Syrian conflict: Only reversals on the battlefield will bring opposition to negotiating table

While President Assad, buoyed by a recent win in Homs, has praised his soldier's bravery in the face of 'the fiercest barbaric war in modern history'

Beirut

The Syrian opposition has backtracked on the possibility of talks, saying its fortunes on the battlefield would need to reverse to come to the negotiating table. Ahmad al-Jarba, the head of the Syrian National Council, told the Qatar News Agency that talks were impossible in the current military climate. He also scoffed at the idea of engagement with president Bashar al-Assad or “his clique”, saying their absence should be a given for “any coming political negotiation.”

The comments stand in stark contrast to earlier statements, which merely asked for a clear timeframe and reassurances such as a release of prisoners. Just a few days ago al-Jarba said he would be willing to enter talks with representatives of Assad without pre-conditions.

These remarks were badly received by other opposition members, who insisted Assad cannot be part of the discussion. They also want Iranian and Lebanese Hezbollah fighters to leave the country and justice for war crimes committed by the regime, which al-Jarba alluded to in his latest remarks.

But most of all, the opposition need a more favourable military situation. “Circumstances impose on us not to go unless the situation on the ground is in favour of the revolution,” said al-Jarba.  

President Assad has been gaining ground in recent weeks and today declared that his victory was certain. Buoyed by a recent win in Homs, he praised his soldier's bravery in the face of “the fiercest barbaric war in modern history.” Hours later, activists released a video showing a huge bomb exploding in an Alawite - the sect of the president - district of Homs.

“If we were not sure that we were going to win in Syria, we would not have the ability to resist and the ability to continue fighting for more than two years against the enemy,” a transcript of the remarks released by Syrian state media said. The occasion, the 68th anniversary of the Syrian military, also prompted the president's first visit outside the capital since March 2012. State media said the President was visiting Daraya a village south-west of Damascus that was recently recaptured from rebel hands at great cost. Pictures on the presidency's social media accounts saw him interacting with soldiers in fatigues with war ravaged buildings in the background.

The 28 month conflict has killed over 100,000 people and forced almost 2 million people to flee the country.

Recently, kidnapping has also been on the rise. Two hundred Kurdish civilians have been abducted by Islamic fighters in the countryside near Aleppo, according to the UK based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. The kidnapping occurred after members of the Islamist brigades Jabhat al-Nusra and Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS) had taken over the town of Tal Eran and laid siege to nearby Tal Hassil. Circumstances of the kidnapping remain murky and the perpetrators have, so far, failed to release demands.

The Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD) put the figure at 350 and also reported a massacre of 50 Kurds at the hands of the Islamists. The party has been fighting against the, mostly foreign, Islamic fighters for two weeks. Other Kurdish sources claimed that ISIS had captured up to 400 fighters from the PKK, the armed wing of the PYD.

Deprived of many basic rights by the Syrian government, the Kurds have tried to keep both the Syrian Army and the rebels out of their areas. 

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