foreign solutions that reflect geopolitical ambitions of other countries.






He said that the participants in the meeting tried to outline the points they have in common, which are Syria’s unity, sovereignty, independence, and secularism, then moved on to other points, adding that all this requires implementing reconciliations, facilitating humanitarian aids, and resolving the status of combatants who handed in their weapons, as well as releasing detainees who are not involved in terrorist acts.






The Minister said that such a process will be long and difficult, which requires additional efforts, noting the positive effects of the steps taken by Egypt to help in this regard and welcoming all efforts by states or international organizations that seek to create suitable circumstances for launching a comprehensive, national inter-Syrian dialogue.






He added that Russia sees great potential in the mission of UN Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura, as he poses ideas that merit more consideration by all the sides.































By Kayhan Barzegar






KAYHAN BARZEGAR is Director of the Institute for Middle East Strategic Studies and Chair of the Department of Political Science and International Relations at the Science and Research Branch of the Islamic Azad University in Tehran.



February 8, 2015



(Selected texts)

“It (ISIS) capitalizes on tensions in Iraq and Syria between Shias, Sunnis, and Kurds and, more broadly, between Iran, Turkey, and Saudi Arabia. This strategy has allowed ISIS to stay alive.”



"Iran is suspicious of the coalition’s air operations, which include some Arab rival states operating over Iraqi territory and beyond. Turkey is worried that the conflict could diminish Turkey’s regional political and economic role and empower Kurds at Turkey’s expense. Saudi Arabia mainly aims to restrain ISIS, which presents an ideological challenge to the government, and to weaken the Bashar al-Assad regime to constrain Iran’s regional role."



"Iran has lots of experience in successful post-conflict management in Afghanistan, Lebanon, and Iraq. The country has helped build coalitions, an example of which is Iran’s role in the recent political settlement in Iraq that led to the replacement of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. Further, Iran has unique influence on other key actors in the crisis, such as Russia. Most importantly, the Rouhani government, which seeks to moderate Iran’s foreign policy, has the necessary political motivations for solving the Syrian crisis. These all enable the country to play a constructive role in the region."



"With good diplomacy, the ISIS issue, as a common challenge, has the potential to advance cooperation between Iran and the United States. Initial confidence-building measures in Syria could even be beneficial for the nuclear talks, given that, even in the aftermath of a possible comprehensive deal, the two sides need to closely work together. This, in turn, can provide the ground for developing a regional counterterrorism strategy."





(Selected phrases)

“Developing a regional counterterrorism strategy in which states work together”.
“Supported and guaranteed by the United Nations’s mediatory efforts”.
Battling ISIS, “needs to involve strengthening states”.














From http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hezbollah





"Hezbollah is a Shi'a Islamist militant group and political party based in Lebanon.[11][12] Hezbollah's paramilitary wing is the Jihad Council.[13][14].TheUnited States,[15] the Gulf Cooperation Council,[16] Canada,[17] and Israel[18] classify Hezbollah as a terrorist organization. The European Union andNew Zealand has proscribed Hezbollah's military wing, but does not list Hezbollah as a whole as a terrorist organization.[19][20]



Hezbollah was conceived by Muslim clerics and funded by Iran following the Israeli invasion of Lebanon in 1982, and was primarily formed to offer resistance to the Israeli occupation.[2] Its leaders were followers of Ayatollah Khomeini, and its forces were trained and organized by a contingent of 1,500Iranian Revolutionary Guards that arrived from Iran with permission from the Syrian government.[21]



Hezbollah has grown to an organization with seats in the Lebanese government, a radio and a satellite television-station, programs for social development and large-scale military deployment of fighters beyond Lebanon's borders.[22][23][24]"











“…the regime offensive is led by Qassem Soleimani, commander of the Quds Force—a special forces division of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), and Mustafa Badr, Hezbollah’s top military commander. The offensive aims to recapture northwestern Dara’a province, Western Damascus province and rural Quneitra to thwart the FSA’s efforts to link with their comrades in the Western Damascus suburbs.”











