The Syrian Coalition emphasized that the fierce attacks being carried out by regime forces and their allies on the Damascus suburbs and rural Aleppo are clearly aimed at undermining all chances for a political solution by violating all agreements in place and insisting on carrying on with murder and crimes.
Over the past few days, dozens of civilians have been killed and wounded in rocket shelling and airstrikes by the Assad regime using cluster bombs on towns and villages of besieged eastern Ghouta as well as in Russian airstrikes on a public market in the town of Atareb in rural Aleppo though all these areas are covered by the ‘de-escalation zones’ agreement.
In a press release issued on Friday, the Coalition said that “initial reports indicated that at least 37 civilians have been killed and more than 200 more wounded in various areas of eastern Ghouta over the past three days. The area has been hit by no fewer than 1,000 mortar shells, 35 cluster bombs, and 130 airstrikes.”
“Regime forces used the banned poisonous chlorine gas on Thursday, November 17 in attacks on the town of Harasta in eastern Ghouta. Assad regime’s helicopters also dropped chlorine-filled barrel bombs on the town of Beit Jinn in western Rural Damascus in violation of UN Security Council resolutions 2209 and 2235. The shelling on Beit Jinn caused many cases of asphyxiation among residents of the area after the bombs released toxic chlorine and yellow smoke,” the Coalition added.
The Coalition went on to say that “the Assad regime and its allies have been trying desperately to disrupt the UN-OPCW inquiry into the use of chemical weapons in Syria since the first day it was launched. They also sought to obstruct the investigation through diplomatic means in the UN Security Council as well as by committing more crimes on the ground.”
The Coalition called upon the international community and friends of the Syrian people publicly and explicitly condemn these atrocious attacks if they are to prove they are committed to a genuine political solution.
Undermining all chances for political solution has always been the only and foremost goal of the Assad regime and its allies. The international community and friends of the Syrian people are therefore obliged to assume their responsibilities to exert real pressure on the Assad regime and its allies to force them to abide by the requirements of political solution in line with UN Security Council resolutions and the Geneva Communiqué of 2012, the Coalition said. (Source: Syrian Coalition’s Media Department)
President of the Syrian Coalition, Riad Seif, said that the Syrian opposition agree Bashar al-Assad must leave, noting that the upcoming Riyadh conference will strengthen the position of the opposition in the upcoming round in Geneva talks.
The Syrian opposition meeting in the Saudi capital will assess the performance of the opposition’s High Negotiations Committee (HNC), and review the negotiating mechanisms, Seif told the Turkish Anadolu news agency on Friday.
Seif stressed that the Syrian opposition is decisively settled for the position that Bashar al-Assad must go. The opposition will not waver, he said, adding that most participants in the Riyadh gathering support that view. He said that the conference would come out with a clear vision for the opposition.
"Our goal is to put an end totalitarianism in Syria once and for all and build a state of law and justice. We extend our hands to those who share this view with us.”
Seif expressed concern that the upcoming round of negotiations in Geneva will end in failure. "UN-sponsored negotiations have been ongoing for four years. The Assad regime has not yet shown any readiness for a political solution.”
"If the situation continues like this, there will be no point in any negotiations or any conference," Seif said. He added: “We participate so that the ranks of the opposition are unified, not to produce a fake opposition or one that is not committed to swerving the interests of the Syrian people."
When asked about the Coalition’s position of the Sochi conference, Seif said: "The Coalition categorically rejected the Sochi conference as it is saw no need for such a conference. If the Russians want to support a political solution, they can exert pressure on the Assad regime to participate in the Geneva negotiations.”
With regards to calls by countries on the Syrian opposition to take international changes into account and act rationally and realistically, Seif said: "We have recently heard these two words, rationality and realism. But reason and logic say that if a criminal committed crimes against his own people and displaced it and used chemical weapons against it, he must be deposed and be brought to justice."
He added: "Is there a sane person who says that Bashar al-Assad has the right to rule a people against their will. If every criminal is given advantages to avoid his evil, this will encourage people to do evil and murder. This clearly contradicts any sense of realism and rationality.”
Saif expressed surprise that Assad’s fate and role in the future of Syria and transitional period remains the deciding factor in the Syrian issue. He stressed that the world must make a moral, human and rational decision that Bashar al-Assad’s rule must come to an end and that he must step down. “Assad’s departure is key to resolving the conflict in Syria,” he added.
