Syr­ian mil­i­tary de­clares cease­fire

The Hamilton Spectator - - CANADA & WORLD - THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

DA­M­AS­CUS, SYRIA — The Syr­ian mil­i­tary said Mon­day it has tem­po­rar­ily halted com­bat oper­a­tions in the south ahead of Rus­sian-spon­sored cease­fire talks with the rebels.

The an­nounce­ment came af­ter a large Syr­ian rebel fac­tion in the south said it would not at­tend the talks in the Kazakh cap­i­tal, As­tana, be­cause the gov­ern­ment was not abid­ing by pre­vi­ous cease­fire agree­ments.

The two sides have held four pre­vi­ous rounds of talks in Kaza­khstan since Jan­uary in par­al­lel to UN-bro­kered peace talks in Geneva. Nei­ther process has made much progress. A cease­fire de­clared in May, which is built around so­called “de-es­ca­la­tion zones,” has been re­peat­edly vi­o­lated.

The mil­i­tary an­nounce­ment, car­ried on Syr­ian state me­dia, said the present pause would run un­til July 6, to “sup­port the peace process and na­tional rec­on­cil­i­a­tion.”

Del­e­gates are ex­pected to be­gin meet­ing with a UN me­di­a­tor and other diplo­mats in As­tana on July 4.

Syr­ian Deputy For­eign Min­is­ter Faisal Mek­dad mean­while ques­tioned the cred­i­bil­ity of the Or­ga­ni­za­tion for the Pro­hi­bi­tion of Chem­i­cal Weapons, say­ing the in­spec­tors had failed to visit key sites linked to a nerve-gas at­tack that killed 89 peo­ple.

Mek­dad dis­missed an OPCW re­port re­leased last week con­firm­ing the use of sarin gas on the op­po­si­tion-held town of Khan Sheikhoun in April. He said the in­spec­tors re­fused gov­ern­ment in­vi­ta­tions to visit the site of the at­tack in north­ern Syria or the mil­i­tary air­port al­legedly linked to it.

In a news con­fer­ence Mon­day, Mek­dad said the idea the Syr­ian gov­ern­ment would use chem­i­cal weapons was “im­pos­si­ble,” given that it was al­ready win­ning the war against its op­po­nents.

ALICE MAR­TINS, THE WASH­ING­TON POST

A Syr­ian Demo­cratic Forces sol­dier lis­tens to his ra­dio near Raqqa.

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