Talks between UN-Arab League envoy Lakhdar Brahimi and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in Damascus got off to a rocky start, with Assad saying foreign forces must stop "support for terrorist groups" fighting the Syrian army. Despite the tense negotiations, a UN official told the BBC that the two had "a good meeting." Syria's opposition has debated whether or not to attend the talks being held next month in Geneva without a precondition that Assad is removed from power. Assad's government says there should be no such preconditions for any negotiations. Assad continued pushing the issue of support for the rebel groups, saying "the success of any political solution is tied to stopping support for terrorist groups and pressuring their patron states." The war which has killed over 100,000 people in its two and a half years shows little sign of abating even with peace talks in the works. Assad's refusal to leave is backed by his bulwark ally Russia, halting any type of military action against the state, even in the wake of reports of chemical weapons used by the Syrian army against civilians and combatants. After the infamous gaffe by John Kerry, Assad and his government fell in line saying they would allow UN inspectors to come into the country to collect and dismantle Assad's chemical arsenal. While this temporarily halted a U.S. led invasion of the country, matters within the country have remained stagnant, with sporadic fighting and shelling of cities and towns all around Syria. Meanwhile it's been reported that 2 million refugees have flooded neighboring countries, presenting a host of problems for the surrounding region. 4.5 million have been displaced within the country. With infrastructure crumbling and the Syrian army having ties to Islamic terrorist organizations, the situation in Syria seems like a no-win for the parties involved. Despite the bleak outlook, the U.S. and its allies have been funding and arming the Syrian rebels in hopes of tipping the tide in favor of the opposition. Meanwhile reports that members of the opposition have taken captive Red Cross workers on their way to Damascus have only worsened the situation and given Assad some considerable credibility when he calls the rebels "terrorists". Syria has been labeled "The most dangerous country in the world" by Reporters without Borders, citing 25 reporters killed and 33 imprisoned since the civil war began in 2011. Extremists within the ranks have also reportedly burned down churches, destroyed statues and desecrated shrines of minority Muslim sects, most specifically the Sufi branch of Islam.
By John Amaruso Source ABC