Fresh Syria peace talks open in Kazakh capital

A fresh round of peace talks seeking to end Syria's war opens in the Kazakh capital Astana as part of a Moscow-led push supported by Iran and opposition backer Turkey.
Updated 31 October 2017

Fresh Syria peace talks open in Kazakh capital

ASTANA/GENEVA/MOSCOW: A fresh round of peace talks seeking to end Syria’s war began in the Kazakh capital Astana on Monday, as part of a Moscow-led push supported by Iran and opposition-backer Turkey.
The latest round of talks began days after Daesh was forced out of its de facto capital Raqqa in northern Syria.
Speaking to journalists after the first day of closed-door talks, Russia’s chief negotiator Alexander Lavrentyev expressed confidence that a political settlement to the six-year conflict was possible.
President Bashar Assad “has confirmed his readiness for... the preparation of a new constitution and the holding of new parliamentary and presidential elections on this basis,” Lavrentyev said on Monday.
He also said Russia is ready to host a “congress of the peoples of Syria” involving both regime and opposition representatives.
The precise date and location of the congress would be determined in Astana, Lavrentyev said, suggesting it could be at Russia’s Hmeimim military base in Syria.
Syria’s UN envoy Staffan de Mistura urged parties to move toward “a more stable political settlement” during a mid-October visit to Moscow.
Lavrentyev said Moscow was prepared to act as “a mediator” between Turkish forces in the Idlib zone and Damascus.
Russia expects all “terrorists” in Syria to be destroyed by the end of the year and then plans to keep enough troops in the country to prevent any new conflict, the Interfax news agency cited a prominent Russian senator as saying on Monday.
“We will leave in Syria only those troops necessary to avert a possible repeat of this terrorism,” the agency quoted Viktor Bondarev, the head of the upper house of Parliament’s defense and security committee, as saying.
In another development, a convoy from the UN and Syrian Arab Red Crescent entered towns in the besieged Damascus suburb of Eastern Ghouta on Monday, bringing aid to 40,000 people for the first time since June 2016, the UN said.
A tightening siege by regime forces has pushed people to the verge of famine in the eastern suburbs, residents and aid workers said last week, bringing desperation to the only major opposition enclave near the Syrian capital.
The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said on Twitter they had entered the towns of Kafra Batna and Saqba.
The Syrian Arab Red Crescent said in a separate tweet that the inter-agency convoy had 49 trucks.


Northeast Nigeria attack claimed at least 110 lives: UN

Updated 29 November 2020

Northeast Nigeria attack claimed at least 110 lives: UN

  • The massacre took place on Saturday in the village of Koshobe near the city of Maiduguri
  • "At least 110 civilians were ruthlessly killed and many others were wounded in this attack," Kallon said

ABUJA: A weekend attack on a village in northeast Nigeria blamed on the Boko Haram militant group left at least 110 dead, the UN humanitarian coordinator in the country said Sunday.
"At least 110 civilians were ruthlessly killed and many others were wounded in this attack," Edward Kallon said in a statement after initial tolls indicated 43 and then at least 70 dead from Saturday's massacre by suspected Boko Haram fighters.
"The incident is the most violent direct attack against innocent civilians this year," Kallon said, adding: "I call for the perpetrators of this heinous and senseless act to be brought to justice."
The bloodletting took place in the village of Koshobe near the main city of Maiduguri, with assailants targeting farmers on rice fields.
Borno Governor Babaganan Umara Zulum attended the burial Sunday in the nearby village of Zabarmari of 43 bodies recovered on Saturday, saying the toll could rise after search operations resumed.
The assailants tied up the agricultural workers and slit their throats, according to a pro-government anti-extremist militia.
The victims were among labourers from Sokoto state in northwestern Nigeria, roughly 1,000 kilometres (600 miles) away, who had travelled to the northeast to find work, it said.
Six were wounded in the attack and eight remained missing as of Saturday.
Kallon, citing "reports that several women may have been kidnapped", called for their immediate release and return to safety.
Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari condemned the attack, saying: "The entire country has been wounded by these senseless killings."
The attack took place as voters went to the polls in long-delayed local elections in Borno State.
The polls had been repeatedly postponed because of an increase in attacks by Boko Haram and a rival dissident faction, ISWAP.
The two groups have been blamed for increasing attacks on loggers, farmers and fishermen whom they accuse of spying for the army and pro-government militias.