From https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rojava

"Rojava february2014 2" by PANONIAN - Own work. Licensed under CC0 via Wikimedia Commons - https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Rojava_february2014_2.png#mediaviewer/File:Rojava_february2014_2.png



"Rojava or Western Kurdistan (Kurdish: Rojavayê Kurdistanê, from rojava meaning "western") is a de facto autonomous region in northern and north-eastern Syria[13] near the Turkish border. Rojava consists of the three non-contiguous cantons of AfrinJazira and Kobani. Rojava is not officially recognized as autonomous by the government ofSyria.[14]



Kurds generally consider Rojava to be one of the four parts of a greater Kurdistan, which also includes parts of southeastern Turkey (Northern Kurdistan), northern Iraq (Southern Kurdistan), and western Iran (Eastern Kurdistan).



(…) In the course of the Syrian Civil War, Syrian government forces withdrew from three Kurdish enclaves leaving control to local militias in 2012."







From https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Popular_Protection_Units



"The People's Protection Units (Kurdish: Yekîneyên Parastina Gel; Arabic: وحدات حماية الشعب[3] Wihdat Himayah ash-Sha'ab), commonly known as the YPG, is the armed wing of the Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD) in Syrian Kurdistan.[4] The group is the only armed Kurdish force in Syria[citation needed] and has so far taken a defensive position in the Syrian Civil War,[4][5] fighting against any group that tries to take control of the Kurdish areas.



The group was founded by the Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD) after the 2004 Qamishli clashes, but it was not active until the Syrian Civil War.[6] Following the signing of the 2012 Arbil Agreement by PYD and theKurdish National Council (KNC), the YPG came under the formal command of the Kurdish Supreme Committee. However in reality it is almost exclusively still the armed wing of the PYD.[7] 



The YPG is composed of men and women from communities across the Kurdish region of Syria. The YPG considers itself a democratic people's army and conducts internal elections as a method of appointing officers.[9]"










The Women's Protection Units (Kurdish: Yekîneyên Parastina Jinê), commonly known as the YPJ, are an armed group which was set up in 2012 as "the female brigade of the leftist YPG militia".[3] 



The "all-female militia group grew out of the Kurdish resistance movement", and it "currently has over 7,000 (or 10,000, according to TeleSur)[3] volunteer fighters between the ages of 18-40".[2]



The group "played a critical role in rescuing the thousands of Yazidis trapped on Mount Sinjar by IS fighters" in August 2014. One fighter emphasized: "we need to control the area ourselves without depending on [the government]... They can't protect us from [ISIS], we have to protect ourselves [and] we defend everyone...no matter what race or religion they are".[5]



The group had been praised by both socialist and non-socialist feminists for "confront[ing] traditional gender expectations in the region" and "redefining the role of women in conflict in the region".



Various Kurdish media agency indicate that "YPJ troops have become vital in the battle against I.S." in Kobanî.[3]












In July 2012 the YPG established control in the towns of KobaneAmuda and Afrin.[19] The two main Kurdish groups, the Kurdish National Council(KNC) and the Democratic Union Party (PYD), afterwards formed a joint leadership council to administer the towns.[19]



Later that month the cities of Al-Malikiyah (Dêrika Hemko), Ra's al-'Ayn (Serê Kaniyê), Al-Darbasiyah(Dirbêsî), and Al-Maabadah (Girkê Legê) also came under the control of the Popular Protection Units.



The only major Kurdish inhabited cities that remained under government control were Hasaka and Qamishli.[20][21] However, parts of Hasaka and Qamishli later also became controlled by the YPG.



In 2014 Kobane was besieged by ISIL and later liberated by Kurdish forces assisted by coalition airstrikes.



In January 2015 the YPG fought against Syrian government forces in Hassaka[22].






(continued from previous section)






Article by Martin Chulov, Middle East correspondent for The Guardian
Published on Tuesday 23 December 2014 16.22 GMT
Additional reporting by Saalim Rizk.


