Syria peace talks set to stall again
Sources say “Geneva 2” Syria peace talks are likely to be postponed, French hostages return home, and Russia denies spying on G20 delegates. Today is Wednesday, October 30, and this is the World Wrap, brought to you by @dwbronner.
United Nations Envoy Lakhdar Brahimi (L) leaves a hotel while on his way to meet Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad in the Syrian capital Damascus, October 30, 2013. REUTERS/Khaled al-Hariri
Peace talks stall? Syrian peace talks slated for November 23 are likely to be delayed, according to Arab and Western officials. The conference was first proposed in May and has since been held up by disagreements between Western and Russian leaders and over who would be present at the negotiations table. Now, similar issues could cause a fresh setback:
A main point of contention, [an official involved in preparing for the talks] said, is the role of the Western-backed opposition coalition – an issue which has flared up since a meeting in London last week of Western and Gulf Arab countries opposed to Assad. They announced that the Geneva negotiations should be between a “single delegation of the Syrian regime and a single delegation of the opposition, of which the Syrian National Coalition should be the heart and lead, as the legitimate representative of the Syrian people.” Russia sees the coalition as just one part of the opposition and has suggested that several delegations, including Damascus-based figures tolerated by the government, could represent President Bashar al-Assad’s foes… A communique at the end of the London meeting also said Geneva would aim to establish a transitional government by which time “Assad and his close associates with blood on their hands will have no role in Syria.” “The Russians are furious at the strong stance taken in London and that the communiqué went a long way towards satisfying the demands of the coalition,” a Western official said.
Syria’s Deputy Prime Minister Qadri Jamil, a political rival to Assad who has not joined the rebel movement, was dismissed on Tuesday for leaving the country and meeting with U.S. diplomat Robert Ford without permission. U.S., Russian, and U.N. envoys will meet on Tuesday to discuss the “Geneva 2” peace talks, which a diplomatic source says will now likely take place between late November and Christmas. Meanwhile, reports from Syria emerge that the government is employing a “Starvation Until Submission Campaign” to increase pressure on rebel-held areas. The World Health Organization also reported a polio outbreak in Syria that could threaten the whole region. Civil war in the country has left more than 100,000 dead since it began in March 2011. Below, scenes from Syria:
Mohammad (2nd L), a 13 year-old fighter from the Free Syrian Army, sits with his fellow fighters in Aleppo’s Bustan al-Basha district, October 28, 2013. REUTERS/Molhem Barakat. See more images of Mohammad here.
Syrian families leave the besieged town of al-Moadamiyeh, which is controlled by opposition fighters, in the Damascus countryside, October 29, 2013. REUTERS/Khaled al-Hariri
Hostages go home. France denied reports that it paid a ransom to free four Frenchmen who returned home on Wednesday after being held by al Qaeda-linked gunmen in the Sahara desert for almost three years.
French President Francois Hollande (R) and Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian (L) watch as former French hostage Daniel Larribe (2ndR) is welcomed by relatives on the tarmac upon his arrival at Villacoublay military airport near Paris, October 30, 2013. REUTERS/Jacky Naegelen
The men, who were captured in 2010 while working for French companies in northern Niger, were released yesterday. Earlier this year, French President Francois Hollande said the country would no longer pay ransom for hostages to make its citizens less vulnerable to kidnappings.
Russia denies ruse. Russia denied reports by the European Council’s security office that it had used spy gear disguised in teddy bears, diaries, and free USB keys to snoop on hundreds of foreign delegates during the September G20 summit in St Petersburg. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said the charge was “undoubtedly nothing but an attempt to shift the focus from issues that truly exist in relations between European capitals and Washington to unsubstantiated, non-existent issues.” In July, the Guardian reported that the UK spied on G20 delegates in 2009.
Nota Bene: China says it has detained five supsects in relation to a possible suicide attack in Tiananmen Square earlier this week.
Radio Bubble – Independent news outlets crop up in Greece. (New York Times)
No sex coverage – An Australian woman injured while having sex on a business trip won’t receive workers comp. (Time)
Sapling stock – Villagers in India plant a mango tree when a girl is born to secure her financial future. (Al Jazeera)
Pass from prison – A Mexican teacher serving a 60-year sentence for killing seven policemen in 2002 will be pardoned. (BBC)
Starpath – British bike paths use solar rays to light up at night. (The Atlantic Cities)
From the File: