(Today’s Zaman) – Seven members of Syria’s militant al-Nusra group were detained after police found sarin gas, which was reportedly going to be used in a bomb attack, during a search of the suspects’ homes, Turkish media have reported.
Newspapers claimed that two kilograms of sarin gas, which is usually used for making bombs and was banned by the UN in 1991, had been found in the homes of suspects detained in the southern provinces of Adana and Mersin. Twelve suspects were caught by the police on Monday. The reports claimed that the al-Nusra members had been planning a bomb attack for Thursday in Adana but that the attack was averted when the police caught the suspects.
Police on look-out for bomb-laden vehicle
In another incident in Adana, the police received intelligence that a bomb-laden vehicle had entered Adana, the bombs being of the same type used in a recent attack in Hatay’s Reyhanlı town, the Taraf daily reported. Security measures in Adana have been tightened in line with intelligence gathered.
The Hatay National Provincial Police Department said that police officers are guarding the roads in and out of the province and are keeping an eye out in the province for the vehicle mentioned in the intelligence.
On May 11, one car bomb exploded outside the town hall while another went off outside a post office in Reyhanlı, a main hub for Syrian refugees and opposition activity in Hatay. Fifty-two people were killed and as many as 100 were injured in the bombings.
More below the fold …
(JPost) – MOSCOW – Russian, US and UN officials will meet next week to discuss ways to bring the warring sides in Syria together for a peace conference, Russian news agencies quoted a Foreign Ministry official as saying on Thursday.
“Preparations for the international conference on Syria will be discussed” at the three-way meeting in Geneva on June 5, Interfax quoted the unidentified Russian ministry source as saying.
The official said US Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Wendy Sherman and UN Under Secretary General for Political Affairs Jeffrey Feltman would attend the June 5 meeting. State-run news agency RIA said Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov would also take part.
Lavrov and Kerry agreed to the June 5 meeting in Geneva with UN representatives at talks in Paris earlier this week, the Russian Foreign Ministry official was quoted as saying.
Lavrov accused the opposition Syrian National Coalition of undermining peace efforts after it said on Wednesday it would take part in the conference only if a deadline was set for a settlement that would force Syrian President Bashar Assad to leave power.
(Hürriyet Daily) – Syria’s main opposition group said today it would not take part in proposed U.S.-Russia peace talks, a day after Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu participated in their Istanbul meeting.
The Syrian National Coalition (SNC) will not take part in any international conference or any such efforts so long as the militias of Iran and Hezbollah continue their invasion of Syria,” the opposition acting chief George Sabra told reporters in Istanbul today, according to Agence France-Presse.
In addition to the question of participation in the proposed Geneva conference, the election of a new president, the agreeing on an interim government and the voting in of new members to join the group were the other main reasons for the gathering in Istanbul.
The minister addressed the opposition on behalf of the 11 core group members of Friends of Syria, a Turkish Foreign Ministry official told the Hürriyet Daily News ahead of his meeting on May 29.
The move came as a joint initiative of the members of the core group of the Friends of Syria, as the opposition’s meeting has been stalled for six days as of May 29, since the group failed to agree on any of the key talking points including participation in the proposed Geneva conference.
(Hürriyet Daily) – Last week Hezbollah, the Lebanese Shiite militant movement, and the forces of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad launched an assault against Syrian rebels in Qusayr, a strategic Syrian town close to the Lebanese border.
Meanwhile, Der Spiegel reported that Germany’s foreign intelligence agency, which predicted less than a year ago that al-Assad’s regime would soon collapse, now believes al-Assad will make significant advances. And on Wednesday, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry admitted in a meeting with the Friends of Syria in Amman that the Syrian regime has made some gains in the last few days. Here comes the question: What happens if al-Assad wins Qusayr?
The fight for Qusayr is seen as a pivotal test for the opposing sides of the Syrian crisis since it will determine the direction of the war. Victory in Qusayr would allow the Syrian regime easy access to Tartus, the Mediterranean port city, where Russia could supply both oil and weapons in the event Damascus falls. It would also facilitate weapons transfers from Iran and from the Syrian regime to Hezbollah. Tartus also provides an entry to the coastal region dominated by al-Assad’s Alawite sect. This would not only provide an essential refuge for al-Assad, but also geographic continuity between Alawite areas in Syria and predominantly Shiite areas in Lebanon. Moreover, by reasserting its military superiority, the Syrian regime would gain a stronger negotiating position at the Geneva summit, which will take place next month in a bid to find a political solution to the Syrian conflict.