(Guardian graphic below from the article web page http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/dec/23/syria-battle-for-aleppo)

Texts from the article are copied below. Title has been added.






"Directly to the north, the opposition has opened a fight for the Shia town of Zahraa, where up to 15,000 locals have remained unharmed throughout the war, protected mainly by Shia militias led by Hezbollah forces from Lebanon.






The fight for Zahraa, one of the few Shia enclaves in northern Syria, is being led by the al-Qaida-aligned Jabhat al-Nusra, with whom the Islamic Front have an understanding but no formal alliance. After barely holding ground for much of the past year, al-Nusra recently seized large chunks of territory near the Turkish border, reasserting itself as a power player at the expense of non-jihadist groups. The fast-changing dynamic is forcing a new reckoning with the Islamic Front, which says it has waited fruitlessly for help from Arab states that was promised but never delivered.



 “There is a military reason for this fight on Zahraa,” said an Islamic Front leader, sitting in a frigid empty villa that his forces use as a command post. “We know that the regime fights with large numbers of militias – all of their victories have come from their proxies, not from their own soldiers. Those militias will run to Zahraa to defend the Shias. The regime won’t be able to move around Aleppo without them.”



In the past month, Islamic Front fighters say they have captured three Shia militiamen from Afghanistan, whom they say were brought to Syria by Iran to fight for Bashar al-Assad. They showed videos and photographs to support the claim and said others had been killed in battle.



“One of them told us that he was in prison in Afghanistan and was told that he would be freed if he learned how to fight,” the leader said. “He was taken to Iran for a 30-day course and brought here. We eventually found one of our guys who speaks basic Farsi and he could talk to him.”



Across Syria, Shia militias coordinated by Iran have risen while the influence of regime forces has ebbed. “Hezbollah are the most powerful and the Syrian army takes orders from them,” said a local leader on the eastern edge of Aleppo, where regime scouts probe most nights. “The Iraqis were also here, along with the Houthis from Yemen, but they have all gone home [to fight wars]. We can deal with what’s left.”



The fighters placed a plastic sheet on the floor and covered it with plates of falafel, salads and mezze and cups of tea. They then laid out their despair over another recent event in the war that has not gone their way: the intervention of the US air force and a coalition of Arab allies against Isis, which the rebels of the north had hoped would also clip the wings of Assad’s air force."




Comment for the section below: "In January this year", refers to 2014








Article by Martin Chulov, Middle East correspondent for The Guardian
Published on Tuesday 23 December 2014 16.22 GMT
Additional reporting by Saalim Rizk.




"A group of rebel fighters sit around a fire in Aleppo". Photograph: Karam Almasri/NurPhoto/Rex Features

Texts from the article are copied below - titles have been added


"On both sides, what started as a battle for control of a sovereign state has now been eclipsed by regional agendas. The almost exclusively Sunni opposition believes it is battling a Shia Islamic hegemony led by Iran and abetted by regimes in Damascus and Baghdad. Syria and Iraq, meanwhile, insist the Islamic Front and other rebel groups are no different from the ruthless Islamic State (Isis), which is trying to carve a self-governed caliphate from the ruins of both nation states."



"In January this year, (i.e. 2014), the Islamic Front launched a campaign against Isis forcing it to flee Aleppo and the countryside to the north, as well as Idlib province to the west. The six-week fight left more than 2,000 Islamic Front fighters dead.



While the opposition was distracted, this gave the regime an opportunity to manoeuvre to just shy of where it now threatens the north-east of the city.



Since then the regime’s incremental gains have been hard fought, with most inroads being pushed back by rebel fighters and locals, both still reeling from their losses of manpower in the war with Isis. Meanwhile Isis has lurked 20 miles away, taunting the Islamic Front with a radio station it has set up that regularly plays Islamic chants insulting the group’s members.



