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No way radicals like Al-Nusra can be present in Geneva-2

There's no chance of bringing Syria’s radicals to the negotiating table – and that undermines the prospects for peace, Hisham Jaber from the Centre for Middle East Studies told RT.

As another extremely disturbing video from Syria has surfaced online, there are growing doubts that the Syrian opposition can be properly represented at the Geneva talks.  

An amateur clip, posted by the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, allegedly shows hardline islamists militants publicly executing members of a rival rebel group. The 7 victims are claimed to be members of a moderate Islamist group and were killed by the Islamic state of Iraq and the Levant radical organization affiliated with Al-Qaeda. The terror cell has been pushing for more control in rebel-held areas in Syria, against more moderate opposition factions.

Hisham Jaber, head of the Centre for Middle East Studies, thinks that in the run-up to the Geneva-2 talks violence will escalate on the ground in Syria. However, the more important question is which opposition groups are going to be present at the negotiations.

‘[The Syrian regime] can nominate in 5 minutes the Syrian official delegation, but what we can do with [the] others?’ Jaber said.

RT:What does this footage tell you about the situation on the ground in Syria?

Hisham Jaber: As you know several groups are fighting in Syria, starting from the groups who belong to Al-Qaeda clearly, like Al-Nusra and Jaysh [Al-Islam] and other Islamic groups who [don’t officially belong] to Al-Nusra. [Those groups have committed a lot of crimes] against people in Syria. When they fight the Syrian regime, of course, they [do] a lot of harm to civilians. That creates a kind of hunger among civilians, and now you see the Syrian regime fighting all these groups, including the Free Syrian Army which is between the Syrian regime and those groups. It is a mess in Syria now on the field. 

The Syrian armed forces are fighting in very strategic and important points around Damascus, because Damascus is [the] priority. A few weeks ago they started to fight [in] Al-Qalamoun, a post of strategic importance [in] the mountains. 

Reuters / Ahmed Jadallah

And when we start to talk about Geneva and Geneva-2, which has been finally fixed [for] January 22, we have to expect a lot of escalation in the military operation from both sides. This is the situation now, it’s not clear but we can summarize it and say that the first priority now for the Syrian regime is to clean up around Damascus and kick away those insurgents who [have] started to threaten the capital shelling mortars and artillery from day to day inside Damascus. 

Second, [the] Al-Qalamoun area is [a] very difficult and large area that has a lot of distractions, but the Syrian army has new tactics – to jump step by step. Now there is one armed division or two command brigades in Al-Qalamoun, supported by [National Defense] militia and maybe by Hezbollah. Hezbollah did not start Al-Qalamoun, now it’s fighting beside the regime because Hezbollah has another duty: it's to forbid those insurgents [to] go to Lebanon. They started yesterday [Thursday] to come to Lebanon, [a] few thousand came to Lebanon.

RT:Obviously, these groups can’t be controlled by the official opposition, they can’t participate in peace talks. So how could these atrocities be prevented?

HJ: I think the Secretary General or the assistant Lakhdar al-Ibrahimi at the United Nations and the great powers will [give] support [at] Geneva-2. They have a lot of work [over the]next forty days to [get] the opposition [to] their table. We did learn that we are going to have 2 tables in Geneva, one on the right [with] 9 members representing the regime, and [the] other presenting the opposition’s 9 members, and in-between the Secretary-General and his assistant. The Syrian regime doesn’t have any problem. It can nominate in 5 minutes the Syrian official delegation, but what we can do with [the] others? We have several oppositions: we have [the] Al-I'tilaf coalition; we have others who cannot accept [being] under the umbrella of the coalition; we are still talking about [outside] opposition. We also have political opposition inside. What about the Free Syrian Army? Is it going to be represented? Second, we [estimate the number of jihadists to be 60,000]. If they are not represented [in] Geneva, we cannot achieve [a] ceasefire. If they are, how can Al-Nusra be [there], they are on the terrorist list?

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.