x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 January 2018

Syrian opposition groups say UN-brokered peace plan is 'a waste of time'

Syrian opposition fiture Haitham Maleh describes the plan as 'a waste of time' and says he will not sit to negotiate with president Bashar Al Assad or members of his 'murderous' regime.

BEIRUT // Syrian opposition groups have rejected a UN-brokered peace plan for a political transition in Syria as ambiguous and a waste of time.

An international conference in Geneva on Saturday accepted Kofi Annan's plan that calls for the creation of a transitional government but, at Russia's insistence, the compromise agreement left the door open to Syria's president being part of it.

The Syrian opposition figure, Haitham Maleh, said the agreement was "a waste of time" and pledged yesterday not to sit with president Bashar Al Assad or members of his "murderous" regime.

A spokesperson for the Syrian National Council opposition umbrella group, Bassam Kodmani, said the agreement was "ambiguous" and lacked a mechanism or timetable for implementation.

Yesterday, Syria's main opposition group said nearly 800 people had been killed in violence across the country in the past week, which saw some of the bloodiest violence in the 16-month uprising against the Al Assad regime.

Opposition activists groups estimate more than 14,000 people have been killed in the uprising or, on average, about 900 a month. That would make last week's toll alone, tallied by the Syrian National Council, almost as high as the monthly average.

The conflict is also threatening to spill across borders after Syria shot down a warplane from neighbouring Turkey, which responded by setting up anti-aircraft guns along the frontier. Turkey said yesterday it scrambled fighter jets to its border after Syrian helicopters flew too close to the frontier.

The mounting death toll and border tensions have added urgency to the diplomatic efforts at an international conference over the weekend.

Activists said about 40 people were killed and wounded in a powerful explosion on Saturday evening that hit a funeral procession in a Damascus suburb. Details of the blast remain murky, but amateur videos showed images of bodies, some with their limbs torn, on the ground.

Activists blamed government forces for the explosion, which they said was likely the result of a car bomb detonated near a mosque where the funeral of an activist killed earlier by regime gunmen was being held.