Syrians fleeing the battle for control of Aleppo walk towards the Turkish border at the Bab al-Salam border gate, on February 5th. The districts held by anti-governmetn forces  in Aleppo are a prize they dare not lose. Photograph: Depo Photos via AP

Wresting control of city from various factions key to Assad’s bid for legitimacy

UN envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura announces the suspension of peace talks in Geneva on Tuesday. Photograph: Martial Trezzin/Keystone via APi

Analysis: Blame for derailed negotiations is being passed between the powers involved

Al Zaatari  camp in the Jordanian city of Mafraq. Jordan’s King Abdullah said  his people could not accept any more refugees. Photograph: Muhammad Hamed/Reuters

John Ging outlines humanitarian challenge ahead of London summit to raise money for Syria

UN special envoy Staffan de Mistura (second from left) during Syrian peace talks. “The first, immediate objective is to ensure talks are ongoing and everyone is on board,” he said. Photograph: Fabrice Coffrini/AFP/Getty Images

UN human rights chief calls for ‘no amnesty’ for war crimes or crimes against humanity

UN envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura: said he is “optimistic and determined because it’s an historic occasion not to be missed.” Photograph: Fabrice Coffrini/AFP/Getty Images

Ban Ki-moon calls on all parties to put Syrian people ‘at the heart of their discussions’

Indirect peace talks aimed at resolving Syria’s five-year conflict began Friday at the UN headquarters in Geneva, without the participation of the main opposition group. Photograph: Martial Trezzini/Keystone via AP

UN envoy chides Riyadh-based opposition for boycotting negotiations in Geneva to end war

Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad was told to ‘step aside’ by US president Barack Obama in 2011. Photograph: EPA

Analysis: Crisis might have been resolved in 2011 if US president had not intervened

A Syrian protester waves a national flag at a rally  in June 2011.  Five years of this conflict have been too much, says UN envoy Staffan de Mistura. Photograph: AP Photo

Long-awaited negotiations to end the five-year war in Syria begin in Geneva today

 Walid Muallem, Deputy Prime Minister of Syria:  will head the government delegation to UN-brokered peace talks. Photograph: Andrew Renneisen/Getty Images

Kurdish-Arab Syrian Democratic Council will be included at a ‘later stage’

Yacoub El Hillo, UN Resident and Humanitarian Co-ordinator  for the Syrian Arab Republic, informs the media on the humanitarian situation of Syria. Photograph: Salvatore Di Nolfi/EPA

Humanitarian officials say priority must be given to the humanitarian situation in talks

UN special envoy  Staffan de Mistura  announcing at a press conference in Geneva on Monday that Syrian peace talks are to begin on Friday. Photograph:  Denis Balibouse/Reuters

Multilateral meetings in Geneva expected to last six months, with ceasefire a priority

Protesters clash with riot police in Cairo, January 2011. Photograph: Ben Curtis/AP Photo

In spite of Morsi’s abuse of power in wake of the 2011 revolution, idealism still exists

US secretary of state John Kerry   with Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu: Asked if he was concerned that a delay might lead to a loss of momentum, Mr Kerry  said: “There is not going to be a fundamental delay.” Photograph: Jacquelyn Martin/AFP/Getty Images

Deadlock remains over Saudi demand to be sole representative of Syrian opposition

Children stand next to a burnt-outvehicle during during clases in Mosul in June 2014 between Iraqi security forces and Islamic State. The terror group’s revenues are reported to have fallen from a peak of €2 billion in that year. Photograph: Reuters

Falling oil revenues among the causes of terror group’s increasing financial distress

A Free Syrian Army fighter places a shell before firing it towards Islamic State fighters in the northern Aleppo countryside, Syria.  Aleppo’s eastern quarters are held by insurgents while Isis has a presence in the countryside east and south of the city.   Photograph: Reuters

January 25th talks with government may be postponed if no agreement reached

Expectations have been high in Tehran and western capitals over Iran’s reintegration in the global economy, with European businessmen rushing to Tehran to propose deals. Above: a man drives a motorcycle in Tehran.  Photograph: Simon Dawson/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Approval from atomic energy agency would open Iranian economy to foreign investment

