Iran to recapture rebel-held areas in Syria
Iran has launched an “organized invasion” of the suburban areas of the capital Damascus, the Syrian opposition Defense Minister Asaad Mustafa told Al Arabiya News Channel on Saturday.
Mustafa said the suburb of Ghouta - where a chemical weapons attack took place in August - had been the subject of an offensive involving large military forces and “heavy” shelling.
“It is clear which forces are behind the organized invasion,” said Mustafa. “It includes the Iranian forces, Hezbollah and the Iraqi forces,” he added.
The opposition minister said that foreign groups loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime were responsible for most of the offensive.
“They are the ones fighting and the regime forces are only there to ‘picture’ it,” he said.
Mustafa accused the sponsors of the upcoming U.N.-brokered Geneva II peace conference of “allowing” the foreign forces to operate in Syria and called for their immediate withdrawal.
“The United States and Russia who are preparing for the Geneva II conference should not allow these invading forces,” he said.
Expressing doubt in the Geneva talks that aim to end the 32-month Syrian conflict, Mustafa said that the conference’s agenda must be clear and controlled.
“I firmly believe that Geneva will not achieve anything,” said the opposition minister. “The Geneva conference must be clear and all the terms and conditions of Geneva 1 must be applied,” he added.
The proposed Geneva II talks were to be held before the end of November.
However, failure from Syrian opposition groups to agree on with a clear stance, as well as differences between Washington and Moscow over the purpose of the talks and opposition representation have made delays likely.
Last week, the Syrian National Coalition agreed to participate in peace talks in Geneva which are aimed at bringing together Assad’s regime and opposition members to create a transitional government and end Syria’s civil war that has left over 120,000 dead.
Opposition groups want Assad’s departure from power to be a condition of peace talks, while the regime has said that the president’s role will not be on the table