ISSG to Meet in Geneva Next Week, Peace Talks to Reconvene ‘Some Days After’
The 17-nation International Syria Support Group (ISSG) backing the peace talks will meet next week in an attempt to revive the stalled negotiations, U.S. Secretary of State of John Kerry said on Tuesday, a day after the U.S. and Russia agreed to work together to re-establish a “cessation of hostilities” agreement reached in February, Reuters reports.
The United Nations-brokered talks involving opposing warring parties in Syria will take place “some days after” the ISSG meeting set for May 17 in Vienna.
“The ISSG will formally come together to build on what we did with the Russians in terms of this agreement and to talk about all kinds of things, ranging from duration to enforcement to the political process,” Kerry told reporters in London.
Earlier in the day on Tuesday, Russia’s RIA news agency reported that Moscow and Washington had agreed to extend a local truce in Aleppo for another 48 hours.
Diplomats from Britain, France, the U.S. and Ukraine on Tuesday blocked a Russian request to add prominent rebel groups to a U.N. terror list and sideline them from the peace process, Agence France Presse reported.
Russia had attempted to add Jaish al-Islam – a prominent, Saudi-backed Islamist faction based primarily in Eastern Ghouta and a member of the opposition’s High Negotiations Committee that is taking part in the Geneva negotiations – and Ahrar al-Sham, a powerful Islamist group backed by Turkey and the Gulf states.
The ISSG attempted last year to come up with a single list of “terrorist” groups in Syria, but the initiative quickly failed after scores of names were submitted from all sides.
ISIS Mounting a Comeback Outside of Palmyra
Militants fighting with the so-called Islamic State (ISIS) cut a key road connecting the government-controlled city of Homs with the ancient city of Palmyra to its east on Tuesday, just months after pro-government forces recaptured the world heritage site, AFP reports.
According to the U.K.-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, ISIS “was able to cut the supply road between Homs and Palmyra near the Tyafur military airport after an attack launched from the east of Homs.”
Observatory head Rami Abdulrahman said the cutting of the supply route “came as part of ISIS’s biggest assault since the army recaptured Palmyra with Russian support” on March 27.
“Violent clashes between regime forces and ISIS are ongoing … Daesh surrounds Palmyra from all angles except in the southwest,” he said, using an Arabic acronym to refer to ISIS.
Also on Tuesday, ISIS militants said they shot down a Syrian army helicopter in the desert between Homs and Palmyra city, Reuters reports. They also reportedly attacked the Mahr and Jazal gas fields, in an area that contains the country’s largest gas reserves and facilities that once generated much of its electricity.
Amaq, a news agency associated with ISIS, reported on Tuesday that its militants had taken over two government checkpoints and a deserted military barracks just 7 miles (11km) north of the military’s T4 airport, close to where the helicopter was reportedly downed.
Deadly Airstrikes in Idlib Kill at Least 10
Airstrikes by government or Russian warplanes hit the town of Binnish in Idlib province, northwestern Syria, on Tuesday – killing at least 10 people, just hours after a local cease-fire was extended in the nearby city of Aleppo.
The air raids on Binnish, just 4 miles (6.5km) outside Idlib’s provincial capital, killed a local insurgent commander. There were no immediate details about the other casualties, according to Reuters.
The province of Idlib, which borders Turkey, is almost entirely controlled by Islamist groups like the al-Qaida-affiliated al-Nusra Front and Ahrar al-Sham.
A report by al-Jazeera put the death toll from the strikes as high as 14 people.
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