UN envoy to Syria Staffan de Mistura (left) and Iran’s deputy foreign minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian arrive for a meeting in Tehran. Photograph: Atta Kenare/AFP/Getty Images

Regional tensions cast a shadow over scheduled talks in Geneva in late January

Saudi Arabia’s deputy crown prince and defence minister  Mohammad Bin Salman Al Saud with Pakistan’s army chief General Raheel Sharif Photograph: AFP Photo/Inter Services Public Relations

Fallout from execution of cleric goes on but defence minister does not foresee war

Saudi Arabia’s King Salman has endorsed injudicious policies that could have disastrous consequences for his country and the Middle East. File photograph: Ho/AFP/Getty Images

Mass execution elicits threats of retribution from jihadis and ruptures relations with Iran

Iranian protesters set fire to the Saudi Arabia embassy on Saturday amid a backlash over the execution of a prominent Shiite cleric in Saudi Arabia. Photograph: Mohammad Reza Nadimi/EPA

Iran looks set to make things difficult for the kingdom after execution of Shia cleric

  Bronagh and Bob Cumbers, parents of BBC cameraman Simon Cumbers (in photo on left), shot dead in Saudi Arabia in 2004,  at their home in Navan in 2009. Photograph: Alan Betson

Irish journalist’s murderer among 47 men convicted of terrorism put to death by state

Boys exercising at Husseiniya school. Photograph: Michael Jansen

Project seen as shining example for Syria’s ‘reconciliation’ programme

Syrian antiquities chief Maamoun Abdulkarim  at his office in  Damascus. Photograph: Louai Beshara/AFP/Getty

Islamic State is not the only threat to the preservation of a unique cultural legacy

Christmas holiday lights hang from trees in the ancient quarter of Bab al-Sharqi in Damascus. Photograph: Omar Sanadiki/Reuters

‘We will not let mortars push Christians out. If we leave, we leave for the cemetery’

Syrians gather at the scene of a car bomb attack in Homs. Photograph: EPA/STR

Schools, shops and other businesses reopen in Syria’s third city following UN-brokered truce

A high degree of resilience: Syrians walk past a billboard in Damascus which bears the slogan: “You are the future and long live the country”. Photograph: Louai Beshara/AFP/Getty Images

The capital Damascus looks a little worn but locals are masters in the art of coping

A medic treats an injured girl inside a field hospital after what activists said were air and missile strikes in the Douma neighborhood of Damascus, Syria. The New York talks are geared to find a solution and bring peace to the war-torn state. Photograph: Reuters

Assad regime wants ‘clearcut decisions’ on terrorist groups and credible opposition

Members of the Syrian Arab Red Crescent help some of the 300 civilians leaving the al-Waer neighbourhood, the last area under opposition control in central Homs, Syria, on Wednesday. Photograph: EPA/Syrian Arab News Agency

First evacuations in two-month withdrawal plan hailed as victory for Damascus, Moscow

Female fighters from the Kurdish People’s Protection Units taking a break on the front line in the northeastern Syrian city of Hassakeh. Photograph: Delil Souleiman/AFP/Getty Images

Attendees of conference in Riyadh focus on ousting Syrian president Bashar al-Assad

Syria’s president Bashar al-Assad during an interview with  Sunday Times journalist Hala Jaber in Damascus on December 2nd. Photograph: EPA/Syrian Arab News Agency

Move to form united front ahead of negotiations with Syrian government scheduled for next month

An RAF Typhoon plane flies above  southern Cyprus on Thursday. Photograph: Darren Staples

Islamic State is a terrorist group that will defend its areas against all comers

An Egyptian voter shows her ink-stained finger after voting   in Cairo. Photograph: Khaled Elfiqi/EPA

Voter fatigue and bad weather blamed for low turnout in poll for 282 seats

 Syria’s president, Bashar al-Assad. Western powers want his removal from office as part of a Syrian peace deal. Photograph: EPA/Syrian Arab News Agency

Obsessive focus on particular Middle Eastern figures has only made them stronger

Egyptians light candles as the French and Egyptian flags and France’s national colours are projected onto one of the pyramids at Giza, outside Cairo,   in tribute to the victims of the Paris attacks. The words on the pyramid read: “Solidarity with France”. Photograph:  Amr Abdallah Dalsh/Reuters

