US and Rus­sia dis­cuss Syr­ian peac­etalks

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - WORLD -

BEIRUT and MOSCOW: US sec­re­tary of state John Kerry and Rus­sian for­eign min­is­ter Sergei Lavrov yes­ter­day dis­cussed in­ter­na­tional ef­forts to launch po­lit­i­cal talks be­tween the Syr­ian author­i­ties and the op­po­si­tion.

The Rus­sian for­eign min­istry said the phone call had taken place at Wash­ing­ton’s ini­tia­tive and that the two men had also dis­cussed the fight against the Is­lamic State and other mil­i­tant groups in the Mid­dle East.

Mean­while, of­fen­sives by the Syr­ian army and its al­lies, backed by Rus­sian air strikes, are go­ing more slowly than ex­pected due to in­creased Saudi sup­port to rebels, se­nior sources close to the Syr­ian gov­ern­ment said, as the in­sur­gents pressed a counter at­tack yes­ter­day.

Rebels cap­tured the vil­lage of At­shan in Hama prov­ince, the sec­ond set­back for the gov- ern­ment and its al­lies in that area in as many days, the Syr­ian Ob­ser­va­tory for Hu­man Rights and rebels said. The nearby town of Morek fell to rebels on Thurs­day.

Backed by Rus­sian air strikes, the Syr­ian army and al­lies in­clud­ing the Ira­nian Rev­o­lu­tion­ary Guards and Le­banon’s Hezbol­lah have launched sev­eral of­fen­sives in ar­eas vi­tal to Pres­i­dent Bashar al-As­sad’s con­trol of western Syria.

But an­a­lysts say the gov­ern­ment gains have been at best mod­est. They cited in­creased sup­plies of anti-tank TOW mis­siles to the rebels as a big fac­tor.

“The sup­port from Saudi Ara­bia for the op­po­si­tion did not stop but it is now in­ten­si­fied in an un­prece­dented way, and it is this that has par­tic­i­pated in slow­ing the op­er­a­tions, de­lay­ing big achieve­ments on the ground,” said one of the sources, speak­ing on con­di­tion of anonymity.

In­creased sup­plies of US­made TOW mis­siles to rebels was the main rea­son an at­tack in the Sahl al-Ghab re­gion had min­is­ter said on Oc­to­ber 31 Riyadh was con­sid­er­ing in­ten­si­fy­ing sup­port to rebels by pro­vid­ing them with “more lethal weapons”.

Vet­ted Syr­ian rebel groups fight­ing un­der the ban­ner of the Free Syr­ian Army have been sup­plied with weapons un­der a pro­gramme that in some cases has in­cluded mil­i­tary train­ing by the CIA.

Reuters re­ported on Oc­to­ber 31 from Wash­ing­ton that the CIA, in col­lab­o­ra­tion with Saudi Ara­bia and Qatar, re­cently broad­ened the num­ber of rebel groups to which it is de­liv­er­ing weapons.

Rami Ab­dul­rah­man, di­rec­tor of the Syr­ian Ob­ser­va­tory for Hu­man Rights, said: “The regime has suc­ceeded to a cer­tain de­gree in Latakia and the south­ern Aleppo fronts, but it failed com­pletely in north­ern Hama and Homs.” – Reuters

‘The sup­port from

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