After days of loudly condemning the Syrian military for an offensive against al-Qaeda controlled territory south of the city of Aleppo, the Syrian rebel negotiating team in Geneva has withdrawn from the UN-brokered peace talks.
Officials are presenting this simply as a “postponement” of the talks, and say that the rebel negotiators will remain in Geneva for now, with the possibility of returning to the talks, though top negotiator Mohammed Alloush inssisted there was “no way” they’d return.
The US and Russia brokered ceasefire deal explicitly excluded both ISIS and al-Qaeda’s Nusra Front, to allow the ceasefire parties to continue offensives against those factions. Nusra, however, has close ties to several Islamist rebel factions, and those rebels are treating attacks on Nusra as attacks on the rebellion.
The US appears to be endorsing the rebels’ decision to withdraw from the talks, demanding that Russia use its influence to stop Syria’s ongoing offensive against Nusra territory. Other Western diplomats, however, warn that if the talks collapse over this, the rebels will be blamed.