– Syrian opposition to attend Geneva peace talks
– Syrians use truce to resume Friday protests
– Syrian rebels take border crossing from ISIS
– EU migration summit looks to Turkey to stem influx
– Turkish president suggests building refugee city in northern Syria
– Seized Turkish newspaper adopts pro-government line, receives international condemnation

Syrian opposition to attend Geneva peace talks
The main Syrian opposition council will attend talks scheduled for March 10 that the United Nations aims to convene in Geneva “God willing,” and wants an immediate start to negotiations on a transitional governing body, a spokesman for the High Negotiations Committee (HNC) said on Monday. A member of the HNC Riad Nassan Agha said, “We started to notice that the volume of violations has started to reduce in the last two days. We hope that in the coming days until Friday that the violations reach zero,” he said. “If these violations end this will create the favorable environment for the start of negotiations.” The Syrian Observatory for Human RIghts (SOHR) Director Rami Abdulrahman said “Sunday [March 6] was the calmest day since the ceasefire came into effect.” Also this weekend the main opposition group the Syrian National Coalition announced the election of Anas al-Abda to replace former President Khaled Khoja. [Reuters, AFP, 3/7/2016]

Syrians use truce to resume Friday protests
Hundreds of Syrians nationwide took advantage of the ceasefire on Friday to resume anti-government protests under the slogan “The Revolution Continues!” Waving the rebellion’s three-starred tricolor flag, demonstrators in areas of Aleppo, Damascus, Deraa, and Homs called for the downfall of President Bashar al-Assad’s regime. “You could say we’ve gone back to the beginning,” said Hasaan Abu Nuh, an activist from Homs province. “People are so, so happy. There was crying, there was joy, but there was also a lump in people’s throats,” he said. “With this truce, we have the opportunity to express why we came out to the streets in the first place, which is the downfall of the regime,” said Abu Nadim, an activist in the city. Also on Friday UN Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura reiterated that the solution in Syria should be Syrian-led, while Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir said Saturday that Assad must leave office as soon as a transitional authority is set up. Also this weekend an Iranian-government owned outlet quoted Iranian President Hassan Rouhani saying that there is no difference between Iran and Turkey regarding stopping the war in Syria. [AFP, NYT, 3/4/2016]

Syrian rebels take border crossing from ISIS
Two Syrian opposition monitoring groups say rebel fighters have seized the Syrian side of a major Syria-Iraq border crossing from the Islamic State (ISIS or ISIL). Fighters from the New Syria Army militia took the Tanaf border crossing Friday night, according to SOHR. The fighting began Friday when US-backed fighters from the Free Syrian Army’s Southern Front routed ISIS fighters at the border, killing one and wounding several others, according to the Local Coordination Committees, an opposition network in Syria. The Tanf crossing in southeastern Syria links the Homs province, including the ISIS-held ancient city of Palmyra, to Iraq’s Anbar province, where ISIS has a large presence. [AP, 3/5/2016]

EU migration summit looks to Turkey to stem influx
EU leaders held a summit with Turkey’s prime minister on Monday in order to back closing the Balkans migrant route and urged Ankara to accept deportations of large numbers of economic migrants from overstretched Greece. In a draft statement prepared for the talks, the leaders said they will pursue “comprehensive, large scale and fast-track returns to Turkey of all irregular migrants not in need of international protection.” The European Union is hardening its stance in a bid to defuse the worst refugee crisis since World War II by increasingly putting the onus on Turkey and EU member Greece in return for aid. The European Commission trumpeted the availability of tens of millions of euros to help Syrian school children and provide food aid. It said that a new roadmap on visa liberalization for Turkey had also been submitted. Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu has said he hopes the summit would mark a turning point in EU-Turkey ties. He said the meeting is as focused on Turkey’s future EU membership as on the refugee emergency. [Hurriyet, Reuters, AP, Guardian, 3/7/2017]

Turkish president suggests building refugee city in northern Syria
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has suggested building a new city in northern Syria to house some of the millions of refugees escaping the country’s civil war. Erdogan said in a speech in Istanbul late Friday that the new city would be located near the Turkish border and said he had even discussed the idea with US President Barack Obama. State-run Anadolu Agency quoted Erdogan as saying, “Let’s build a city in northern Syria. Let’s build an approximately 4,500-square meter [wide] city and include everything, infrastructure…with the international community.” Refugees from Syria could be resettled there, he said. Such an area would make the city comparable to some of the largest urban centers in the United States. [Al Arabiya, Anadolu Agency, Rudaw, 3/5/2016]

Seized Turkish newspaper adopts pro-government line, receives international condemnation
Turkey’s largest-circulation newspaper has adopted a more pro-government line in its first edition since a court ordered it to be seized, a move which has heightened fears over deteriorating media freedom in the country. Police stormed the headquarters of the Zaman opposition newspaper Friday to enforce a court decision to place it and its sister outlets under the management of trustees. The step sparked two days of protests which police dispersed using tear gas and water cannons. Many have called out against the move. The White House has called the takeover troubling, as the French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault on France Inter radio defined the seizure of Zaman unacceptable and against European values. Human Rights Watch released a scathing statement point to government aims to eradicate opposition. The Turkish Prime Minister has pointed to the decision as having been issued by the judiciary, stating “It is a completely legal process. No one should have hesitation about press freedom in Turkey.” Some former employees of the agency have started a new daily titled Yarina Bakis, a Turkish phrase meaning looking toward tomorrow. [AP, Al Jazeera, 3/7/2016]