UN envoy talks peace with Assad, condemns barrel bomb attacks
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and UN peace envoy Staffan de Mistura agreed Tuesday to continue talks to find a political solution to the ongoing conflict, Syria's state news agency reported.
At the end of their meeting, Assad and de Mistura "agreed... to find a successful political solution in Syria and to return security and stability throughout Syria", SANA said. The agency said de Mistura briefed Assad "on the results of his consultations in Geneva with Syrians who represent various sides of Syrian society".
On May 5, de Mistura launched a fresh round of consultative talks in Geneva with regional and local stakeholders in Syria's conflict, including Iran, in a bid to kick start political negotiations on the crisis. Participants have included government officials and members of the opposition-in-exile National Coalition, as well as representatives from regional countries, policy experts and civil society groups. The talks will continue throughout July, after which de Mistura will present an assessment to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon.
Assad and de Mistura also discussed the deaths of dozens of civilians on Monday in rebel rocket fire on government-controlled parts of Aleppo city, SANA said, referring to the deaths as a "massacre by terrorists". Monday's toll was one of the highest for the regime-held part of the city since the Syria conflict began in 2011. Assad warned that the world's "silence about the crimes committed by terrorists will encourage them to continue their terrorism".
"The whole world must wake up to the danger that this terrorism poses to security and stability, and it must take a clear and firm position against those who fund and arm and facilitate movement for terrorists," SANA cited Assad as saying. In a statement, de Mistura strongly condemned the deaths, but said they should not "justify in any case a retaliation on populated areas through barrel bombs by the Syrian government".
Barrel bombs are crude weapons, made of containers packed with explosives and scrap metal, that are typically dropped from helicopters and are one of the regime's weapons of choice. The Assad regime’s use of barrel bombs has been criticised by human rights groups because of the indiscriminate death toll they cause among civilians when dropped on residential areas.