“Your help to Salim Idriss isn’t going fast enough,” the official quoted the commander as saying. “How do I tell my guys, ‘Wait for the stuff from Salim Idriss. Don’t take that money from that business guy who is backed by an Islamist network’?” The senior official spoke anonymously because he said he was not authorized to speak on the record.
The main diplomatic move announced Sunday was the call for a return to discussions with Russia on a political resolution of the conflict, based on an accord agreed reached in Geneva last July that called for a transitional government, members of whom would be nominated by, and accepted by both sides.
Assad named an aide to represent him in the talks, but the rebels did not, and diplomats say Russia has insisted that Assad effectively have a major role in the transition. In the joint statement early Sunday, the 11 participants – Egypt, France, Germany, Jordan, Italy, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Britain, the United States and Turkey, said “Assad and his close associates have no place in the future of Syria” and should cede power to a transitional executive body.
Kerry sought to offer at least a rhetorical olive branch to Russia, noting that the “framework of peace” was agreed to “by the international community, including our friends, the Russians.” But the joint statement of the 11 countries also warned that if Assad rejects a peaceful transition, “further announcements regarding expanding our assistance will follow.”
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, who negotiated the framework with Kerry’s predecessor, Hillary Clinton, was in Turkey on the eve of the 11-nation talks, but there was no sign of any political shift. The discussion is expected to continue Tuesday, when Kerry attends a meeting of NATO foreign ministers that Lavrov is also expected to attend.