PALMYRA - Syria's opposition refused
Thursday to hail the Damascus regime's
recapture of Palmyra from the Islamic State
group, calling both sides terrorists and
saying it was like watching cartoon
characters Tom and Jerry.
The High Negotiating Committee (HNC), the
main opposition group at UN-sponsored peace
talks in Geneva, recalled that the historic
city has now been seized from IS fighters
twice in the last year.
"As for congratulating (Syrian President)
Bashar al-Assad, if we do then we would also
have to congratulate (Islamic State) in the
future if they take over Palmyra," HNC
delegation chief Nasr al-Hariri told
"Both are terrorists. Bashar al-Assad is
a terrorist in accordance with international
law," he added, when asked if he would hail
the Damascus achievement.
Noting that it was the second such
"handover", he said: "This is being
obviously used for political reasons.
"You as expert professional journalists
should be aware of it: if we want to follow
the game of Assad and Palmyra it will be
like watching Tom and Jerry," the cartoon
cat and mouse foes.
He was speaking after Syrian troops
backed by Russian jets completed the
recapture of Palmyra, following a battle
through the desert for weeks to reach the
The oasis city has traded hands several
times during Syria's six-year civil war and
become a symbol of IS's wanton destruction
of priceless cultural heritage in areas
under its control.
Syrian regime and opposition negotiators
have been in Geneva for the last week in the
fourth round of UN-sponsored talks, but
there has been little progress and no direct
talks between the delegations themselves.
As in previous rounds, UN envoy Staffan
de Mistura has shuttled between the two
sides for separate talks, mostly focused so
far on hammering out the agenda for talks
proper, whenever they may start.