“They were strategic [losses] for us,” said the Aleppo commander of the gains by Isis. “And [yet] the Americans doubt our commitment to fighting them? When [the US] came back to Syria, we thought the least they could do is to stop Assad’s air force from flying.”



"But they (Assad's air force) have bombed the city more than at any time before the Americans arrived."



“Of course we believe they have a deal with the regime. It is obvious.”



The Assad military’s conventional weapons have taken a savage toll all around the area where the men are gathered. Barrel bombs dropped from helicopters high above have ruined more than 30 apartment buildings. Scud missiles and other ballistic rockets have left enormous craters in their wake. Destruction is heaviest around the eastern and northeastern fringes, areas the regime will use to re-enter the city if it makes good its threat.



“Let them try,” said Mahmoud Zaher, a young rebel from the Aleppo countryside. Zaher is one of a large number of the rural poor who make up the opposition’s fighting forces from Darkoush on the Turkish border to al-Bab 25 miles east of Aleppo – the westernmost point of the swath of land across Syria and Iraq now controlled by Isis.'






Syrian Revolutionary Front termed as “Saudi-backed mainstream rebel group”



"Isis’s next moves loom large in the reckoning of the defenders of Aleppo. So too do Jabhat al-Nusra’s. Buoyed by a month of stunning successes in Idlib province, in which they had ousted the Saudi-backed mainstream rebel group the Syrian Revolutionary Front, al-Nusra forces this week overran a regime military base in Idlib province, which had held out against other opposition units throughout the war.



Both victories give the group impetus and aegis across a fractured battlefield where both matter greatly. The Syrian Revolutionary Front had been the rival opposition group to the Islamic Front and was considered by Riyadh in particular to be a bulwark against a jihadist creep. But with its authority now diminshed, jihadists like al-Nusra and Isis are making gains in the north, while the Islamic Front is struggling to hold Aleppo."







"Asked before al-Nusra’s triumphs this week whether the Islamic Front would formally ally with the group, a spokesman for the Islamic Front leadership said: “These things will need to be discussed. We are on good terms and we cooperate a lot. And anyway, do you in the west expect us to sit around waiting for the Americans? We are in this situation because no one has helped us. Those who are facilitating our death and misery don’t have the moral authority to tell us how to save ourselves.”



With a fresh haul of heavy weapons seized from the Idlib base, a combined jihadist-Islamic Front effort would pose a new obstacle to the regime’s efforts to close the gap around Aleppo. But it may also invigorate UN-led moves towards a ceasefire in the north, which the opposition had been unwilling to embrace from a position of weakness.



“Assad only wants to go for this because he thinks he is winning,” said the Islamic Front spokesman. “We know we have to unite to be strong.”



In Aleppo’s Old City, where every one of the few thousand locals who have remained appears fatigued by relentless misery, talk of a ceasefire is common. “We can’t make it a surrender though,” said Saleh Homsi, sipping bitter coffee at a roadside stall. “They have to accept that they can’t win first,” he added of the regime.



Across the ridgeline at the entrance to the city, there was movement throughout the week. Syrian troops would appear first on the top then halfway down the facing slope before retreating under fire. An abandoned regime position had crumbled into the dirt, and not far away Isis graffiti, marking the group’s brief time in charge of the area, was fading under winter rains.



Islamic Front banners now fly proudest but in the shifting fortunes for the war for the north that too could soon change."










Secretary-General's Reports

22 JANUARY 2015 S/2015/48      (report covers period from 1 to 31 December 2014)


The pdf can be found on a link from this page: http://www.securitycouncilreport.org/un-documents/syria/


The United Nations Security Council requested the Secretary-General to report, every 30 days, on the implementation of the resolutions by all parties to the conflict in the Syrian Arab Republic.[Implementation of Security Council resolutions 2139, 2165, 2191 (all 2014)].







A Syria map is copied below from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Governorates_of_Syria. Note that Syria is divided into fourteen governorates, or muhafazat.




