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Executive Summary for January 21st

We review and analyze the most important developments in Syria, including the growing likelihood that peace talks set for January 25 will be delayed, the assassination of a prominent Nusra leader and the civilian toll from Russian airstrikes. Our goal is to keep you informed of the most significant recent events.

Published on Jan. 21, 2016 Read time Approx. 3 minutes

Syria Peace Talks May Be Delayed, Says De Mistura

Less than a week before internationally brokered peace talks between the Syrian opposition and the Assad government are set to begin, there is doubt over whether they will start on time, Reuters reports.

The negotiating body of the Syrian opposition, formed in Riyadh last month, said on Wednesday that it will not attend the negotiations in Geneva if the Moscow-based opposition attends.

A meeting held by U.N. special envoy to Syria Staffan de Mistura on Wednesday, with U.S. secretary of state John Kerry and Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov, reportedly brought no resolution to the issue.

“We have no intentions to postpone the talks from January to February,” Lavrov said, shortly after the meeting. “This is both the position of Russia and the United States, and we are confident that in the next days, in January, such talks must start.”

“This will be just the start, because of course it will take a lot of time, a whole range of arduous tasks are to be resolved,” he said.

Speaking with CNN outside the annual Davos gathering in Switzerland, de Mistura said: “I can’t tell you today, I will tell you on the 24th, one day before.”

De Mistura said it was important the negotiations be “a serious talk about peace and not talks about talks.”

“I believe we can start the talks, perhaps not on the 25th, but we need to maintain the pressure, we need to maintain the momentum.”

Nusra Emir Assassinated in Idlib, Says Monitor

A local leader of the al-Nusra Front was assassinated by unidentified gunmen on Wednesday, Agence France-Presse reports.

The killing of Iyad al-Adl, the “emir” for the town of Ariha in northwestern Idlib province, is the latest in a string of killings targeting mostly hard-line Islamist rebel commanders.

According to the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, the Nusra commander was shot and killed – along with another member of al-Qaida’s Syria affiliate – by unknown gunmen as they drove through a western neighborhood of Ariha.

Some 20 senior Islamist rebel commanders, including leaders of al-Nusra Front and its ally Ahrar al-Sham, have been assassinated in Syria since early December.

Analysts have said the killings could be the work of the so-called Islamic State or the Syrian government.

Russian Strikes Have Killed More Than 1,000 Civilians

Russian airstrikes have killed more than 1,000 civilians since Moscow militarily intervened in Syria nearly four months ago, Agence France-Presse reports.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported on Wednesday that Russian air raids have killed 1,015 civilians, including more than 200 children.

The Britain-based monitoring group, which depends on a network of sources across the country for its information, said the strikes have also killed 893 ISIS militants and another 1,141 rebel fighters, including militants belonging to al-Nusra Front.

Of the total 3,049 deaths, almost 700 people were killed in the last three weeks of bombing raids.

While Moscow has said it intervened on behalf of Syrian president Bashar al-Assad to assist him in the fight against “terrorist groups,” activists and Syrian rebels have accused them of placing a higher focus on moderate and Islamist opposition fighters.

Over the past four months, Russia has dismissed accusations that its raids have caused civilian deaths, saying the claims made by rights groups about the deaths were made up of “clichés and fakes.”

Recommended Reads

Top image: Russian air force crew prepare a bomber for a combat mission at Hemeimeem air base in Syria on Wednesday, Jan. 20, 2016. Russian warplanes have flown more than 5,700 combat missions since Moscow launched its air campaign in Syria on Sept. 30, 2015. (AP Photo/Vladimir Isachenkov)

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