DAMASCUS, Syria – Syria’s state media say government forces have retaken a Christian town north of Damascus after a week of clashes with al Qaeda-linked fighters who had recently captured key parts of it.
The state-run SANA news agency says the army “restored security and stability” to the town of Sadad early on Monday.
The town had been in opposition hands since last week, when al Qaeda-linked groups captured a checkpoint that gave them control of the western part of the town.
The fighting came as the U.N.-Arab League envoy headed to Syria for his first trip to the country in almost a year. Lakhdar Brahimi had arrived in Beirut earlier on Monday and left for Damascus.
Brahimi is trying to prepare a peace conference on Syria supposed to take place in Geneva next month. Source
Russian Minister Slams Threats to Syria Peace Talk Attendees
(RIA Novosti) – Threats of violence by Syrian opposition groups against participants of an upcoming peace conference on Syria are “outrageous and unacceptable,” Russia’s top diplomat said Monday.
“And the fault, in the grand scheme of things, lies with those who fund and arm these opposition groups,” Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said in the southern Russian city of Rostov-on-Don.
Lavrov said the situation demanded “the prompt intervention of those with influence over the opposition.”
Nineteen armed Islamist groups in Syria said in a joint statement Saturday that participating in the Geneva 2 talks aimed at ending the Syrian civil war would be “treason” and attendees “would have to answer for it before our courts.”
The UN-backed conference, tentatively set for November 23, has been lobbied for by Russia and the United States, which took responsibility for bringing, respectively, the Syrian government and the opposition to the negotiation table.
However, many opposition groups have already said they will not attend the Geneva talks, and Syrian President Bashar Assad has also implied that the government’s participation is not guaranteed.
Lavrov did not name any rebels’ sponsors in his diatribe. Syrian Islamists are believed to enjoy broad support from Sunni Arab nations, including Saudi Arabia and Qatar.
Lavrov also criticized previous threats against countries seeking a political solution to the crisis, including Russia.
Three Russian diplomats sustained minor injuries during last month’s shelling of an area around the Russian embassy in Damascus.