TSI Syria Updates: October 6, 2016

Takeaway

UN Special Envoy Staffan de Mistura held a press conference today on the situation in Syria, focusing in particular on Aleppo. During his remarks he spoke directly to the terrorist group Jabhat al-Nusra, offering to personally escort their estimated 900 fighters out of eastern Aleppo in order to remove the pretext for bombing the city. He also made a direct plea to the governments of Russia and Syria to stop the destruction of Aleppo, proposing the possibility of inserting a UN presence on the ground. De Mistura said that at the current rate, eastern Aleppo could be completely destroyed within 2 to 2.5 months.

Military

  • 6 OCT: An Islamic State (ISIS) bombing at the Atmeh border crossing along the Syria-Turkey border killed at least two dozen people and wounded at least another 20. Most of the people killed or wounded were Turkey-backed opposition fighters. Opposition groups use the crossing to move between the Aleppo and Idlib provinces because pro-government forces blocked their access in-country. (Al-Jazeera, Reuters)
  • 6 OCT: Syrian government forces gained control of the opposition-held Bustan al-Basha quarter in Aleppo city. (Reuters, Al-Jazeera
  • 6 OCT: Russian and Syrian aircraft renewed air raids on Daraa province today, after a week-long absence. The raids targeted the cities of Dael, Ibtaa, and Tafas killing a handful of opposition fighters and damaging infrastructure. (Step News Agency-AR)

Political

  • 4 OCT: Anas Alabdeh was reelected as President of the Syrian Opposition Coalition on Monday, for another six-month term. (Etilaf)
  • 5 OCT: US Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov spoke over the phone on Wednesday about the situation in Syria only two days after announcing the suspension of bilateral communication. Mark Toner, State Department Deputy Spokesperson, said the suspension “doesn’t preclude…the Secretary of State and Foreign Minister Lavrov from talking.” (TSI Analyst Note: Toner struggled to differentiate between bilateral communications and multilateral communication during the press conference.) (State Department, Reuters)
  • 6 OCT: French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault traveled to Russia today to speak with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov about adopting a new UN Security Council resolution drafted by France and Spain. Lavrov said Russia is “ready to work on this text” after meeting with Ayrault. Ayrault will travel to the US tomorrow to speak with US Secretary of State John Kerry about the resolution. In an interview with French channel LCI, Ayrault accused Syria of committing war crimes. He also said the US needs to step up even with elections in November, and that it is time to speak the truth to Russia rather than please them. Robert Ford, the last US ambassador to Syria, said not to expect direct US military intervention in Syria, and that US Secretary John Kerry is unable to find a political solution to the Syria crisis.(Reuters, French Foreign Ministry-FR, AFP, LCI-FR, France24-AR)
  • 6 OCT: On Thursday, Russian Defence Minister Sergey Shoigu, claimed the Syria situation proved the reliability of Russian weaponry as Russia stabilized the war-ridden country. Russia used the Syria conflict to test long-range missiles fired from ships, submarines, and warplanes. Shoigu also delivered a thinly-veiled threat today, reminding the US of Russia’s military capabilities in Syria should any attack against Syrian forces occur. (AFP, Russian Defence Ministry, Reuters, Russian Defence Ministry-RU)
  • 6 OCT: UN Syria Special Envoy Staffan de Mistura said eastern Aleppo may be “totally destroyed” in about two months time. In an unprecedented move, de Mistura spoke directly to Jabhat Fatah al-Sham (formerly al-Nusra). He offered to personally escort the 900 remaining Jabhat al-Nusra fighters from eastern Aleppo with their weapons to Idlib. He also criticized Russia’s heavy airstrikes against eastern Aleppo to eliminate less than 1,000 fighters from an estimated population of 275,000. (Reuters, UN webtv)

Humanitarian

  • none

Notable Media/Transcripts/Reports

  • 5 OCT: “What’s next for US involvement in Syria?” Judy Woodruff (PBS Newshour)
  • 6 OCT: “OSE Syria Press Conference: Humanitarian Access Task Force Update” (UN webtv, UN Transcript)
  • 6 OCT: OpEd: “Don’t Intervene in Syria” by Steven Simon and Jonathan Stevenson (NY Times)
  • 6 OCT: “White House working to weaken Syria sanctions bill for Russia and Iran” by Josh  Rogin (Washington Post)
  • 6 OCT: Video “Lavrov and French FM Ayrault hold press conference in Moscow” (RT YouTube)
  • 6 OCT: “The White Helmets of Syria” by Jared Malsin (Time)