The outpouring of empathy in the West for France has caused resentment in other places

Saudi King Salman with  Egypt’s president Abdel Fattah al-Sisi. Both condemned the weekend attacks in Paris. Photograph:  Fayez Nureldine/AFP/Getty Images

Kuwaiti sheikh: attacks ‘counter to all teachings of holy faith and humanitarian values’

Delicate diplomacy: John Kerry with foreign ministers from Russia, Sergei Lavrov; Saudi Arabia, Adel al-Jubeir; and Turkey, Feridun Sinirlioglu. Photograph: Brendan Smialowski/Reuters

Transfer of power and role of Bashar al-Assad are key items on the agenda in Vienna

A Russian employee of a hotel teaches belly dancing to Russian tourists in Sharm el-Sheikh on Tuesday. Photograph: Asmaa Waguih/Reuters

Job losses in tourism industry could impoverish millions of Egyptians

Migrants clamber on to a dinghy to sail for the Greek island of Chios from the western Turkish coastal town of Cesme on Wednesday. Greece and Bulgaria complain that Turkey does nothing to halt the flow into their countries of refugees. Photograph: Umit Bektas/Reuters

Using Islam as a tool in the Arab world, Erdogan is cast as a modern sultan

Ahmed Chalabi, the Iraqi politician who from exile helped persuade the United States to invade Iraq in 2003. Photograph: the New York Times

Backer of regime change lost credibility when no weapons of mass destruction found

Yemenis unload food parcels provided by the Red Crescent in the southern port city of Aden. Yemenis’ ability to buy food has deteriorated. Photograph: Saleh al-Obeidi/AFP/Getty Images.

No deliveries for five weeks to Taiz where 240,000 civilians are in urgent need of food

US secretary of state John Kerry and Russia’s foreign minister Sergei Lavrov during talks in Vienna on October 23rd on the Syrian civil war. Iran has accepted an invitation to join talks. Photograph: Carlo Allegri/New York Times

Washington accepts Assad ally must to be part of solution in war-torn country

German chancellor Angela Merkel shakes hands with Cypriot president Nicos Anastasiades, as European Council president Donald Tusk and European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker point to her seat during the European People’s Party congress in Madrid, on Thursday. Photograph: Susana Vera/Reuters

President sought reunification guarantees in exchange for support on EU accession talks

A man inspects a  house  hit by what activists said was an air strike by forces loyal to Syria’s president Bashar al-Assad, in the town of Marshamsha, in the southern countryside of Idlib, Syria. Photograph: Khalil Ashawi/Reuters

Saudi-Turkish policy shifting in face of battlefield setbacks for extremists

Campaign meeting of the Love of Egypt party in the city of Qena. Voting is to begin on Sunday. Photograph: Khaled Desouki/AFP/Getty Images

Several parties founded in the wake of the 2011 uprising are boycotting the poll

A cross hangs over the street in  Beirut, Lebanon. The document says if the current exodus continues, by 2020 there could be no Christians in Iraq, where persecution is “extreme”. Photograph: Patrick Baz/AFP/Getty Images

Persecution removing Christianity from biblical heartland, says Aid to the Church in Need

Relatives mourn a victim of the twin bombings in Ankara. Photograph: Bulent Kilic/AFP/Getty Images

Attack on peace rally could be blowback for Turkey and Saudi Arabia’s support

Palestinians use slingshots to hurl stones towards Israeli troops in the occupied West Bank city of Bethlehem. Photograph: Mussa Qawasma/Reuters

Spate of assaults on Israelis triggers concern that yet another uprising on way

Syria’s president Bashar al-Assad: targeting of Syria shows Moscow gives priority to strengthening Damascus against near enemies rather than striking Islamic State. Photograph: Sana via Reuters

Military action by Moscow places political pressure on other players

Sisters Canan Osman (2) and  Lina (8)  at Harran refugee camp in  Turkey. Women and children make up nearly a quarter of nearly 80,000 civilians killed in the Syrian war. Photograph: Cem Turkel/EPA

British Medical Journal report says bombing and shelling most likely to cause child deaths

