TSI Syria Updates: February 24, 2017

Takeaway

The Geneva IV intra-Syrian peace negotiations began yesterday as UN Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura greeted the incoming delegations with an opening ceremony. De Mistura has consistently reiterated that negotiations need to follow UN Security Council resolution 2254, which calls for political transition in Syria centered around free elections and constitutional reform. De Mistura reportedly gave papers to the Syrian government delegation (led by Bashar al-Jaafari) and the High Negotiations Committee (HNC) of the Syrian opposition delegation (led by Nasr al-Hariri), that may have been intended to initiate discussions about a political transition removing Syrian President Bashar al-Assad from power. De Mistura held bilateral meetings today with the delegations for the Syrian government and the Syrian opposition. The two opposing sides have not yet held a face-to-face meeting, though the Syrian opposition delegation voiced optimism about the negotiations after their meeting with de Mistura today.

Military

  • 23 FEB: The Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abaddi ordered the Iraqi Air Force to conduct airstrikes against Islamic State (ISIS) targets in the eastern Syrian cities of Abu Kamal and Husseibah. Al-Abaddi said the strikes were retaliation for ISIS attacks in Baghdad originally planned in Syria. The airstrikes were reportedly conducted with permission from the Syrian government. This marks the first time Iraq conducted raids in Syria during the conflict. (AP, Reuters, EA Worldview, @pmu_english)
  • 23 FEB: The Islamic State (ISIS) detonated a car bomb today at a checkpoint in the opposition-held village of Sousian north of al-Bab. The bomb killed at least 40 people and wounded dozens more. (Reuters, CNN)
  • 24 FEB: Today The Turkish military confirmed that Turkish-backed opposition had taken full control of the city of al-Bab, a former ISIS stronghold. (Reuters, Hurriyet Daily News)
  • 23 FEB: Syrian warplanes reportedly intensified airstrikes against armed opposition groups in Daraa yesterday, killing at least eight civilians and forcing the suspension of all schools in the surrounding area. (SOHR, Smart News-AR)

Political

  • 23 FEB: Yesterday Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu told the Duma that Russia tested 162 weapons systems during their intervention in Syria. He reportedly said they “showed a high level of effectiveness.” (NPR)
  • 23 FEB: Yesterday the US Treasury Department sanctioned Iyad Nazmi Salih Khalil and Bassam Ahmad al-Hasri, two leaders of Jabhat al-Nusra (now reorganized as Hayat Tahrir al-Sham) (US Treasury, Smart News-AR)
  • 23 FEB: US General Joseph Dunford suggested yesterday that the Pentagon-led plan for defeating the Islamic State (ISIS) will likely be broader in scope than initially thought. The plan is due in draft on Monday. (Reuters)
  • 24 FEB: The fourth round of UN-sponsored Syrian peace negotiations began in Geneva yesterday. UN Special Envoy to Syria Staffan De Mistura opened the negotiations by reiterating his promise that the intra-Syrian negotiations would revolve around UN Security Council resolution 2254, which includes: the establishment of a non-sectarian government, drafting a new constitution, and free and fair elections under the new constitution. The negotiations are expected to begin talks on potential political transitions towards more decentralized governing models, extensions of ceasefires towards nationwide coverage, prisoner exchanges, and removal of blockades on besieged areas. On Friday, De Mistura held bilateral meetings with Syrian government delegation (led by Bashar al-Jaafari) and the High Negotiations Committee (HNC) of the Syrian opposition delegation (led by Nasr al-Hariri) to determine a plan for the negotiations. De Mistura’s Acting Chief of Staff Michael Contet said de Mistura would meet with the Moscow and Cairo opposition platforms as well to determine how they can contribute to the negotiations. The HNC said their meeting with de Mistura was positive. (Reuters, UNOG, Reuters, UN Webtv, Al-Jazeera, UN Webtv)
  • 24 FEB: Unconfirmed reports indicate the UN Security Council may vote on a new resolution next week which will reportedly blacklist Syrian military officials for chemical weapons attacks and prohibit the sale or supply of helicopters to the Syrian government. Russia claimed it would veto the vote. (Reuters, AFP, Eilaf-AR, Al-Jazeera-AR)
  • 24 FEB: White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer stated on Thursday that the US is still looking to obtain formal commitments from allies to fund safe zones in Syria. (White House)

Humanitarian

  • None

Notable Media/Transcripts/Reports

  • 22 FEB: “Transcript of press conference by Mr. Staffan de Mistura, UN Special Envoy for Syria” (UNOG)
  • 23 FEB: “Al-Qaeda is eating us’: Syrian rebels are losing out to extremists” – Liz Sly and Zakaria Zakaria (Washington Post)
  • 23 FEB: “Can the latest round of talks end the Syrian conflict?”(Al-Jazeera)
  • 23 FEB: “Transcript of Press Stakeout by Staffan de Mistura, Special Envoy for Syria” (UNOG)
  • 23 FEB: “Transcript of remarks to the press by Staffan de Mistura, United Nations Special Envoy for Syria, after greeting a group of Syrian women who held a vigil in Geneva” (UNOG)
  • 23 FEB: “Welcoming statement of the Intra-Syrian talks by the UN Special Envoy for Syria, Staffan de Mistura (English and Arabic)” (UNOG)
  • 23 FEB: “Statement attributable to the Spokesman for the Secretary-General on Syria” (UNOG)
  • 24 FEB: “Perceptions of Governance – THe Experience of Local Administrative Councils in Opposition-held Syria (EN/AR)” (Swiss Peace Foundation)
  • 24 FEB: “Michael Contet, Acting Chief of Staff Office UN Special Envoy for Syria – Media Stakeout” (UN Webtv)
  • 24 FEB: “Syrian Opposition Delegation (formed on 11 February) – Media Stakeout” (UN Webtv)