(Selected paragraphs with numbering of the UN report)

Note: The report covers the period from 1 to 31 December 2014.


3. Widespread conflict and high levels of violence continued throughout the Syrian Arab Republic during the reporting period, particularly in the governorates of Aleppo, Hama, Homs, Deir ez-Zor, Rif Dimashq, Damascus, Hasakeh, Idlib, Dar`a, Quneitra and Raqqa. Indiscriminate aerial bombings, including the use of barrel bombs, by Government forces and indiscriminate shelling by armed opposition, extremist and listed terrorist groups(*), continued to result in deaths, injuries and the displacement of civilians. Use of improvised explosive devices and vehicle-borne improvised explosive devices increased, and more than 21 suicide operations were reported in Aleppo, Hama and Dar`a.


(*) On 30 May 2013, Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and the Nusra Front were designated as terrorist groups by the Security Council under resolution 1267 (1999). The two groups operate in the Syrian Arab Republic.




5. In the governorate of Aleppo, governmental aerial bombardment and shelling of opposition-controlled eastern Aleppo continued during the reporting period. At least 107 civilians, including 27 children, were reportedly killed in Aleppo governorate during December as a result of government aerial attacks and shelling.


6. In Rif Dimashq, government aerial bombardment against opposition-held areas continued during December.


8.During the first week of January, the Syrian Arab Armed Forces reportedly used surface-to-surface rockets on Jobar, Darayya and other opposition-held areas in Ghouta, Damascus governorate. Armed opposition groups responded by firing more than 50 rocketsand mortars on Damascus neighbourhoods.




9. Yarmouk (Damascus district, home to Palestinians refugees) and its surrounding areas experienced a serious escalation in armed conflict during the reporting period, involving frequent exchanges of fire and use of explosive munitions, including by groups inside Yarmouk.


10.The Nusra Front reportedly continues to attract additional fighters and resources, particularly in Idlib and Dar`a governorates. In mid-December Ahrar al-Sham, the Nusra Front and other armed groups took control of two strategic military bases in Wadi al-Daif and Hamidiyah in Idlib.  On 2 December, the Nusra Front, Ahrar al-Sham and Jaish al-Islam agreed to form a unified leadership council, a joint operations room and a Sharia court in the Qalamoun region.




11.Parties to the conflict continued to target civilian facilities, including vital services and infrastructure. In late December, the Nusra Front and possibly other armed groups cut electricity and water supplies in Idlib and Aleppo cities, affecting approximately 1.7 million people. The electricity and water supplies were restored on 30 December, after the parties reached an agreement. Non-governmental organization (NGO) partners reported attacks on two schools in Idlib governorate, as well as on an internally displaced persons (IDP) centre, resulting in death and injury to civilians, including children.




12.International coalition airstrikes against ISIL led by the United States of America continued throughout the reporting period, targeting mostly ISIL positions in Kobani. Fighting also intensified between ISIL and Kurdish forces, with ISIL reportedly incurring heavy losses. In early December, a second group of 150 Iraqi Kurdish Peshmerga forces entered Kobani to replace the first group deployed to support Syrian Kurdish forces. A Jordanian military pilot, who was on an international coalition mission against ISIL, was captured by ISIL on 24 December, following the crash of his military aircraft in Raqqa governorate.




13.The United Nations continued to receive requests from opposition representatives to help facilitate local agreements with the Government in Damascus (Yarmouk, Jobar), Rif Dimashq (Zabadani, Darayya) and northern rural Hama. In Waer, Homs, opposition groups started direct negotiations with the Government allegedly following threats of increased shelling and air strikes.




15. Efforts continued to find a political solution to the conflict, and consultations continued with the Syrian parties and a wide range of interlocutors inside and outside the Syrian Arab Republic on the parameters of the proposed “freeze” arrangements to start in Aleppo City. Special Envoy de Mistura visited Istanbul and Gaziantep and met with the Syrian Opposition Coalition and armed opposition groups to explain the difference between the proposed Aleppo freeze and previous local ceasefire initiatives. Special Envoy de Mistura also visited Saudi Arabia and Jordan, and briefed the European Union Foreign Affairs Council on the modalities of the freeze proposal. During the same period, Deputy Special Envoy Ramzy visited Tehran and then Damascus to launch another round of negotiations on the freeze proposal.







