Secretary-General of the Syrian Coalition Abdul Ilah Fahd said that the Assad regime and its Iranian ally continue to violate the truce, stressing that the mass forced displacement operations being carried out by the regime and its allies, the latest of which took place in the Wadi Barada valley, constitute war crimes.
During a meeting with the Finnish envoy Leena-Kaisa Mikkola in the headquarters of the Coalition’s Secretariat in Istanbul, Turkey, on Tuesday, Fahd said that the Astana meeting has failed to shore up the shaky truce in Syria.
Russia, a guarantor of the ceasefire agreement, has so far failed to honor its pledges to force the Assad regime to stop breaches of the truce, Fahd said.
Fahd emphasized that that the opposition’s High Negotiations Committee (HNC) is the only opposition body mandated to represent the Syrian opposition in Geneva. He denounced attempts to interfere in the issue of representation of the Syrian opposition in any upcoming peace talks.
“Improving the humanitarian situation in Syria through the implementation of the UN Security Council resolution 2254 is crucial to the resumption of negotiations in Geneva,” Fahd added.
Fahd thanked the Finnish envoy for her country's efforts to send humanitarian aid to those in need in Syria, stressing the need to channel this aid through “clean hands to those most in need.” (Source: Syrian Coalition’s Media Office)
The Assad regime forces have violated the truce at least 911 times since it came into force on December 29, 2016, the Syrian Coalition’s media office said on Tuesday. According to figures compiled by the office, regime forces and their Iranian-backed militias were jointly responsible for 114 beaches, while the Iranian-backed militias were responsible for 11 separate breaches.
At least 823 people have been killed across Syria over the past month, the office said. The death toll included 319 people who have been killed in the areas covered by the ceasefire agreement.
The regime’s breaches took the form of targeting civilian areas and rebel positions, while breaches by the foreign militias have been the targeting of civilian areas in the towns of Madaya, Zabadani, and Baqqin in Rural Damascus.
The figures showed that Russian forces violated the ceasefire 72 times even though Russia is a guarantor of the agreement along with Turkey. The majority of breaches took place in the provinces of Rural Damascus, Aleppo, Hama, Dara’a, and Homs and to a lesser extent in the provinces of Idlib, Damascus, Quneitra, and Latakia.
The most serious of these violations took place in the Wadi Barada valley northwest of Damascus where residents in the area have been forced to move to Idlib province following a large-scale assault by regime forces and the Hezbollah militias on the area.
The Syrian Coalition on Monday warned that the mass forced displacement operations being carried out by regime forces aims to bring about a demographic change in Syria.
The regime’s bombardment on the Wadi Barada valley affected the Ayn Alfija water facility, the main water supply for Damascus and its countryside. According to UN estimates, over 5.5 million people have been denied access to clean water supplied by the facility. (Source: Syrian Coalition’s Media Office)
The Syrian Coalition condemned the forced displacement of residents of the Wadi Barada valley. It stressed that forcing civilians out of their homes and towns, under whatever pretext, is a clear violation of the ceasefire agreement and a continuation of the regime’s plans to bring about demographic change in Syria.
In a statement released on Monday, the Coalition said that the forced displacement of civilians also constitutes a crime against humanity.
“Residents have had to choose between leaving, live under siege and hunger, or to surrender and accept a return to live under repression. The Coalition emphasizes that the foreign militias that have been brought in to kill the Syrian people must be forced to leave all Syrian territory,” the Coalition said.
The Coalition renewed calls on the UN Security Council to pass a resolution under Chapter VII of the UN Charter that would put an immediate end to the killings, siege and forced displacement; stipulate that all parties to the conflict respect the ceasefire agreement; ensure the withdrawal of all foreign, sectarian militias from Syria; and contributes to efforts aimed at reaching a political solution that ensures the rights of the Syrian people and their aspirations for freedom, justice and dignity are met. (Source: Syrian Coalition’s Media Office)
The Syrian Coalition on Saturday held a panel discussion on the needs and challenges facing Syrian refugees and the internally displaced persons in cooperation with the National Democratic Institute (NDI). The NDI is a US non-partisan, non-profit organization that works with partners in developing countries to increase the effectiveness of democratic institutions.
The panel discussion, which was held in the headquarters of the Syrian Coalition in Istanbul, Turkey, shed light on successful efforts to provide jobs for Syrian refugees in neighboring countries.
The panel discussion was part of the Coalition’s efforts to develop participatory policies for education, health, and the wellbeing of Syrian refugees as well as displaced persons.
Civil society organizations, experts, members of the Syrian Coalition and the Syrian interim government participated in the panel discussion.
