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Executive Summary for March 21st

We review the key developments in Syria, including the resumption on Monday of the peace talks, Russian disquiet at delays in enforcing the agreed cease-fire and the reported moving of President Bashar al-Assad’s brother from his command of the 4th Armoured Division.

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

Syria Peace Talks To Continue Today

U.N. special envoy to Syria Staffan de Mistura said peace talks will resume today, after having given both sides “homework for the weekend.”

He also urged the Syrian government to present a paper on transition, as already submitted by the opposition, AFP reported. The envoy also has plans for three additional rounds of talks after which he hopes to see “concrete results.”

De Mistura said he has high hopes for the upcoming meeting between U.S. secretary of state John Kerry and Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov on March 23–24, stating that it could be “crucial” in moving the Syria peace talks toward a political transition.

Meanwhile, the head of the Syrian opposition delegation in Geneva, Asaad al-Zoubi, told reporters after his meeting with de Mistura that his side was focused on achieving a “transitional governing body with full executive powers” and is committed to its uprising against Assad.

The Syrian government team gave little feedback on last week’s talks. Syria’s U.N. ambassador and head of the government’s delegation, Bashar Ja’afari, said the round was “useful,” with the main focus being the solution his side presented for the Syrian conflict.

Russia Accuses Washington of Delaying Cease-fire Enforcement

Lt.-Gen. Sergei Rudskoy of the General Staff of Russia’s military on Monday accused Washington of an “unacceptable” delay on Syria cease-fire enforcement, slamming the U.S. administration for showing “no readiness” to discuss the agreement with Russia.

“The delay in the entry into force of the rules agreed upon for responding to violations of the cease-fire in Syria is unacceptable,” he said in a statement, according to AFP reports.

Rudskoy warned that Russia is ready to resort to force as a response to cease-fire violation as of Tuesday if presented with “credible evidence of armed groups’ systematic violations,” blaming the U.S. for not coordinating a joint response.

A first of its kind since the Syrian war broke out in 2011, the U.S.-Russia-brokered cease-fire came into effect on February 27, with ISIS and the al-Nusra Front being excluded from the truce.

The Russian government is maintaining some forces in Syria to help monitor the truce and respond to its violators, the Kremlin has said.

Maher al-Assad Moved From 4th Armored Division

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s brother Maher al-Assad has apparently been removed from his command of the elite 4th Armored Division of the Syrian army.

“Maher al-Assad has been transferred from the command of 4th Armored Division’s 42nd Brigade to the General Staff of the Syrian Army,” reported Lattakia News Network – a pro-government news outlet with more than 200,000 followers.

The news has yet to be confirmed by Syrian officials or the staterun media. However, the pro-opposition al-Etihad Press reported that General Ahmad Rahal, a former high-ranking Syrian officer, confirmed the news and said it had come following “Iranian requests to move Maher al-Assad to General Staff’s Information Division.”

Maher al-Assad is the Syrian president’s youngest brother and is the general and commander of the country’s Republican Guard, as well as an elected member of the Central Committee of the Ba’ath Party’s Syrian Regional Branch.

The 4th Armored Division has played a key role in violently silencing opposition since the early days of the Syrian conflict.

Recommended Reads

Top image: Syrian president Bashar al-Assad, right, with his brother Maher Assad, and brother-in-law Major General Asef Shawkat, left, stand during the funeral of late president Hafez Assad in Damascus in June 2000. (Associated Press)

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