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Syria says US action on Daesh-held Raqqa ‘illegitimate’

March 24, 2017 at 4:22 pm

Militants fire at Daesh positions near the Raqqa highway [Abkhazian Network/Wikipedia]

A US or Turkish-backed attack on Daesh in the Syrian city of Raqqa would be illegitimate unless coordinated with the regime of President Bashar Al-Assad, the Syrian chief negotiator said at peace talks in Geneva earlier today.

“Any military presence on our territory without the approval of the Syrian government is an illegitimate presence,” Bashar Al-Ja’afari told reporters after meeting UN envoy Staffan de Mistura.

French Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said on Friday the battle to recapture Raqqa would restart in the coming days.

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Al-Ja’afari said nobody could claim to be fighting Daesh without coordinating with Iraq and Syria.

“Those who are truly fighting Daesh are the Syrian Arab army with the help of our allies from Russia and Iran.”

“Direct US military intervention in Syrian territory as well as arming factions in Syria and encouraging them to challenge the authority of the state does not serve the fight against terrorism,” he said.

Al-Ja’afari is perhaps most renowned for laughing and walking off nonchalantly as reporters asked him about mass civilian casualties and hospitals in the then-besieged sectors of eastern Aleppo that had been bombed out by the Assad regime.

The US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) have reached the entrance to the Tabqa dam after they were airlifted there by US airpower. They are currently clashing with Daesh, Jihan Sheikh Ahmed, an SDF spokeswoman, said today.

The SDF is dominated by the YPG, a militant Kurdish group that is closely connected to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), an organisation that has waged a bloody insurgency in Turkey since the 1980s that has claimed 40,000 lives, mostly civilians.

The PKK is recognised as a terrorist organisation by Turkey, the European Union and the United States, despite Washington’s close support for the YPG, inflaming tensions with NATO ally Ankara.

UN Syria humanitarian advisor Jan Egeland told Reuters yesterday there were contingency plans for the civilian population of Raqqa.

“There are hundreds of thousands of people in the Raqqa area and of course those would all be at risk when the fighting is bound to intensify,” Egeland said.

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Al-Ja’afari said countries backing rebel groups in Syria, such as Britain, France, Turkey and Qatar, were “sponsors of terrorism”, and said an opposition offensive in Hama and Damascus was designed to disrupt peace talks in Geneva and Astana.

“All the terrorist attacks, as I said, are pushing everybody towards a total failure and fiasco in the political and diplomatic process,” he told reporters, adding his delegation would never walk away from the talks.