The panel discussion aimed to address the problems and needs facing the Syrian refugees in neighboring countries. It also looked at ways to address plans by the Assad regime to bring about demographic change in Syria through the mass forced displacement of communities in many areas across Syria to serve purely sectarian projects.
Secretary General of the Syrian Coalition Abdul Ilah Fahd opened the discussion by highlighting the difficult circumstances and challenges facing the Syrian refugees and internally displaced people.
Head of the Syrian interim government Jawad Abu Hatab highlighted the psychological and social challenges facing refugees and IDPs, including the lack of privacy in the IDPs camps. He pointed to serious social problems facing residents of these camps such as the fact that the majority of IDPs have lost all their legal documents.
For his part, Regional Director of NDI Leslie Campbell said that the panel discussion “aims to help Syrians establish good governance and provide services to Syrians wherever they are."
Campbell stressed the importance of participatory policy-making to address the immense challenge of achieving a political as well as the challenges facing the Syrian people and political forces today.
The discussion was also attended by Senad Šepić, member of the House of Representatives of Bosnia and Herzegovina and an expert on the refugees affairs.
Bassam Quwatli, of a research focus group, said that financial issues topped the priorities of Syrian refugees and the internally displaced people, adding that most of them expressed desire to return to their homes. Quwatli also talked about the struggle of other refugees to get jobs and integrate into the societies they are now living in.
The Syrian Coalition previously held a panel discussion on education policies and the challenges facing the educational process in the liberated areas in Syria and in neighboring countries in cooperation with the NDI.
The Syrian Coalition and the NDI will later hold a panel discussion on challenges facing the health sector in Syria. (Source: Syrian Coalition’s Media Office)
Head of the Syrian interim government Jawad Abu Hatab renewed calls on the Friends of the Syrian people to step up support for the projects the government is developing to serve the population in the liberated areas.
Abu Hatab emphasized that the interim government is ready to implement those projects with the required speed and accuracy, noting that there are 6 million people living in the liberated areas and in need for urgent support.
Abu Hatab on Thursday toured the town of Azaz in northern rural Aleppo where he met with representatives of civic groups. The representatives highlighted the most urgent needs that must be met to provide better services to the civilian population.
Abu Hatab also met with officials tasked with the formation of a unified judicial council in the liberated areas. He said that the interim government will open a number of courthouses in the coming days, with the central court to be headquartered in the town of Azaz.
Abu Hatab also met with heads of the local council and municipality in Azaz as well as director of the electricity station. The meetings discussed fixing electricity and water issues as well as ways to improve the performance of the municipality.
Abu Hatab met with Brigadier General Qasim Qasim and Brigadier General Adib Shallaf and a number of FSA officers to discuss developing a plan to reactivate administrations of regions, counties and districts and secure the necessary staff.
Abu Hatab concluded the tour by checking on the progress of midterm exams for the Teachers’ Institute in Azaz. He said that nearly 1,600 students in all branches have so far graduated from institute, adding that the institute is very important in the preparation of qualified teachers. (Source: Syrian Coalition’s Media Office)
The Syrian Coalition strongly condemned the assault by Fateh Al-Sham Front on the mainstream rebel groups in northern Syria. It called upon the FSA and rebel groups to unite into a national army that serves the Syrian revolution and its goals.
In a statement released on Thursday, the Coalition reiterated its “absolute condemnation of acts of aggression in Syria and encroachment upon civilians’ rights as well as violations of civil liberties and human rights by Fatah Al-Sham Front and its supporters.” It stressed that these terrorist acts “serve the Assad regime and its allies, and they risk undermining the ability of the Syrian people to respond to external attacks on Syrian territory.”
The Coalition called upon all revolutionary and rebel groups to adopt a national project that endorses the values and principles of the revolution. The Coalition also called for the formation of a Syrian national army to serve the revolution and its objectives working under its legitimate political umbrella in order to achieve the Syrian people’s aspirations through coordinated, professional, and disciplined work.
The Syrian people will continue the struggle against the murderous Assad regime, the Iranian occupiers, and all forces of terror, the Coalition went on. It called upon the international community to work seriously and diligently to achieve a political transition in Syria in line with the Geneva Communique of 2012 and the relevant UN Security Council resolutions. In parallel, action must be taken against state-sponsored and cross-border terrorism.
Moreover, the Coalition called for the formation of an international coalition to oust all terrorist organizations from Syria, rejecting giving those groups a safe haven in Syria.
The preservation of Syria’s territorial integrity and the unity of its people as well as the establishment of a democratic system of government is the only way to eradicate the threat of terrorism in the region; protect the people from terrorism, dry up terror’s sources; and prevent individuals, organizations and states from sponsoring or supporting it, the Coalition stressed. (Source: Syrian Coalition’s Media Office)
Secretary-General of the Syrian Coalition Abdul Ilah Fahd stressed that achieving full political transition in Syria is the only solution to end the suffering of the Syrian people and resolve the crisis that affects the region and beyond.
