Syria's Bashar Assad regime, in joint efforts with the terrorist group Daesh, has reportedly been setting up a buffer zone between the group and the Turkey-backed Free Syrian Army (FSA), said the head of the country's opposition delegation at the Geneva IV talks on Monday.
On the fifth day of the fourth round of the intra-Syrian talks, United Nations' Syria envoy Staffan de Mistura met the Syrian opposition delegation headed by Nasr Hariri, a senior member of the largest anti-regime group, the Syrian National Coalition. "The regime is actually coordinating with Daesh and has opened a corridor to prevent the FSA from fighting Daesh," Hariri told a news conference at the U.N. in Geneva following a two-hour meeting with de Mistura.
Claiming that the regime did not want the FSA to defeat the terror group, Hariri said, "The regime is setting up a buffer zone between the FSA and Daesh. We just gave the special envoy a video of testimony from a former detainee, who was held by the FSA and recently released. In the video, he explains how regime forces were coordinating with Daesh."
Regarding a possible change in Russia's political position at the Syria talks, Hariri said, "We see openness in their position."
The Assad regime has long been accused of helping Daesh, which overran the historic city of Palmyra in December 2016, nine months after being expelled by forces loyal to the regime.
Meanwhile, the Russian government has turned a blind eye to repeated cease-fire violations in Syria by the Assad regime, a Syrian opposition representative said on Monday in Geneva. "Russia tried to take opposition groups under its control, but failed," said Muhammed Alloush, a representative of the Jaish-al-Islam faction and a member of the opposition High Negotiation Committee (HNC).
Alloush noted that opposition demands included guaranteeing the cease-fire, releasing prisoners and lifting regime embargoes off opposition-held parts of Syria. "During the second Astana talks on Feb. 6, the government presented us with other documents [i.e., proposals,] while we awaited a reply to our proposal," he added. "If we submit a document, we [both parties] should discuss it. [One side] shouldn't simply reply with another document," he stated.
ASSAD REGIME REACHES PYD BORDER NEAR MANBIJTroops loyal to the Assad regime were reportedly at the doorstep of Manbij, a city held by the PKK-affiliated Democratic Union Party (PYD) and its armed wing, the People's Protection Units (YPG), after Daesh terrorists left the area. The regime now shares a border with the PYD, some 20 kilometers away from the PYD-held town.
"On the trade front and on the civilian front it is seen as an excellent thing, because now there is ... a link between the entire northern rural areas," PYD Spokesman Talal Silo told Reuters. Now, he said, there was a direct route from the PYD-controlled town of Manbij to the city of Aleppo "via areas controlled by the SDF and areas controlled by the regime forces." The YPG has long been following a policy of connecting its cantons in the west and the east. However, Turkey's Operation Euphrates Shield dashed the terrorist group's hopes. Now that the Assad regime has reached the YPG-held areas from the south of al-Bab, the YPG might connect its cantons with help from the regime.
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