European Commission @EU_Commission · Jan 29

#EU steps up humanitarian assistance to #Syria crisis: http://europa.eu/!dY79fV 





European Union Press Release

EU steps up humanitarian assistance to Syria crisis

Brussels, 29 January 2015


The European Union is increasing its assistance to the Syria crisis by €136 million in humanitarian funding, half of which will go to needs inside Syria, and the other half to Syrian refugees and host communities in neighbouring Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan and Iraq.

The funding was announced as Commissioner for Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Management Christos Stylianides, and Commissioner for European Neighbourhood Policy and Enlargement NegotiationsJohannes Hahn, are in Lebanon and Jordan on a joint visit to discuss the growing needs of Syrian refugees and the growing burden on neighbouring countries.



The European Union, with its Member States, is one of the leaders of the international humanitarian response to the Syria crisis, having mobilised over €3.25 billion in assistance. Including today's top-up, the European Commission alone has provided €817 million in humanitarian funding.

Of this new humanitarian funding half will go to needs inside Syria, and the other half to neighbouring countries hosting Syrian refugees. This includes €37 million to Lebanon and €20 million to Jordan in 2015.



Christos Stylianides @StylianidesEU · Jan 29

Angelina Jolie on the Syrians and Iraqis Who Can’t Go Home http://nyti.ms/1D5vZ3u 




By ANGELINA JOLIE JAN. 27, 2015   The New York Times 


In almost four years of war, nearly half of Syria’s population of 23 million people has been uprooted.


Syria’s neighbors have taken in nearly four million Syrian refugees, but they are reaching their limits. Syrian refugees now make up 10 percent of Jordan’s population. In Lebanon, every fourth person is now a Syrian. They need food, shelter, education, health care and work. This means fewer resources available for local people. Far wealthier countries might crack under these pressures.


The spread of extremism, the surge in foreign fighters, the threat of new terrorism — only an end to the war in Syria will begin to turn the tide on these problems. Without that, we are just tinkering at the edges.



Lack of funding hampering humanitarian aid to war-affected Syrians – @UNOCHA relief official http://j.mp/1uCRgNp  






In a recent TV show Tom L. Friedman, Pulitzer Prize-winning author and US foreign policy columnist for “The New York Times” asked a rhetorical question along the lines of: “What if I ask you who is at the opposition in Syria?” The TV presenter responded “I don’t know”.



Using as a reference the ideas he expressed, if people find a way to establish a framework to organize themselves, that is a political framework, then the fighting that serves as means of reclamations would stop.



Is it possible to create a stable framework, a stable political framework at this point?



So that those who want to express themselves (like the 2011 protestors) can eventually do so using this framework?




“Shifting Realities in Syria” – New York Times article published on 2015-01-24






Besides, the greater threat now is not Mr. Assad but the Islamic State, especially if it continues to expand in Syria, entices more foreign fighters into its ranks and uses its territory to launch attacks on the West. A recent study by the RAND Corporation, which does research for the government, says the collapse of the Assad regime, while unlikely now, would be the “worst possible outcome” (…) — depriving Syria of its remaining state institutions and creating more space for the Islamic State and other extremists to spread mayhem.



This was not the scenario envisioned in 2011 when Syrians staged peaceful protests against Mr. Assad’s autocratic government. President Obama and European leaders called for Mr. Assad to resign and pressured him with sanctions. The dictator, armed and aided by Russia and Iran, retaliated with his air force and barrel bombs, fueling a civil war in which some 200,000 Syrians have been killed and countless towns destroyed.




Interview of President of Syria, Bashar al-Assad – Foreign Affairs article published on 2015-01-26