Report

Assad Regime Ready for Talks, Russia Says Airstrikes Will Continue

Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem said that the Assad regime is prepared to meet in Geneva for peace talks to resolve the country’s civil war. Those talks are set to begin at the end of January. “Syria is ready to participate in the Syrian-Syrian Dialogue in Geneva without any foreign interference,” Muallem said, noting the ...

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Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem said that the Assad regime is prepared to meet in Geneva for peace talks to resolve the country’s civil war. Those talks are set to begin at the end of January. “Syria is ready to participate in the Syrian-Syrian Dialogue in Geneva without any foreign interference,” Muallem said, noting the regime is currently waiting on the “list of the opposition delegation.” “We hope that this dialogue will be successful to help us in having a national unity government.”

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov said in an interview that the Russian air campaign will continue if the peace talks reach a ceasefire agreement. Such a ceasefire would be “meant to happen between parties of the Syrian domestic conflict,” but “this doesn’t mean an end to war on [the Islamic State] and other terrorist groups,” he told Russia’s Interfax news agency. Russia’s air campaign has mostly targeted Syrian rebel groups, not the Islamic State, and has resulted in severe and indiscriminate civilian casualties that could amount to war crimes, according to a new report by Amnesty International. Russian officials said today that one of three militants killed in a shootout in the North Caucasus on Tuesday had traveled to Syria for “terrorist training.”

Deadly Fire at Saudi Hospital

A deadly fire swept through the intensive care unit and maternity ward at a hospital in Jazan, Saudi Arabia, early this morning. At least 25 people died in the blaze and more than 100 others have been transferred to other hospitals in the area for treatment. Jazan is supposed to be the location of a planned $20 billion development plan to create an oil production and manufacturing district.

Headlines

  • A U.S.-supported coalition of Kurdish peshmerga and local Sunni fighters backed by U.S. airstrikes is advancing in a new push against Islamic State-held positions along the Euphrates River in Syria.

 

  • Houthi leader Abdulmalik al-Houthi, speaking in a televised address yesterday, told his supporters not to “bet on the U.N., whose role conforms to American policy;” U.N.-backed peace talks to resolve the war in Yemen are set to resume on January 14.

 

  • Japanese officials confirmed yesterday that the country is investigating the disappearance of a Japanese freelance journalist who disappeared after entering Syria in July and is believed to be held by an unnamed armed group.

 

  • According to a new report by the Wall Street Journal, the United States maintained some back-channel ties to elements of the Assad regime which have been used since 2011 to urge restraint in the war and encourage defections within the regime.

 

  • Bethlehem is experiencing a low tourist turnout this Christmas amid a spate of stabbings in Israel and the West Bank and in the aftermath of terrorist attacks in Paris and the Sinai this year that have put travelers on edge.

Arguments and Analysis

“‘Civilian Objects Were Not Damaged’: Russia’s Statements on its Attacks in Syria Unmasked” (Amnesty International)

“Amnesty International’s research indicates serious failures to respect international humanitarian law. In some attacks, the Russian armed forces appear to have directly attacked civilians or civilian objects by striking residential areas with no evident military objective and even medical facilities, resulting in deaths and injuries to civilians. In others, they seem to have attacked military objectives and civilian objects without distinction, or caused disproportionate harm to civilians when striking military targets. Such attacks may constitute war crimes. There is also evidence that they unlawfully used unguided bombs in densely populated areas and inherently indiscriminate cluster munitions.”

 

Turkey: Mounting Security Operation Deaths” (Human Rights Watch)

“A truck driver, Ahmet Edin, 38, said that while he was away in northern Iraq, his wife, Maşallah Edin. 35, and his son’s wife, Zeynep Taşkın, 17, were shot dead right outside his brother’s home in the Cudi neighborhood at around 10 p.m. on September 8 as they were leaving to go back to their own house nearby. Zeynep Taşkin was carrying her 6-month-old baby, Berxwedan, who was wounded but survived. Ferhan Dayan, 27, Ahmet Edin’s cousin, who was in the house when the women were shot, said that efforts to recover the women’s bodies and the baby were impeded by repeated firing by police snipers at anyone who ventured outside. He said his father, Ekrem Dayan, 56, had been with the women and had been shot in the foot at the door and had fallen back inside, so the others  could pull him to safety.”

-J. Dana Stuster

LOUAI BESHARA/AFP/Getty Images

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