With regards to the joint statement that was issued following the meeting between the US and Russian presidents in Vietnam last week, Seif said: "The statement has not put forward a clear political solution. We need an international will, especially by Russia and the United States. There is an exchange of interests and we understand it, but it should be accepted by the Syrian people. The two countries must agree on a political solution that does not contradicts the goals of the Syrian people."
“The joint statement authorizes Putin to find a solution, but solution chosen by Putin will unquestionably be designed to keep Assad, grant him legitimacy to rule, and help him survive in power.”
Seif went on to say that the ‘de-escalation zones agreement’ does not serve a political solution as Russia, a guarantor of the agreement, continues to bomb civilians. Seif cited the airstrikes that Russia launched on the town of Atareb few days ago and which killed dozens of people as well as the continued shelling on eastern Ghouta. He emphasized that a political solution is "to abide by the Geneva Communiqué of 2012 and the relevant UN Security Council resolutions." (Source: Syrian Coalition’s Media Department)
An official in the Syrian Coalition said that the UN Security Council’s failure to extend the mandate for the panel investigating the use of chemical weapons in Syria is "a dark chapter in the history of humanity."
In response to Russia’s vetoing of the draft resolution calling for the extension of the mandate for the UN-OPCW investigation panel, Ahmad Ramadan, director of the Coalition’s Media Department, said: "It is a disgraceful day in the history of humanity that the UN Security Council failed once again to redress thousands of victims of chemical weapons in Syria or hold war criminals accountable."
The Russian veto triggered condemnation by the majority of the UN Security Council member states. The United States UN Ambassador Nikki Haley said: “The message to anyone listening is clear: in effect, Russia accepts the use of chemical weapons in Syria.”
France's UN Ambassador Francois Delattre said the Russian veto was a blow to international efforts to curb the use of chemical weapons. "Let there be no doubt: We have unleashed a monster here," said Delattre.
UK Ambassador to the UN Matthew Rycroft said that Russia has "failed as a supposed supporter of peace in Syria."
It was Moscow's 10th such veto of UN resolutions condemning the Assad regime and demanding accountability for war crimes in Syria since the conflict began in 2011.
Ramadan added: "We are both sad and angry at the fact that Russia, a permanent member at the UN Security Council and which claims to be a guarantor of agreements in Syria, is using the veto for the tenth time to shield the Assad regime; enable it to escape punishment; and block the course of justice.”
“The Russia decision risks undermining the foundations of international justice; serving terrorism and the terrorists’ narrative; and establishing the law of the jungle. It also confirms the failure of the international system in the protection of international peace and security," Ramadan added.
The latest report of the UN-OPCW’s joint Inquiry concluded that the Assad regime was responsible for the use of the banned sarin nerve agent in attacks on rebel-held areas, including the April 4 attack on the town of Khan Sheikhoun. (Source: Syrian Coalition’s Media Department + Agencies)
President of the Syrian Coalition Riad Seif received head of the Syrian program at the Geneva-based World Council of Churches (WCC), Michel Nasir. The meeting was also attended by the Coalition’s Secretary-General Nazir Hakim and members of the political committee.
The meeting came as part of a project that was launched by the Syrian Coalition with the aim of promoting intra-Syrian dialogue and among the leading Islamic and Christian figures and the various groups and components of the Syrian society. The Council has recently launched a similar project.
Nasir spoke about WCC role in encouraging the Christian communities in the East to engage in the changes taking place in the region. He said that the WCC is working with the rest of social components to establish democratic societies in which everyone feels that they are equal citizens in terms of human dignity and freedom as well as to achieve social justice which is the only guarantor of peace in the region.
Nasir pointed out that the Council is seeking to continue this dialogue and make it a success and to have an impact on the ground. He stressed that through the Syrian Coalition and members of the opposition’s High Negotiations Committee (HNC), the WCC has been able to communicate with important players and coordinate their efforts with the United Nations.
Nasir stressed the important role of religions in getting people out of the state of isolation and reclusiveness, noting that the root causes of the conflict in Syria and the region are political, not religious.
For his part, President Seif said that democracy is the solution to all the problems of the region in general, and Syria in particular as it is able to solve all political, religious and ethnic problems.
