UN efforts to launch a new round of Syria peace talks sputtered today as suicide attacks killed dozens of people, raising the death toll from two days of violence to more than 80. The blasts which targeted two security service bases in Homs, Syria’s third city, killed a top intelligence chief and close confidant of President Bashar al-Assad, and were claimed by former Al-Qaeda affiliate Fateh al-Sham Front. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said 42 people were killed, but the provincial governor put the figure at 30 dead in bloodshed which came just 24 hours after another suicide bombing in the northern town of Al-Bab that killed 51. That attack was claimed by Islamic State (IS) group militants.
In Geneva, Syrian government and opposition negotiators were to continue meetings with United Nations mediator Staffan de Mistura through the weekend although there was little hope for a breakthrough.
After meeting de Mistura yesterday, regime delegation chief Bashar al-Jaafari said he would study a UN paper on the “format” of the talks, but gave no indication that the negotiations had any momentum.
The main opposition High Negotiations Committee (HNC) described its meeting with de Mistura as “positive”, without elaborating on a possible path forward.
During three previous rounds of talks in Geneva last year, the rivals never sat down at the same table, instead leaving de Mistura to shuttle between them.
The HNC has said it wants to meet the government face-to-face this time.
At the end of yesterday’s negotiations, de Mistura’s acting chief of staff Michael Contet signalled there was no immediate prospect of direct talks.
Yesterday’s attack saw the bombers targeting the headquarters of state security and military intelligence in a spectacular attack which successfully targeted General Hassan Daabul, a top military intelligence official.
“There were at least six attackers and several of them blew themselves up near the headquarters of state security and military intelligence,” Syrian Observatory for Human Rights director Rami Abdel Rahman told AFP.
Fateh al-Sham Front, however, said just five militants took part in the assault, the latest atrocity in a six-year war which has killed more than 310,000 people.