To give you an overview of the latest news, we’ve organized the latest Syrian developments in a curated summary.
Syrian Opposition Agrees to Peace Talks, Holding to Demands. After a round of meetings this weekend, the Western-backed Syrian National Coalition agreed to take part in Geneva talks aimed at ending Syria’s civil war. The decision eases an impasse that had pushed peace talks off the calendar. They were originally slated for Nov. 23, and now the U.N. says it will be “striving” to hold a summit by the end of this year.
The opposition did put preconditions on talks, making demands that will be challenging to fulfill.
“The coalition agreed to take part in the conference on the basis of a transfer of power to a transitional ruling authority with full powers, including the presidency, military and security,” it said in a statement cited by Reuters. It ruled out a future role for Assad “or his aides whose hands are stained with Syrian blood.”
They also demanded the release of political prisoners held by the Assad regime and changes that would allow relief agencies to access rebel-held areas. Humanitarian aid has been blocked from reaching desperate civilians in areas under siege.
The opposition, which functions as a government in exile, still needs to convince rebel fighters on the ground that peace talks warrant their support; last month the most powerful Islamist rebel groups rejected Geneva II, saying those who attend would be tried for treason.
Kurdish Military Gains Stir Regional Unease. As Kurdish militias beat back jihadi fighters, securing relative autonomy for Syrian Kurds, their gains on the ground have stirred bigger questions about the political future of their people.
Reuters outlines the regional unease over the Kurdish rise on the battlefield, as broad swaths of northwestern Syria now fall under the control of either Kurdish groups or al-Qaida-linked forces.
The Kurdish offensive, taking back areas like Ras al-Ain and Yaaroubiya, “has stirred mixed feelings, globally, regionally and locally, even among some fellow Kurds,” Reuters reports.
“Rising Kurdish assertiveness in Syria puts Turkey in a particularly tough position as it tries to make peace on its own soil with the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which fought for greater Kurdish autonomy in Turkey for three decades.” The Kurdish-jihadi showdown also threatens to spark even greater instability in Iraq.
Syria Sees Widespread Use of Incendiary Weapons, Says HRW. This weekend Human Rights Watch released a report documenting 56 attacks using incendiary weapons in the past year, including a video and a map of the attack sites. The weapons produce heat and fire through the chemical reaction, causing extremely painful burns.
The group condemned the use of incendiary weapons in or near civilian population centers as a war crime. An excerpt from their statement:
Most of the video evidence and witness accounts Human Right Watch collected indicate that fixed-wing jet aircraft and helicopters operated by the Syrian air force are being used to deliver incendiary weapons.
Dr. Saleyha Ahsan, a British emergency medicine doctor, was volunteering in a hospital in Aleppo governorate on Aug. 26, 2013, when dozens of victims began arriving from an incendiary weapons attack on a school filled with teenagers studying for exams. She told Human Rights Watch: “One patient with 90 percent third-degree burns arrived alive at the hospital. The clothes had been burned off him. It was the most horrific injury I have ever seen in a live patient. Only his eyes moved.”
The victim was about to be evacuated to Turkey for specialized treatment when he died of his wounds.
Suggested Reads from Our Editorial Team:
Bloomberg: Send Syria’s Chemical Arms to Albania
Los Angeles Times: Turkey Alarmed by Extremist Militants in Syria Border Area