It has been a precarious twenty-four hours in the lead up to the planned multi-side peace talks to be held in Geneva with the goal of ending the now five year old Syrian Civil War. Members of the Kurdish Opposition, including the Kurdish PYD, have claimed that the High Negotiation Council (HNC) is illegitimate as it does not have members representing all factions.
Additionally, opposition groups made the pre-condition of the immediate ending of Russian airstrikes a precursor to engaging in any talks.
Meanwhile, pro-Assad forces have had some battlefield success in recent days:
Russian warplanes continued to bomb many parts of western and northern Syria on Friday, particularly Latakia province, where the government is pressing an offensive against rebels, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported.
Pro-government forces captured a dam 10 km (6 miles) from the town of Salma, seized last week in one of the most significant gains since Russia intervened. “They’ve tightened their stranglehold on (rebel) fighters in the Latakia countryside,” Observatory director Rami Abdulrahman said.
Later in the day they recaptured another five villages, all in hills overlooking insurgent positions, he said, describing it as a “strategic advance” towards the Turkish border.
Air strikes also hit areas in the east near where government forces have been fighting against Islamic State, which controls most of the province. Raids believed to be either Russian or Syrian killed 30 civilians near Deir al-Zor city, the Observatory said.
In Turkey video footage has surfaced which appears to show Turkish forces firing upon unarmed Kurdish civilians while they waved a white flag of surrender.
RT could not immediately verify the circumstances of the shooting. One version claims that the Kurdish civilians were shot at by Turkish troops involved in a crackdown that Ankara is currently conducting in the south and south-east of the country.
Another version suggests that Kurdish militants were among the ranks of the civilians and opened fire at the Turks, provoking a response. The footage doesn’t appear to show any armed people in the crowd.
Vice-President Joe Biden had a press conference Saturday after meeting with Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu announcing that the United States and Turkey had a military solution for the Islamic State should the Syrian Civil War continue to drag on.
The announcement was a surprise for many considering the current US efforts to degrade and destroy Islamic State have not had much effect on the group despite heading toward the year and half mark since the US intervention began.
[Reuters] [RT] [Photo courtesy Middle East Monitor]