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Syria vows 'retaliation' as attack jolts peace talks

AFP , Saturday 25 Feb 2017

Syria vowed Saturday to retaliate following the deadly suicide assault in its third city Homs, as the UN said the attack was aimed to "spoil" sputtering peace talks starting in Geneva.

"The terrorist attacks that targeted Homs today were a clear message from the sponsors of terrorism to Geneva," said Bashar al-Jaafari, the Damascus envoy to the UN-brokered talks said.

"We want to tell them that this message has been received... and we won't allow for it to pass without retaliation," he told reporters at UN offices in the Swiss city.

Jaafari was speaking as he arrived for more talks with UN Syria envoy Staffan de Mistura.

The veteran diplomat was holding more separate meetings with Syrian regime and opposition negotiators, seeking to kickstart a new round of peace talks.

Speaking shortly before the Syrian envoy, de Mistura said the Homs attacks were designed to "spoil" peace talks.

Asked if the attacks would affect the UN-sponsored talks, he said: "I hope not, but it was tragic."

He added "every time we are having talks or negotiations there is always someone who tries to spoil. We were expecting that."

At the last such UN-sponsored talks the two sides did not meet for face-to-face negotiations, with de Mistura shuttling between them as a mediator.

The UN envoy said Friday that he would ideally like to get them to talk directly, but acknowledged that there were difficulties in achieving that.

The suicide assaults on two security service bases in Syria's third city of Homs killed dozens of people, including a top intelligence chief, overshadowing the Geneva talks.

Syria's former Al-Qaeda affiliate Fateh al-Sham Front claimed the spectacular attack which targeted and killed General Hassan Daabul, a close confidant of President Bashar al-Assad.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said 42 people were killed when the bombers targeted the headquarters of state security and military intelligence in the heavily guarded Ghouta and Mahatta neighbourhoods.

Provincial governor Talal Barazi said 30 people were killed and 24 wounded.

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