A Syrian Coalition official said that the Assad regime and its allies continued to violate the ‘de-escalation zones’ agreements that was reached in Astana and commit widespread war crimes against civilians. He stressed the need to release the detainees, allow the introduction of humanitarian aid, and allow the return of displaced persons to their homes.
Member of the Coalition’s political committee Yasser Farhan said that the Assad regime is seeking to sabotage the Astana agreement through the continued targeting of civilians as well as the deliberate, systematic destruction of hospitals and healthcare and civil defense centers and all services facilities that are crucial to human survival. He stressed that such attacks constituted “war crimes and genocide and crimes against humanity that were well documented by many independent human rights organizations.”
Farhan underscored that ensuring protection for millions of Syrians in Idlib province, rural Aleppo, and the southern region was the primary goal of the delegation of the revolution to the ninth round of talks in Astana. He noted that the opposition delegation succeeded in securing guarantees that the Assad regime and Iran will not be allowed to try to recapture or bomb these areas.
Farhan pointed out that the delegation of the armed opposition presented a memorandum to Russia and the United Nations in which it made it clear that reaching side agreements in northern rural Homs and eastern Ghouta, which are covered by the ‘de-escalation zones’ agreement according to Article 1 of the Memorandum of Understanding that was concluded by the guarantors in Astana on May 4 2017, represented blatant violation of the agreement. He warned that such unilateral agreements risked damaging the credibility of the ‘de-escalation zones’ agreement in front of the Syrian people and the international community as well as threatened its total collapse along with all the understandings surrounding it.
Moreover, Farhan noted that these unilateral agreements had led to mass forced displacement of civilians, which reflected negatively on the chances of the success of negotiations and reaching a political solution in Syria. These unilateral agreements also amounted to war crimes under Articles 6, 7 and 8 of the Rome Statute, Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention, and article 2 of the UN Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide.
Farhan also pointed out that the armed opposition’s memorandum stressed that a political transition in accordance with the Geneva Communique of 2012 and UN Security Council resolutions 2118 and 2254 is the only solution that can guarantee the return of millions of displaced persons, prevent the return of terrorism, and restore peace and stability. All attempts to find a political settlement cannot win credibility or succeed unless detainees are released, humanitarian access is allowed, the displaced persons are allowed to return to their homes, and violations are stopped.
Furthermore, Farhan said that the delegation of the armed opposition warned that violations in the areas covered by the ‘de-escalation zones’ agreement as well as the failure to achieve a tangible progress in the issue of detainees would have serious repercussions on the whole Astana track and its credibility.
The memorandum called for the release of detainees, forcing the Assad regime to stop arbitrary detentions, assassinations, and torture of detainees as well as giving independent observers unfettered access to prisons and detentions centers to ensure that detainees are receiving human treatment.
Moreover, the memorandum called for forcing the Assad regime and its allies to abide by the ‘de-escalation zone’ agreement and immediately stop all air and ground attacks against the areas covered by the agreement. It also called for the re-inclusion of the evacuation deal at was reached under the force of arms in northern rural Homs into the Astana Agreement to ensure the safe return of the people who were forcibly displaced from the area.
Farhan concluded his remarks by adding that the memorandum also stressed the need to establish monitoring and accountability mechanisms in order to ensure the implementation of a comprehensive ceasefire and prevent any further violations. (Source: Syrian Coalition’s Media Department)