Syrian opposition says truce possible

Residents look for survivors at a site hit by what activists said were three consecutive air strikes carried out by the Russian air force in the rebel-controlled area of Maaret al-Numan town in Idlib province, SyriaSyria’s opposition on Saturday said it had agreed to the “possibility” of a temporary truce, provided there were guarantees Damascus’s allies including Russia would cease fire, sieges were lifted and aid deliveries were allowed country-wide.

But there was no immediate sign that Moscow would drop its vow to continue its onslaught against those it views as “terrorists” among the range of armed groups pitted against President Bashar al-Assad.

And Assad himself added his own conditions to any truce plan, saying on Saturday he was ready for a ceasefire on condition that “terrorists” did not use a lull in fighting to their advantage, and that countries backing insurgents halted support for them.

He especially singled out neighboring Turkey. Throughout the five-year-old war, Damascus has routinely referred to all insurgents fighting the government and its allies as terrorists.

To the frustration of the United States and its allies who support rebels trying to topple the president, Russian air strikes have turned the tide of the civil war in Assad’s favor.

Attempts to negotiate a truce in recent months have failed. The latest round of talks at the United Nations in Geneva is being jointly chaired by Russia and the United States.

U.N. special envoy Staffan de Mistura said on Saturday the discussions were “intensive and constructive”, Swedish newspaper Svenska Dagbladet reported.

On Saturday, various Syrian opposition factions “expressed agreement on the possibility of reaching a temporary truce deal, to be reached through international mediation”, a statement from the High Negotiations Committee said.

But the Committee, which brings together a number of rebel groups and Syria’s exiled political opposition, said the United Nations must guarantee “holding Russia and Iran and sectarian militias … to a halt to fighting”.

All sides should cease fire simultaneously and the Syrian government should release prisoners, it added. (Courtesy Reuters)


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