At the end of the meeting, Secretary-General Hakim focused on the important role of the wise people on both sides as it is capable of ridding the region of the sectarian seditions that were sowed by the ruling regimes. Hakim stressed the need to put an end to social injustice that affected all components of the Syrian society. He also underscored the need for all components of the Syrian society to stand united. (Source: Syrian Coalition’s Media Department)
Head of the Syrian Interim Government (SIG) Jawad Abu Hatab described the destruction caused by the Russian airstrikes on the town of Atareb in western rural Aleppo on Monday as massive. The airstrikes destroyed shops, infrastructure and warehouses of medicines as well as killed over 60 people and injured dozens more.
Abu Hatab said that Minister of Health Mohammed Firas Al-Jundi, Minister of Education Abdul Aziz Dughaim, and head of SIG’s office toured site of the attack, checked up on the aftermath of the airstrikes, and visited the wounded and families of the victims.
Abu Hatab pointed out that such attacks are aimed at undermining SIG’s efforts to restore stability to the liberated areas in cooperation with the United Nations and international organizations.
Head of the medical center in the town of Atareb, Hussein Obaid, told Smart News Network that the Russian airstrikes caused massive material damage and destroyed large amounts of medical supplies.
The Directorate of Education in Atareb on Tuesday announced it was suspending schools in the town “for fear of renewed airstrikes, while the town saw an exodus of civilians to nearby towns and villages following the Russian airstrikes. (Source: Syrian Coalition’s Media Department)
Atarib media center said that at least 160 people were killed and injured in the Russian airstrikes that hit the town on Monday. It said that the wounded were taken to field hospitals in Aleppo and Idlib provinces, noting that those with serious injuries were transferred to Turkey for treatment.
The Syrian Coalition strongly condemned the “brutal crime which was committed by aircraft of the Russian occupation forces in the town of Atareb.” It noted that Russia continues to wriggle out of its commitments and obligations towards the ‘de-escalation zones’ agreement.
“Instead of changing its positions and exerting pressure on the Assad regime to force it to seriously participate in the Geneva process and abide by UN Security Council resolutions and engage in direct and serious negotiations, this crime one again demonstrated that Russia is unwilling to change its stance. The crime has also proved that Russia is determined to side with the Assad regime,” said the Coalition in a press release issued on Monday.
The Coalition held Russia “directly and fully responsible for the war crimes it has committed in Syria since the beginning of its direct military intervention in Syria as well as for the crimes of genocide and the Assad regime’s use of chemical weapons and other internationally prohibited weapons.”
The Coalition called on the UN Security Council to condemn this massacre and its perpetrators as well as to prosecute them by all possible means as war criminals and to take serious action to protect Syrian civilians from these continued massacres.
The civil defense center in Atareb said it had collected the bodies of 53 victims and rescued dozens of those who were wounded. It added that rescue workers were still searching for missing persons under the rubble of bombed buildings. Videos and photos were published showing search and rescue operations which lasted until late at night.
The Directorate of Education in the town of Atareb announced it was suspending schools in the town “for fear of renewed airstrikes, while the town saw an exodus of civilians to nearby towns and villages. (Source: Syrian Coalition’s Media Department)
The 36th regular meeting of the Syrian Coalition’s General Assembly began on Saturday and is set to last two days in the Coalition’s headquarters in Istanbul.
On top of the agenda of the meetings are the situation on the ground in eastern Ghouta, Raqqa, and Deir Ezzor as well as the Coalition’s efforts to reach out to revolution forces at home through direct meetings with local councils and civil institutions as well as through the Syrian Interim Government (SIG).
Tabled for discussions are also preparations for the upcoming round of talks in Geneva and the Riyadh II conference. Member of the Coalition’s political committee Muhammad Dandal said that the Riyadh II conference would help the opposition prepare for the next round of talks in Geneva and put an end to the Assad regime and its allies’ allegations about a fragmented opposition.
President of the Coalition, Riad Seif, and the political committee will discuss the results of the Coalition’s recent visits to the United States and Europe. The meeting will also discuss the issue of the liberated areas, the performance of the Syrian Interim Government (SIG), SIG’s takeover of the administration of border crossings, and efforts to establish a free national army. (Source: Syrian Coalition’s Media Department)
The 36th ordinary session of the Syrian Coalition’s General Assembly is set to begin in Istanbul on Saturday (November 11).
Members of the General Assembly will discuss the situation in besieged eastern Ghouta and the intensifying onslaught on the FSA-held area by Assad forces and the Iranian militias as wells the Assad regime’s blocking of the delivery of relief and medical aid to civilians trapped inside.
Member of the General Assembly Dima Moussa denounced the Assad regime’s exploitation of the humanitarian needs of civilians to achieve political gains, describing it as “political blackmail.”