An ambulance evacuates victims following the crush at Mecca. Photograph: Reuters/Stringer

Revision of pilgrim event is ordered as it appears some routes were closed

Vladimir Putin’s Russian military is not only expanding its presence and role in Syria but has also agreed to set up an anti-IS operations command with Iran, Syria and Iraq

Moscow concern over IS enlistment of 2,000 radicals from Russia’s Muslim republics

Western leaders now say  Syrian president Bashar al-Assad must be involved in peace talks. Photograph: Vahid Salemi/AP Photo

Analysis: Western leaders know Syria president’s army is only ground force in region

Syrian president Bashar al-Assad (left) giving an interview to Russian media outlets on September 15th. Russia’s recent military build-up in Syria aims to boost his embattled regime. Photograph: AFP Photo/HO/Sana

Moscow increases military force in determination to prevent collapse of Syrian state

Those arriving have injuries to their feet and ankles from walking great distances. Some have been tortured or shot. Photograph: Jörg Carstensen/AFP/Getty Images

Germany needs ‘big emergency plan’ to help refugees, says doctor in Munich

 Syrian president Bashar Assad told western governments: “If you are worried [about refugees], stop supporting terrorists.”   Photograph: Vahid Salemi/AP

Syrian president says West has provided financial and military backing for opponents

Woman and child on a platform in Berlin’s Schoenefeld station after emerging from a special train coming from Munich. Photograph: AFP/Getty Images

‘When we reached Germany we ...understood we were entering another stage in our lives’

Residents waiting in line to receive food aid distributed in the Palestinian Yarmouk refugee camp, Damascus, in January 2014. Many Palestinian refugees fled the camp after it was overrun by al-Qaeda-linked Jabhat al-Nusra fighters. Photograph:  United Nation Relief and Works Agency via Getty Images

It took Jamil and family two months – and $30,000 – to find a new home in Germany

A migrant child from Iraq  after crossing the border from Hungary to Austria, in Nickelsdorf. Photograph: Leonhard Foeger/Reuters

Refugees are leaving behind conflict, slave labour, concentration camps and torture

Bashar al-Assad: according to Vladimir Putin, the Syrian president ‘agrees to holding parliamentary elections and establishing contacts with the so-called healthy opposition’. Photograph: EPA/SANA

Analysis: Russian leader blames Islamic State terror, not the government, for thousands of Syrian refugees in Europe

Palestinians working  on a  building  destroyed during the conflict  in the summer of last year in Gaza. Photograph:  Mohammed Abed/AFP/Getty Images

Urgent action needed to lift Israeli blockade, says report

The Temple of Bel before and after the destruction at  Palmyra. Photograph: AFP/Getty Images

Saudi Arabia’s puritan Wahhabi doctrine is the font of Islamic State beliefs

The Greco-Roman Temple of Bel in Palmyra, Syria, which the Islamic State group targeted. Photograph: Reuters/Sandra Auger

Outer walls and columns of 2,000-year-old temple said to be still standing in spite of Sunday’s massive explosion

Al-Jazeera journalists Mohammed Fahmy and Baher Mohammed wait for the verdict. Photograph: Reuters/Asmaa Waguih

International condemnation of journalists’ sentences ‘unacceptable interference’

Residents cover their noses as they walk past garbage piled up along a street in Beirut, Lebanon, on Wednesday. Photograph:  Mohamed Azakir/Reuters

Trash continues to pile up in streets of Beirut as no new landfill site has been designated

The sons of Khaled al-Asaad, the late 83-year old retired chief archaeologist of the ancient Syrian city of Palmyra, Omar and Mohamad, display a portrait of their father during a ceremony in his memory at the National Museum in Damascus. Photograph: Louai Beshara/AFP/Getty Images

Condemnation of the murder gives Islamic State the publicity it craves

Stephen O’Brien, United Nations Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, with Syrian refugees during his visit to a makeshift settlement  in Lebanon. Photograph:  Mohamed Azakir/Reuters

Violence and food shortages continue as UN warns that 13 million need aid

The ancient city of Palmyra. Photograph: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Khaled al-Asaad (82) had worked on the excavation of Palmyra’s 2,000-year-old ruins