Any political solution in Syria must be based on the Geneva Communique of 2012 and the UN Security Council resolution 2254 which both stress the need to achieve a political transition and meet the aspirations of the Syrian people to build a state of freedom and dignity, Fahd said.
"We are committed to a political solution in accordance with international resolutions on Syria," Fahd said. “Any attempts by whichever party to impose solution with the use of force will be doomed to fail.”
A just and viable solution is the one that will be accepted by all Syrian people and that is based on relevant UN resolutions, in particular resolutions 2118 and 2254, Fahd added.
Fahd pointed out that the Assad regime and Iran are trying to blackmail the international community by using military force to impose certain terms during the negotiation process.
Regime forces and the Iranian-backed militias attacked many areas across Syria during the Astana meeting, Fahd said, urging Russia and the United Nations to take these breaches into account. (Source: Syrian Coalition’s Media Office)
The armed opposition’s delegation to the Astana talks stressed the need to implement the United Nations and Security Council resolutions calling for improving the humanitarian situation in the besieged areas across Syria.
The head of the armed opposition’s delegation Mohamed Alloush reiterated the FSA’s and rebel groups’ commitment to the ceasefire, calling for the withdrawal of all Iranian-backed foreign militias from Syria.
Alloush maintained that a political solution must include the departure of Bashar al-Assad.
Russia and Turkey pledged to work on bolstering the ceasefire and ensure unhindered flow of humanitarian aid to all the besieged areas across Syria, Alloush said. He added that Russia pledged it would press the Assad regime to release an estimated 13,000 female detainees from its prisons.
“We object giving Iran any role to play in the future of Syria,” Alloush said, adding that the opposition’s High Negotiations Committee (HNC) will make “every possible effort to resume the political process in Geneva.” (Source: Syrian Coalition’s Media Office)
The FSA and rebel groups delegation to the Astana meeting said that the talks must focus solely on bolstering the ceasefire agreement brokered by Turkey and Russia last month. The Assad regime forces and the Iranian-backed militias continue to violate the truce, especially in Rural Damascus, rural Homs and Dara’a.
"No issues will be discussed until a total end to hostilities, violations and violence is declared," member of the armed opposition’s delegation Mamoun Haj Moussa said on Tuesday. He pointed out that the Assad regime’s delegation are lying and showing total disregard for participants in the Astana meeting.
The talks will not move to the next stage until a real ceasefire is declared nationwide, most importantly in the Wadi Barada valley, the town of Majaja in rural Dara’a, eastern Ghouta, and in the Alwaer district in Homs, Haj Moussa stressed.
Activists recorded at least 20 violations of the truce by regime forces and their allied foreign militias across Syria on Monday. The violations claimed the lives of nearly 9 people, including children.
Haj Moussa pointed out that the opposition "is testing Russia's transformation from a hostile party to a guarantor of the agreement and whether it can force the Assad regime and its allies to abide by the ceasefire."
"Russia has thus far proved unable to keep regime forces and the Iranian militias under control. Russia, therefore, invited Iran to the Astana meeting to force it commit to the ceasefire,” Haj Moussa said. (Source: Syrian Coalition’s Media Office + Anadolu Agency)
The Syrian Coalition reiterated that any agreement to consolidate the ceasefire must cover all Syrian territory with the exception of the areas controlled by the ISIS extremist group.
Member of the Coalition’s political committee Muwaffaq Nirabiya said that the delegation representing the armed opposition in the Astana meeting vehemently rejected any mentioning of Iran as a guarantor of an agreement in Syria. The delegation stressed that the talks in the Astana meeting must be exclusively focused on the consolidation of the ceasefire without discussing the political track.
As the Astana meeting began today, Monday, Nirabiya rejected the targeting of civilians under any pretext or justification and described it as a “war crime punishable under international law and international humanitarian law."
Mohammad Alloush, head of the armed opposition’s delegation to the Astana meeting, said during the opening session of the meeting that the political process in Syria "must begin with the departure of Bashar al-Assad and his inner circle as well as the withdrawal of all Iranian-backed foreign militias from Syria.” Alloush added: “We did not come here to share power with Assad or to seek influence."
Nirabiya stressed the need for sustained, unhindered humanitarian access to the besieged areas and as a prelude to the complete lifting of the sieges. He called for the inclusion of the issues of detainees and forced displacement on the agenda of the Astana meeting as violations of the ceasefire.
Nirabiya reiterated calls to withdraw all the Iranian-backed foreign militias from Syria and to designate them as terrorist groups responsible for violations and war crimes. (Source: Syrian Coalition’s Media Office)