SAT 30 - 5 - 2020
Date: Jul 10, 2019
Source: The Daily Star
Syria rebels launch fresh Latakia offensive
Associated Press
BEIRUT/DAMASCUS: Rebels have launched a new offensive in the mountains of the coastal Latakia province, with opposition activists saying rebels overran a series of Syrian army positions.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said clashes were underway in several locations in the Turkman Mountains.

It said the fighting killed 35 people on both sides in the opening hours. There was no immediate government comment.

Several opposition activists also reported Tuesday’s operation.

The rebel offensive coincided with the U.N. special envoy for Syria’s visit to Damascus.

Geir Pedersen said he was looking forward to constructive discussions with Syrian officials on the formation of a constitutional committee as a “door opener for the broader political process.”

Pedersen spoke with reporters in Damascus shortly after arriving from Beirut. He is scheduled to hold meetings with Syrian government officials Wednesday. “I’m looking forward to have what I believe are constructive discussions on how to move the political process forward,” Pedersen said, adding he would also discuss ways to end the fighting in northwestern Idlib province.

Syria is locked in a devastating civil war pitting President Bashar Assad’s forces against rebels seeking to topple him. Fighting has raged in and around Idlib as government troops backed by Russia seek to make advances on the ground against insurgents who control the province.

Pedersen’s visit to Syria follows meetings he held Friday with Russian officials in Moscow, where he urged Russia to help stabilize the violence in Idlib and support drafting the country’s new constitution. Following his meetings there, he said, “We now seem to be closer to establishing a constitutional committee.”

The U.N. hopes that convening the constitutional committee will be the first step toward a new constitution and new elections.

However, Syrian officials have said they will not accept outside dictates when it comes to Syria’s constitution and have suggested Assad might even run for reelection.

The more than yearlong effort to form a 150-member constitutional committee has been dogged by objections from Syria’s government over the 50-member list representing experts, independents, tribal leaders and women. There is already agreement on 50-member lists from the government and the opposition.

Pedersen has been calling for confidence-building measures between the government and the opposition such as prisoner releases.

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