Syrian forces deploying on Lebanese border as talks over peace conference stall

Army source in Syrian army says they have decided to “get rid of terrorism coming from neighboring countries.”

By REUTERS
November 5, 2013 18:03
2 minute read.
Flags of Hezbollah, Assad's Syria

Flags of Hezbollah, Assad's Syria 370. (photo credit: REUTERS/Ali Hashisho)

The Syrian army deployed forces Monday night on the border with Lebanon near the northern village of Akkar.

A convoy of tanks belonging to the Syrian Republican Guard was seen in the border area, according to a correspondent from Lebanon’s MTV, who was quoted on the Now Lebanon website.

A source in the Syrian army told the Lebanese outlet that Damascus had made a decision to “get rid of terrorism coming from neighboring countries.”

In the Syrian capital, a mortar round hit the Vatican embassy on Tuesday morning, damaging the building but causing no casualties, a diplomat told AFP.

Meanwhile, a bid to hold a peace conference to find a political solution to the Syria war has still not materialized.

An international peace conference involving Syrian government and opposition representatives will not be held this month, Russian news agency Itar-Tass quoted a source close to preparatory talks as saying on Tuesday.

Russia said Iran must be invited to a proposed peace conference on Syria, reiterating its stance after the main Syrian opposition leader said his coalition would not attend if Iran took part.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov also criticized Syrian National Coalition chief Ahmad Jarba’s demand for a clear time frame for President Bashar Assad to leave power, saying there should be no preconditions for the “Geneva 2” peace talks.

When asked about Jarba’s statement, Lavrov said: “All those with influence on the situation must certainly be invited.... This includes not only Arab countries, but also Iran.”

UN and Arab League special envoy Lakhdar Brahimi met US and Russian officials on Tuesday to discuss convening long-delayed Syrian peace talks this year despite disputes over Assad’s future and whether his ally Iran can attend.

Hours earlier, Damascus reiterated that Assad would stay in power come what may, casting doubt on the political transition that is the main focus of the proposed conference.

Brahimi conferred with US Under Secretary of State Wendy Sherman, US Ambassador to Syria Robert Ford and Mikhail Bogdanov and Gennady Gatilov, who are Russian deputy foreign ministers, at the United Nations in Geneva.

But even with Arab diplomatic cover, it is unclear whether the opposition, which has scant influence with rebels fighting in Syria – some of them linked to al- Qaida – will attend.

“The Qataris have been trying to hammer out a united position between the opposition, but I don’t think they will succeed,” said an Arab diplomat in Geneva.

“The Saudi position is complicating things; they are not too excited about Geneva 2 any more after they made that big stink,” he said, alluding to Saudi Arabia’s refusal of a Security Council seat.

Riyadh is angry over what it sees as a weak US commitment to removing Assad, especially since US President Barack Obama dropped a threat of air strikes following a poison gas attack near Damascus in August.


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