Syrian Opposition to Negotiate under 'One Delegation but Different Visions'

UN Syria envoy Staffan de Mistura in Geneva, on March 14, 2016 (AFP Photo/Philippe Desmazes)
UN Syria envoy Staffan de Mistura in Geneva, on March 14, 2016 (AFP Photo/Philippe Desmazes)
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Syrian Opposition to Negotiate under 'One Delegation but Different Visions'

UN Syria envoy Staffan de Mistura in Geneva, on March 14, 2016 (AFP Photo/Philippe Desmazes)
UN Syria envoy Staffan de Mistura in Geneva, on March 14, 2016 (AFP Photo/Philippe Desmazes)

UN Special Envoy Staffan de Mistura announced on Thursday delaying next week’s intra-Syrian talks in Geneva to next fall, calling on Russia and Iran to use their powers for convincing the Syrian regime to attend.

"Regarding the (Syrian) government, we are counting very much on Russia, on Iran, on anyone who has got major influence, and on the government of Syria to be ready finally to initiate when they are invited to Geneva, a genuine, direct negotiation with whatever (opposition) platform comes out,” he said.

De Mistura also hoped that the Syrian crisis could witness significant changes starting next month.

The delay announced on Thursday came as the Syrian opposition heads towards forming a single delegation with different visions to attend a meeting scheduled next Sunday in Riyadh ahead of holding the “Riyadh 2” conference in October. 

The delegation would include members of the High Negotiation Committee (HNC) and the two platforms of Moscow and Cairo.

The Cairo platform already announced it would participate in Sunday’s meeting.

Meanwhile, leader of the Moscow platform Qadri Jamil told Asharq Al-Awsat on Thursday that the opposition group would also attend the meeting and that it sent its response to the HNC on Thursday.

Member of the Cairo Platform Jamal Suleiman told Asharq Al-Awsat that the Riyadh conference aims at restarting talks between the three platforms and would mainly focus on unifying the opposition and on discussing the government, the constitution, elections and a common understanding of international resolutions, ahead of reaching positive outcomes.

Sources warned Moscow on Thursday from trying to circumvent the Geneva talks and enforce new decisions, such as forming a new expanded government in Syria.

Although sources from the opposition Syrian National Coalition saw the possible dispatch of one delegation to the meeting, they said this decision does not mean that the Syrian opposition would also have a unified position vis-à-vis the events in Syria, particularly the fate of Bashar Assad.

Meanwhile, the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) said on Thursday the US military will remain in northern Syria long after the militants are defeated, predicting enduring ties with the Kurdish-dominated region.

"They have a strategy policy for decades to come. There will be military, economic and political agreements in the long term between the leadership of the northern areas (of Syria) ... and the US administration," SDF spokesman Talal Silo told Reuters.



Lebanon Prepares Health, Social Plan Amid War Risks

A Lebanese inspects homes destroyed by Israeli airstrikes in the town of Khiam in southern Lebanon (AFP)
A Lebanese inspects homes destroyed by Israeli airstrikes in the town of Khiam in southern Lebanon (AFP)
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Lebanon Prepares Health, Social Plan Amid War Risks

A Lebanese inspects homes destroyed by Israeli airstrikes in the town of Khiam in southern Lebanon (AFP)
A Lebanese inspects homes destroyed by Israeli airstrikes in the town of Khiam in southern Lebanon (AFP)

Lebanese political and diplomatic efforts to calm tensions between Hezbollah and Israel in southern Lebanon have not eased fears of a potential all-out war. This has led Lebanese ministries to prepare for the worst.

Firas Abyad, the Minister of Public Health in the caretaker government, stated that his ministry has activated a war emergency plan and increased readiness among medical teams.

The Ministry of Social Affairs has also developed strategies to mitigate the impact and respond if a conflict erupts.

“We have a four-month supply of medicines. We’ve strengthened our energy sources like fuel, electricity, and the internet. We’ve also trained our staff for wartime conditions and expect hundreds of thousands to be displaced internally,” said Abyad a few days ago.

A source from the Ministry of Health explained that proactive measures taken in anticipation of potential conflict aim to avoid unexpected situations like those experienced in 2006.

Speaking to Asharq Al-Awsat under the condition of anonymity, the source mentioned that Abyad has been actively involved in refining contingency plans.

“The minister has been actively involved in refining this preparedness plan for months, regularly updating it. We’re also coordinating with international bodies for assistance, which has been positively received,” revealed the source.

The source emphasized that while emergency plans aren’t based on specific war warnings, it’s crucial for the ministry, along with other government bodies, to remain prepared for any unforeseen events.

The source affirmed that the ministry is readying government hospitals, particularly emergency and operating rooms, and coordinating closely with private hospitals.

The ministry is also identifying suitable spots for field hospitals to handle emergencies, providing quick aid to the injured. Additionally, it’s preparing ambulance teams to be available 24/7.

Brig. Gen. Mohammed al-Kheir, the head of Lebanon’s Higher Relief Commission, assured Asharq Al-Awsat that HRC is fully prepared to handle any developments.

He emphasized their focus on providing food, bedding, and supplies to displaced people, particularly those currently fleeing from the south.

Al-Kheir mentioned that the commission operates within its modest annual budget and receives additional aid, including medicines for the Ministry of Health and government hospitals.

For security reasons, he declined to reveal the locations of new shelters or aid storage centers to prevent them from being targeted.