"We called on the United Nations and international actors to take urgent action to lift the siege of eastern Ghouta and the rest of besieged areas across Syria,” Moussa said. She stressed that “the lifting of the siege and release of detainees should not be subject to negotiation as the lives of children should not be used as a bargaining chip to achieve political gains.”
Tabled for discussion will be the situation on the ground in Deir Ezzor and the plight of civilians who are currently trapped in Hawijat Qatea.
Member of the General Assembly Riad Hasan called upon the United Nations to ensure protection for civilians who are besieged by the Assad forces in line with international humanitarian law.
“Civilians trapped in Hawijat Qatea are now caught in the crossfire of clashes between ISIS and the Assad regime. Urgent international action must be taken to relieve them," Hasan added.
President of the Coalition, Riad Seif, and the political committee will discuss preparations for the upcoming round of talks in Geneva and the Riyadh II conference as well as the results of the Coalition’s recent visits to the United States and Europe. The meeting will also discuss the issue of the liberated areas, the performance of the Syrian Interim Government (SIG), SIG’s takeover of the administration of border crossings, and efforts to establish a free national army. (Source: Syrian Coalition’s Media Department)
The Syrian Coalition condemned the latest remarks made by Ali Akbar Velayati, a top adviser to Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and the threats he issued against the Syrian people. The Coalition stressed that these remarks and explicit threats “blatantly contravene Iran’s so-called role in the ‘de-escalation zones’ agreement and violate the agreement itself and are no less heinous than the litany of crimes being committed by the Iranian militias against civilians in Syria on a daily basis.”
In a press release issued on Thursday, the Coalition said that Velayati’s provocative remarks “have once again exposed the real role Iran is playing in Syria. Instead of carrying out is so-called role as a guarantor of the ‘de-escalation zones agreement,’ Iran is behaving just like an occupying force pursuing a policy of murder, displacement, ethnic and sectarian cleansing.”
“Iran is also seeking to spread extremism and terror with the sole aim of serving its plans for changing the demographic landscape in Syria,” the Coalition added.
“There is no denying the fact that Iran plays a pivotal role in disrupting all efforts to put an end to the bloodshed in Syria and cannot be a guarantor of any agreement.”
The Coalition also condemned the entry of the militias of the Iraqi Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) into the town of Albu Kamal and any other part of the Syrian territory as a blatant violation of Syrian sovereignty, especially as the PMF militias are part of the military establishment of the Iraqi government and have previously committed war crimes in Syria.
The Coalition underscored that the Assad regime is primarily responsible for the current situation in Syria and for exposing the country to various forms of foreign hegemony, occupation, and violation of sovereignty. The Coalition renewed calls on the international community to shoulder its responsibilities to stop the ongoing crimes against civilians in Syria. (Source: Syrian Coalition’s Media Department)
A delegation from the Syrian Coalition on Thursday arrived in Brussels to meet with European Union officials. The delegation includes Abdel-Ahad Steifo, head of the Coalition’s foreign relations department, Anas al-Abdah, former President of the Coalition, and Nasr al-Hariri, head of the opposition’s negotiations delegation to Geneva talks.
The Coalition is seeking through the visit to promote political coordination with the European Union; mobilize support for political transition in Syria; and press for the activation of sanctions against the Assad regime, especially after UN-OPCW investigators confirmed Assad's use of chemical weapons against civilians in the towns of Khan Sheikhoun, Lataminah, and eastern Ghouta.
Tabled for discussions with the European Union are the humanitarian situation in besieged eastern Ghouta and ways to support the Syrian Interim Government (SIG) in the areas of education, health, and services.
In a meeting held on Thursday, the Coalition’s political committee discussed the outcome of the tour conducted on Saturday by a Syrian Coalition delegation headed by President Riad Seif to the areas in northern rural Aleppo that were liberated through Operation Shield of the Euphrates. The committee also discussed political issues related to the Assad regime’s use of chemical weapons and preparations for the upcoming round of talks due to be held in Geneva on November 28.
President Riad Seif expressed his satisfaction with the support the Turkish government is providing to Shield of the Euphrates area in northern rural Aleppo. He praised the efforts of the Syrian civil and military institutions working in the areas of services, relief, education, and health. Seif briefed members of the political committee on the results of his visit and on SIG’s work in the liberated areas and the services projects which were developed in cooperation with the Turkish government. (Source: Syrian Coalition’s Media Department)