Russia asks UN to list key Syrian rebel group as 'terrorist'

Alloush is the chief negotiator for the High Negotiations Committee, the war-torn country's main opposition group


Afp April 27, 2016
PHOTO: AFP

MOSCOW: Russia has asked the United Nations to blacklist a major rebel group that is playing a key role in peace talks to end the Syrian civil war, its ambassador to the UN said.

Mohammed Alloush, a leading figure in Jaish al-Islam (Army of Islam), is the chief negotiator for the High Negotiations Committee, the war-torn country's main opposition group, at UN-brokered peace talks in Geneva.

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Russia, the key backer of President Bashar al-Assad's regime, has also asked that another rebel group, Ahrar al-Sham, be blacklisted.

"The Russian delegation submitted to the UN Security Council's Counter-Terrorism Committee a request" to add "two organisations: Jaish al-Islam and Ahrar al-Sham," to a blacklist that includes the Islamic State group and al Qaeda, Russia's ambassador to the UN Vitaly Churkin said in a statement Tuesday.

Churkin said that the two groups are "closely linked to terrorist organisations, primarily the Islamic State group and al Qaeda."

The groups "both give (the IS and al Qaeda) and receive from them financial, material, technical and military support," he said.

An unprecedented ceasefire deal brokered by Moscow and Washington saw Syria's government and rebel groups agree to halt attacks while pursuing peace talks.

However the HNC pulled out last week from the latest round of talks that began on April 13 in frustration over a spike in violence on the ground.

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Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov angrily accused the HNC's members of throwing "tantrums".

The Saudi-backed Jaish al-Islam rebel group is the most important in the Damascus province.

Ahrar al-Sham is among the most powerful rebel groups in Syria.

Financed by Turkey and Gulf states, it is allied to Al-Nusra Front, al Qaeda's Syria affiliate, and fights alongside it around Aleppo and in neighbouring Idlib province.

The Damascus regime has consistently branded all its opponents -- armed or not -- as "terrorists" since the outbreak of war in 2011.

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