Regime skips Geneva talks restart — source

Damascus: Syrian regime negotiators will remain in Damascus on Tuesday and Wednesday, a source close to the delegation said, skipping the scheduled resumption of United Nations-led peace talks in Geneva.

“The delegation will not leave today or tomorrow for Geneva, and the final decision (on attending) has not been taken yet,” the source told AFP on Tuesday.

An eighth round of peace talks aimed at ending Syria’s nearly seven-year war began in Geneva last week.

UN Syria envoy Staffan de Mistura announced shortly after the talks began that they would be extended by two weeks.

Negotiations were paused over the weekend, but both sides were expected to return to Geneva to resume discussions scheduled to begin on Tuesday.

However, the Al Watan newspaper, which is close to the government, said the regime’s delegation was in Damascus and was not expected to leave either Tuesday or Wednesday.

The daily said the invitation to return to the talks “is still being studied by the Syrian leadership”.

Meanwhile, the opposition delegation to the talks said its head Nasser Al Hariri had arrived in Geneva and would meet de Mistura on Tuesday afternoon.

On Monday, a government source had already cast doubt on the return of the delegation to the talks.

“For the time being there has been no final decision. Damascus is still thinking about the feasibility of its participation,” the government source told AFP, speaking on condition of anonymity.

“As soon as a decision is reached, it will be made public through the usual diplomatic channels.”

On the ground in Syria, a bomb blast killed eight people and injured 16 others on a bus in Homs on Tuesday, state media said, citing the city’s health authority.

Daesh claimed the attack, saying the blast killed 11 members of the Syrian army, its official news agency AMAQ said.

Many of the passengers were university students, Homs Governor Talal Barazi told state-run Ikhbariya TV. The blast in the government-held city hit the Akrama district, near Al Baath university.

Footage showed people crowding around the burned shell of a vehicle in the middle of a street. State television said “a bomb that terrorists planted in a passenger bus exploded”.

Daesh militants had claimed responsibility for a similar attack in Homs in May, when a car bomb killed four people and injured 32 others.

A string of bombings have struck cities under government control in Syria this year, including the capital Damascus. The Tahrir Al Sham alliance — led by fighters formerly linked to Al Qaida — has also claimed some of the deadly attacks.

The city of Homs went back under full government control in May, for the first time since the onset of Syria’s conflict more than six years ago. Hundreds of Syrian rebels and civilians were evacuated from the city’s last opposition district, Al Waer, which the army and allied forces had besieged.

With the help of Russian jets and Iran-backed militias, the Damascus government has pushed back rebel factions in western Syria, shoring up its rule over the main urban centres. The army and allied forces then marched eastwards against Daesh terrorists this year.

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