Egyptian president Abdel Fattah al-Sisi: The law he ratified has been criticised by the Journalists Syndicate, media workers and human rights activists, who argue that key provisions would muzzle the press.  Photograph: Amr Abdallah Dalsh/Reuters

Death penalty possible for those convicted of forming, financing or leading terrorist cells

A young woman gets Yemen’s national flag painted on her face during a protest against the Saudi-led coalition outside the offices of the United Nations in Yemen’s capital Sana’a, on Tuesday. Photograph: Khaled Abdullah/Reuters

Scarcity of medical facilities in additionto to food shortages reaching dangerous levels

Haidar al-Abadi: won the support of his cabinet to eliminate a layer of senior government positions. Photograph: Reuters/Iraqi PM Media Office

Haidar al-Abadi takes anti-corruption measures in face of mounting unrest

Russia’s foreign minister Sergey Lavrov, and US secretary of state John Kerry,  before a trilateral meeting on Monday in Doha. Photograph: Brendan Smialowski/ pool photo via AP

Russia urges world powers to join forces with Syrian government to fight Islamic State

A Lebanese woman covers her nose from the smell as she walks on a street partly blocked by piles of garbage in Beirut. Photograph: Hassan Ammar/AP

Government inaction on rubbish left on streets is blamed on political difficulties

Residents queueing for humanitarian aid at the Palestinian refugee camp of Yarmouk, Damascus, in March. Photograph: Reuters

Disease could spread to capital Damascus if Unwra continues to be stopped from helping

Syrian vendors prepare sweets ahead of celebrations of Eid al-Fitr at the al-Jazmatia market in the al-Midan neighbourhood of Damascus. Photograph: Youssef Basawi/EPA

The diplomatic quarter of Abu Rummaneh is a world away from the rest of Syria’s capital

Maaloula: the 14th-century Christian town in Syria which is rising again after eight months of occupation by insurgents. Photograph: Michael Jansen

Debris has been cleared and repairs are under way since Christian/Muslim clashes of 2013

Lebanon’s Hizbullah deputy leader Sheikh Naim Qassem speaks as Syrian foreign minister Walid al-Moualem (centre) and Iran’s minister of culture  Ali Jannati listen during the International Media Conference Against Terrorism in Damascus. Photograph: Omar Sanadiki/Reuters

Syrian president acknowledges ‘important’ input from Hizbullah

Saudi Arabia’s crown prince and interior minister Mohammed bin Nayef Al Saud (left) said terrorist incidents would not destabilise the kingdom. Photograph: Saudi Press Agency/AFP/Getty Images

Kingdom says it has foiled attacks on mosques, foreign diplomatic mission

Anti-Houthi  fighters  prepare to go to the frontline  in Yemen’s southern port city of Aden on Thursday. Photograph: Reuters

City key to getting control of country from rebels, says exiled president

As final touches were being put to the text, US president Barack Obama sought to allay the concerns of King Salman of Saudi Arabia

Response of Saudi Arabia and the UAE is tepid but others hail pact

Deal on nuclear weapons ensures chance of thaw in US-Iran relations. Photograph: Getty Images

Agreement ends decades of sanctions and may allow reforms in country of 77.5m people

Houthi fighters travel on the back of a patrol truck in Yemen’s capital, Sanaa. Photograph: Khaled Abdullah/Reuters

Aid to reach all parts of country as Saudi blockade threatens famine

Demonstrators supporting Greece in front of the EU office  in Nicosia last week. Photograph: Yiannis Kourtoglou/Reuters

Cyprus, a small country heavily reliant on Greece, is facing its own fragile recovery

An Islamic State fighter destroys ancient objects  from Palmyra, as others watch on in the town of Manbij, northeast of Aleppo. Photograph: Kim Doo-Ho/AFP/Getty Images

Bombing conducted in reaction to offensive from fundamentalist alliance in Aleppo

The killing of Hisham Barakat is the first assassination of a senior state official since the 2013 ousting of then president Mohamed Morsi. Photograph: Tahseen Bakr/Almasry Alyoum/EPA

Remotely-controlled bomb in car also injures two drivers, civilian and five security men

Coffins draped with Kuwaiti flags belonging to victims of the Kuwaiti Shia mosque  bombing,  which have been brought to  Najaf, Iraq, for burial. Photograph: jaber al-helo/AP/

