Geneva peace talks continue during escalation of clashes in Syria

  • Dominika Jandová
  • 30.3.2017 22:46

The fifth round of the Syrian peace talks continued last week in Geneva, while clashes in Damascus and Hama’s north escalated. The biggest rebel offensive against government forces in recent months occurred in the mid-western province of Hama. The rapid progress of the rebels, during which they have seized a dozen villages, was answered by forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad that conducted artillery and air strikes in order to regain control of lost areas. On Friday, March 24, the Syrian army announced that it had managed to regain positions that it lost at the beginning of the week in fighting with rebels in the Jobar district of Damascus. Although on Wednesday, March 29, the Syrian opposition and the Russian side agreed on the need to strengthen a fragile peace, the Geneva talks achieved only minimal progress in peace negotiations.

Over the weekend, Islamic State (IS) media channels have stated that the US-led airstrikes on IS positions weakened the Tabqa dam, a strategically important complex near the city of Raqqa. Fear of collapse of the nearby dam caused panic in the city and according to some sources IS even ordered an evacuation. Initially, the US-led coalition forces insisted that the dam was not the target of the strikes and that it was not structurally damaged. On Monday afternoon, the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) announced that they would pause their operations in the dam's proximity, so it could be checked and carry out necessary repairs. According to recent reports from Wednesday, March 29, the dam does not present an imminent risk despite IS shelling and the SDF expects to regain full control over the dam in the coming days.

The Kurdish militia YPG leaders recently reported that an offensive to conquer Raqqa will begin in early April. On Friday, March 24, Syrian Ambassador to the UN Bashar al-Ja'afari announced that any military presence in the country, whether American or Turkish, is illegitimate without the government's approval. 

About author: Dominika Jandová

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