Russia and the Middle East
Wed, 15 august 2018Wed
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The chief peace negotiator of Syria's main opposition bloc said on Sunday he was resigning over the failure of the UN-backed Geneva peace talks to bring a political settlement to the Syria crisis. Mohammad Alloush, who is also the representative of the powerful Jaish al-Islam rebel faction in the Saudi-based High Negotiations Committee, told Al Jazeera that the peace talks failed to secure the release of thousands of prisoners languishing in regime custody.

"The peace talks failed to stop the bloodshed of our people, failed to secure the release of thousands of detainees or to push Syria towards a political transition without [Bashar] al-Assad and his criminal gang, - he said. - The Internbational Community needs to put serious pressure on Russia and Assad to stop the killing of our people."

The UN-backed parties have not set a date for the resumption of the peace talks after the High Negotiations Committee suspended their participation over intensifying of regime air strikes in recent weeks. Meanwhile, Syrian rebels have taken two villages from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) as they fought to undo gains made by the group in a surprise offensive days earlier, activists have said.

Rebels retook the villages of Kafr Shoush and Braghida on Sunday, expanding their buffer around the rebel-held town of Azaz, home to tens of thousands of people displaced by war, according to the Local Coordination Committees, an activist network inside the country. ISIL, also known as ISIS, took Syrian rebels by surprise on Sunday when they launched an offensive that threatened to seize Azaz and isolate Marea, another rebel-held town north of the contested city of Aleppo.

More than 160,000 civilians have been trapped by the fighting. The international medical organisation, Doctors Without Borders (MSF), evacuated one of the few remaining hospitals in the area. The rebel pocket around Azaz, which connects to the Turkish border, is surrounded by ISIL to one side and the predominantly Kurdish Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) to the other.