Islamic State admits attack, the first of its kind in Kuwait

Syrian Kurds waiting behind barbed wired on the Syrian side of the border with Turkey after they fled the Syrian town of Kobane. Photograph: Bulent Kilic/AFP/Getty Images

IS selects targets giving it strategic dominance and access to economic assets providing independence

Islamic State militants carry plastic containers full of explosives as they prepare to blow up mausoleums in the historic town of Palmyra, Syria. Photograph: the website of Islamic State militants via AP

The 2,000-year-old UNESCO site could still be destroyed despite pledges to preserve it

Members of the Druze community watch the fighting in the Druze village of Hader, in Syria, last week as they stand on the Israeli side of the border fence between Syria and the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights, near Majdal Shams. Photograph: Baz Ratner/Reuters

Druze leaders demand intervention using the Israeli air force

 Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas addressing the Revolutionary Council in the West Bank town of Ramallah. Photograph: OSAMA FALAH/EPA

Abbas asks outgoing prime minister to nominate replacement cabinet

Syrian Kurdish fighters celebrate on Monday after wresting Tal Abyad from Islamic State. Photograph: Rodi Said/Reuters

Syrian Kurds gain control of frontier as Ankara speaks of ethnic cleansing

 Syrian refugees waiting on the Syrian side of the border crossing  near Akcakale, in Turkey’s Sanliurfa province, on Wednesday. Iran has denied it has deployed troops in Syria to bolster the Syrian army and its militia allies although this has been widely reported in the Syrian media. Photograph: Sedat Suna/EPA

US playing down Iran’s investment so as not to undermine nuclear negotiations

Fighters from a coalition of rebel groups called “Jaish al Fateh” in an underpass near Psoncol, in the Idlib countryside, Syria. Photograph: Mohamad Bayoush/Reuters

Foreign forces arrive as Islamic State has said it will mount an offensive against the capital

Rawabi will have 23 neighbourhoods, schools, mosque, church, shops,  commercial centre, restaurants and cafes, cinemas and an amphitheatre. Photograph:  Ahmad Gharabli/AFP/Getty Images

Against all odds, a flagship Palestinian city is rising up on the West Bank

Palestinians jump into a water canal used for irrigation to cool off as temperatures soared to 44 degrees in late May in the West Bank city of Jericho. inhabited for 10,000 years, Jericho vies with Damascus as the oldest city in the world. Photograph: Abbas Momani/AFP/Getty Images

Although classified as Area A, under full Palestinian control, ‘every day Israeli soldiers enter the area’

An Israeli soldier pushes a Palestinian protester during scuffles at a demonstration against Palestinian land confiscation by Israel in the West Bank village of Massara, near Bethlehem. Photograph: Abed Al Hashlamoun/EPA

The way forward is likely to be forged by non-violent methods

Children queue for water in the northwestern Syrian city of Ariha, in Idlib province, on Tuesday, after a coalition of insurgent groups seized the area. Syria has seen an increased flow of weapons and funds and an influx of fighters to insurgent and jihadi groups. Photogaph:  Khalil Ashawi/Reuters

Washington following the Saudi-Qatari lead rather than the other way around

Dresses from Jordan in Amman’s Tiraz centre, a museum displaying a one-woman collection of traditional Arab dress. Photograph: Michael Jansen

A lifetime’s pursuit of fine embroidered attire sheds light on centuries of heritage

Armed Yemeni children sit in the back of a lorry with fighters loyal to Yemen’s Saudi-backed President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi in the southern Yemeni city of Aden. Photograph: Saleh Al-Obeidi/AFP/Getty Images

Saudi military strikes on Sanaa intensify before start of truce

Syrian refugee children at the souk in Al- Azraq camp for Syrian refugees in Jordan.  Photograph: Jordan Pix/Getty Images

Jordanians fear Syrian refugees will want to settle permanently

Jordan’s Queen Rania holds a picture of pilot Muath al-Kasasbeh who was executed by the Islamic State earlier this year. Photograph: Petra News Agency/Reuters

Popular risings in neighbouring countries have served to enforce Jordan’s status quo

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