AL-QAIDA’S Syrian branch turned on its Western-backed allies yesterday — just as a peace deal with other factions was being signed in Kazakhstan.
The Levant Conquest Front (LCF) moved against fellow Salafist extremists Ahrar as-Sham and the Army of Mojahedin — a major faction of the Western-backed Free Syrian Army (FSA).
LCF — a rebranding of the UN-proscribed Nusra Front — seized or besieged towns and villages held by its erstwhile friends across occupied Idlib province and western areas of neighbouring Aleppo province.
The LCF also issued a communique expelling fellow al-Qaida affiliate Jund al-Aqsa, which pledged allegiance to the dominant faction after it lost out in infighting with Ahrar as-Sham last year.
Ahrar as-Sham is one of the two dominant groups in the Saudi-based, Western-backed High Negotiations Committee (HNC).
But it has rejected the ceasefire — struck following the Syrian army’s liberation of Aleppo — and the talks in Astana.
UN envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura hailed a watershed there yesterday afternoon when other HNC groups signed a ceasefire with the Syrian government delegation.
Russia, Iran and Turkey will act as guarantors to the ceasefire, which will pave the way for substantial peace talks in Geneva to begin on February 8.
The declaration stressed that “there is no military solution to the Syrian crisis and that it can only be solved through a political process based on the implementation of UN security council resolution 2254 in its entirety.”
That means “armed opposition groups” must end their alliance with Isis and the LCF and join in defeating them.
Syrian UN ambassador and delegation leader Bashar al-Ja’afari called on Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar to end their support of the terrorist groups they fostered in his country.
“Stop playing with fire and betting on losing cards,” he warned. “Everybody has lost, including the countries supporting terrorism.”
Meanwhile army troops took back more villages north-east of Aleppo from Isis — putting them within striking distance of al-Bab — which the Turkish army and its FSA allies are trying to capture.
Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Numan Kurtulmus said yesterday Turkey would refuse to surrender the town to Syrian forces following its capture.
Russian jets blitzed rebel targets on Monday with target data Moscow said was provided by Washington.
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