Logo Wide

Syria Today – Opposition Open for Dialogue; Mekdad in Iraq; Repatriation of ISIS Families Continues

Your daily brief of the English-speaking press on Syria.
Syria Today – Opposition Open for Dialogue; Mekdad in Iraq; Repatriation of ISIS Families Continues

On Sunday, the opposition in Syria called for the revival of inactive United Nations-mediated negotiations with President Bashar al-Assad’s regime. This comes as President al-Assad has regained support from Arab nations after being isolated for several years. Additionally, Syria’s foreign minister engaged in discussions with Iraq regarding humanitarian assistance and the fight against the illegal drug trade. Furthermore, a group of fifty ISIS militants and 168 Iraqi individuals associated with extremist groups were returned from Syria to Iraq.

Syria Opposition Calls For Fresh Talks With Assad Regime

Syria’s opposition urged on Sunday the resumption of moribund United Nations-sponsored talks with the regime of President Bashar al-Assad, who has returned to the Arab fold after years of isolation.

“The international, regional and Syrian conditions provide an appropriate circumstance for the resumption of direct negotiations… under a specific agenda and timetable,” the Syrian Negotiation Commission (SNC) said in a statement.

Negotiations to resolve Syria’s crisis hit an impasse in 2018 over Assad’s role in any political transition, and several rounds of subsequent UN-brokered talks aimed at forging a new constitution have failed.

The SNC, which includes representatives from the main political opposition alliance the Syrian National Coalition, has been the key opposition delegation during previous rounds of talks in Geneva.

In a statement Sunday following a two-day meeting in the Swiss city, the SNC called on “brotherly and friendly countries to support the efforts of the UN to take all necessary resolutions to fulfil a comprehensive political solution”.

The statement called for a solution in line with the UN Security Council resolution 

[For More Details]

Syrian top diplomat discusses aid on visit to key ally Iraq

Syria’s foreign minister on Sunday discussed humanitarian aid and combating the illegal drugs trade with Iraq, a key ally, during a visit to Baghdad as Damascus emerges from years of diplomatic isolation, Saudi Arab News reported.

The visit by Faisal Mekdad comes weeks after the Arab League agreed to end Syria’s suspension from the 22-member bloc, bringing President Bashar Assad’s regime back into the regional fold after years of civil war.

Iraq remained an ally of Damascus throughout the wider Arab boycott, never severing relations and maintaining close cooperation during Syria’s civil war, particularly over the fight against the Daesh group.

Baghdad was “one of the initiators” of Syria’s return to the Arab League, Iraqi Foreign Minister Fuad Hussein said in a joint press conference with Mekdad.

The two also discussed the issue of Syrian refugees who fled the country after the war erupted, many of whom now live in Iraq as well as Jordan, Lebanon and Turkiye.

“We received about 250,000 refugees,” said Hussein, who added that the majority of them live in camps in Iraq’s autonomous Kurdistan region.

He said the next step would be getting humanitarian aid into Syria, which has been devastated by the war and by a February 6 earthquake that also hit Turkiye and killed tens of thousands in both countries.

The quake triggered a flurry of aid efforts and diplomatic moves that help spur Syria’s reintegration back into the wider Arab region.

Mekdad on Sunday thanked Iraq for its “solidarity” after the quake, also hailing the “progression” of bilateral relations.

“We will continue to cooperate to combat terrorism and eliminate the danger posed by drugs,” he added in a reference to the illegal trade in the stimulant captagon.

Mekdad was also expected to meet Iraqi Prime Minister Mohamed Shia Al-Sudani and President Abdul Latif Rashid, Iraqi foreign ministry spokesman Ahmed Al-Sahaf told the state news agency.

[For more details]

50 Extremists, 168 Family Members Repatriated From Syria to Iraq

Fifty ISIS militants and 168 Iraqi members of extremist families were repatriated from Syria to Iraq on Saturday, an Iraqi official told Asharq al-Awsat.

Iraqi authorities “received 50 members of the ISIS from the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF)”, said the source who spoke on condition of anonymity.

The SDF are the Kurds’ de facto army in the area and led the battle that dislodged ISIS group militants from the last scraps of their Syrian territory in 2019.

They will “be the subject of investigations and will face Iraqi justice”, they added, AFP reported.

According to conflict monitor the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights they were detained in Hasakah, northeast Syria.

Additionally, 168 relatives of ISIS-group members were repatriated from Syria’s Al-Hol camp to be relocated to the Al-Jadaa camp south of Mosul, the Iraqi official added, where they will undergo psychiatric treatment.

“Once we receive the assurances of their tribal leaders that they will not face reprisals, they will be sent home.”

Al-Hol camp, in Kurdish-controlled northeast Syria, is home to about 50,000 people including family members of suspected jihadists.

Among them are displaced Syrians, Iraqi refugees as well as more than 10,000 foreigners originally from some 60 countries.

The murders of Syrian truffle hunters are not all they seem

The Middle East Eye has published a long report on the killings and kidnappings of truffle hunters in Syria’s Badia desert which are often falsely attributed to the Islamic State and landmines, while the primary cause is the rivalry between pro-Assad militias, particularly Iranian-backed groups.

The article discusses the killings and kidnappings of truffle hunters in the Badia desert in Syria. While the murders have been attributed to the Islamic State (IS) and landmines, the article suggests that the rivalry between pro-Assad militias is often the primary cause.

According to the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, approximately 240 truffle hunters were killed over a 70-day period. While officials and media reports blame ISIS and landmines, testimonies from truffle hunters, residents, and relatives of the victims point to Iranian-backed militias as responsible for the killings. These militias allegedly engage in violence over disputes related to extortion and territorial control.

The article highlights a major attack in which 53 members of the Bani Khaled tribe were shot dead in the desert. While the state news agency attributed the attack to IS, the tribe members accused Iranian militias of carrying out the massacre.

The presence of landmines in former battlefields and front lines further exacerbates the dangers faced by truffle hunters. The article suggests that pro-government forces, including militias backed by Russia, are responsible for most landmine casualties. These landmines, which impede agricultural work and exacerbate Syria’s food security crisis, are often of Russian origin.

The article also explores the role of militias, both Russian-backed and Iranian-backed, in controlling checkpoints and areas of influence in the Badia desert. Truffle hunters often have to pay militias for access to lands, and failure to coordinate with the militias can make them targets for violence and kidnapping.

The article concludes by suggesting that while inter-militia conflicts may be disguised as ISIS attacks, the threat of IS remains real. The competition between pro-Assad forces in the desert may also contribute to the expansion of ISIS.

Overall, the article provides insights into the complex dynamics and dangers faced by truffle hunters in the Badia desert in Syria, highlighting the involvement of various militias and the devastating consequences for the local population.

Helpful keywords