Syrian Opposition Suspends Role in Peace Talks amid New Fighting

President Barack Obama called Russian President Vladimir Putin yesterday and had an “intense” conversation about the need to de-escalate renewed fighting in Syria that is threatening to derail peace talks between the Assad regime and the opposition in Geneva. Obama reportedly urged Putin to lean on the Assad regime to “live up to the commitments ...

GettyImages-522411988
GettyImages-522411988

President Barack Obama called Russian President Vladimir Putin yesterday and had an “intense” conversation about the need to de-escalate renewed fighting in Syria that is threatening to derail peace talks between the Assad regime and the opposition in Geneva. Obama reportedly urged Putin to lean on the Assad regime to “live up to the commitments that they've made in the context of the cessation of hostilities,” according to U.S. Press Secretary Josh Earnest. Putin reported stressed that U.S.-supported moderate rebels are working closely with terrorist groups in Syria. The conversation took place amid new fighting that could definitively collapse the ceasefire that has held for the past seven weeks. The Assad regime has launched a new wave of attacks with Russian air support against rebels in Idlib province and the countryside outside Aleppo, while rebel groups, including Jabhat al-Nusra, which is not a party to the ceasefire, have made advances in Latakia province.

Peace talks in Geneva were suspended yesterday by the opposition delegation, which said the Assad regime is still not serious about reaching an agreement. The delegation will remain in Geneva, though, and could rejoin talks. In addition to the increasing violence in Syria placing new pressure on negotiators, the two sides are still far removed from any potential compromise. In an interview today, the regime’s chief negotiator, Bashar Ja'afari, said his goal was only to expand the government and that Bashar al-Assad’s role would not change in a final settlement -- a non-starter for opposition groups. The opposition has also called for restructuring the military and security apparatus, which Ja’afari said would create a “constitutional vacuum.”

Bomb Destroys Two Busses in Jerusalem

President Barack Obama called Russian President Vladimir Putin yesterday and had an “intense” conversation about the need to de-escalate renewed fighting in Syria that is threatening to derail peace talks between the Assad regime and the opposition in Geneva. Obama reportedly urged Putin to lean on the Assad regime to “live up to the commitments that they’ve made in the context of the cessation of hostilities,” according to U.S. Press Secretary Josh Earnest. Putin reported stressed that U.S.-supported moderate rebels are working closely with terrorist groups in Syria. The conversation took place amid new fighting that could definitively collapse the ceasefire that has held for the past seven weeks. The Assad regime has launched a new wave of attacks with Russian air support against rebels in Idlib province and the countryside outside Aleppo, while rebel groups, including Jabhat al-Nusra, which is not a party to the ceasefire, have made advances in Latakia province.

Peace talks in Geneva were suspended yesterday by the opposition delegation, which said the Assad regime is still not serious about reaching an agreement. The delegation will remain in Geneva, though, and could rejoin talks. In addition to the increasing violence in Syria placing new pressure on negotiators, the two sides are still far removed from any potential compromise. In an interview today, the regime’s chief negotiator, Bashar Ja’afari, said his goal was only to expand the government and that Bashar al-Assad’s role would not change in a final settlement — a non-starter for opposition groups. The opposition has also called for restructuring the military and security apparatus, which Ja’afari said would create a “constitutional vacuum.”

Bomb Destroys Two Busses in Jerusalem

At least 20 people were injured when two buses caught fire after a small bomb detonated aboard one of them during rush hour in Jerusalem. Investigators are looking into how the explosive was brought aboard the bus and detonated. The attack “was eerily familiar from the days of the bus bombings,” a medic who arrived at the scene said. Bombings targeting busses were a deadly tactic during the second intifada in the early 2000s.

Headlines

  • The United Nations formally announced that peace talks for Yemen’s civil war would be postponed yesterday and it is unclear when the Houthi delegation might join negotiations in Kuwait; both sides reported new violations of the ceasefire yesterday, which Houthi leaders said was the reason they chose not to attend.

 

  • The Tobruk-based Libyan parliament will try again to meet today to discuss its support for the U.N.-backed unity government; the parliament cancelled a session on the subject yesterday and officials say they are still split on how to proceed. “There are big differences on what should we vote on first: the confidence or amendment of the constitution,” one parliamentarian said.

 

  • Jordan recalled its ambassador to Iran yesterday for “consultations” after a meeting of OPEC and other oil-producing nations in Doha failed to reach an agreement to cap oil output.

 

  • A Jerusalem court convicted Yishai Schlissel, an ultra-orthodox Jewish man who stabbed six people at a gay pride parade in July, of murder; Schlissel had previously attacked a gay pride parade in 2005.

 

  • President Obama will depart this afternoon for a trip to Saudi Arabia where he is expected to discuss ongoing U.S.-Saudi cooperation, diplomacy to resolve the civil wars in Syria and Yemen, and possibly the issue of human rights in the kingdom; tensions between the United States and Saudi Arabia have been high since the Iran nuclear agreement and comments Obama made in a recent interview that the Gulf states are “free riders.”

Arguments and Analysis

Will Yemen’s latest round of negotiations reflect learning from past failures?” (Zaid Al-Ali and Helen Lackner, Monkey Cage)

“Negotiations to end the war in Yemen slated to begin Monday in Kuwait have been delayed. Will the third time be a charm or yet another flop? The first two attempts failed abysmally, because none of the parties involved were willing to accept anything other than total military victory. This time, things could be different. Though a potential deal remains difficult to fathom — especially given the divergent views of the many parties — revisiting the lessons from the transition process after the Gulf Cooperation Council Agreement in 2011 could help us avoid at least some of the pitfalls that led to the war. A recent report by Helen Lackner published by International IDEA finds that while Yemen suffers from a number of underlying social and economic challenges that will remain at the heart of the country’s development, many factors that contributed to the current conflict were linked to the transition plan’s original design and the manner in which it was implemented by specific individuals, institutions and states.”

 

‘Now the Writing Starts’: An Interview with Adonis” (Jonathan Guyer, New York Review of Books)

“The East and the West are economic and military concepts, and were created by colonialism. We can say geographically that there are East and West. Economics and colonialism took advantage of that. But in art there is no East and West. You see it in the paintings of Paul Klee and how he was inspired by Tunisia and Eastern Arabia. You see it in the paintings of Delacroix and how he was inspired by Morocco. When you read Rimbaud, you see that the best thing about Rimbaud is that he is not a Westerner; although he was born in the West, he was completely against the West. When you read Abu Nawas, or Abu Al-Ma’arri, you do not say that they are Easterners or Westerners. The creative ones are from one world, regardless of what country they come from or where they went. They live together beyond geography, beyond languages and nationalism, and they belong to the creative world of humanity. In this sense there is neither East nor West. Whitman is just like Abu Tammam for me. He is a part of me, and I am a part of him.”

-J. Dana Stuster

FABRICE COFFRINI/AFP/Getty Images

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