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Mar. 04, 2017

Syria opposition likens Palmyra recapture to 'Tom and Jerry'

Syrian troops backed by Russian jets completed the recapture of Palmyra

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 reporters.

"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 city.

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.