Egypt, Rus­sia bro­ker cease-fire in south­ern Da­m­as­cus

Arab News - - INTERNATIONAL - SHOUNAZ MEKKY

CAIRO: Syr­ian fac­tions agreed to a cease-fire in south­ern Da­m­as­cus as part of a deal bro­kered by Cairo and Moscow, Egyp­tian state me­dia re­ported on Thurs­day.

The cease-fire, which in­cludes Jaish Al-Is­lam, Jaish Aba­bil and Ak­naf Beit Al-Maqdis, went into ef­fect at mid­day Thurs­day.

“We an­nounced a pre­lim­i­nary agree­ment over the will to en­ter into a cease­fire and de-es­ca­la­tion deal for the area,” said Jaish Al-Is­lam po­lit­i­cal leader Mo­hammed Al­loush, adding that de­tails will be worked out in the near fu­ture.

The an­nounce­ment did not name the ar­eas in­cluded, and did not men­tion the Syr­ian govern­ment. There was no im­me­di­ate com­ment from Da­m­as­cus.

Fol­low­ing a meet­ing with rebel fac­tions, Al­loush thanked Egyp­tian Pres­i­dent Ab­del Fat­tah El-Sisi for his role in the ne­go­ti­a­tions, and for push­ing for a po­lit­i­cal so­lu­tion to Syria’s war, Egypt’s Al-Ahram news­pa­per re­ported.

Backed by Rus­sia, Iran and Shi­ite mili­tias, the Syr­ian govern­ment has pushed back rebels across the coun­try over the past year, shoring up its rule over the main ur­ban cen­ters.

A string of cease-fire deals in re­cent months has eased fight­ing in western Syria, in­clud­ing a truce in the south­west bro­kered by Rus­sia and the US.

In re­cent months, Egypt has held ne­go­ti­a­tions with sev­eral Syr­ian op­po­si­tion fac­tions while main­tain­ing good ties with Da­m­as­cus.

Cairo me­di­ated a cease-fire agree­ment in Au­gust in East­ern Ghouta af­ter host­ing talks between Syr­ian op­po­si­tion fac­tions and Rus­sia’s De­fense Min­istry.

“Egypt is plac­ing it­self as an im­par­tial med­i­ta­tor in the Syria cri­sis, and this is be­ing wel­comed by re­gional and in­ter­na­tional sides of the con­flict, ex­cept for Turkey,” Egyp­tian po­lit­i­cal an­a­lyst Sameh Rashed told Arab News.

“Egypt be­gan play­ing a me­di­a­tor role in re­cent months, as the on­go­ing sit­u­a­tion is push­ing all sides of the con­flict to seek a po­lit­i­cal so­lu­tion in­stead of a mil­i­tary vic­tory.”

Cairo will be in charge of mon­i­tor­ing par­ties’ com­mit­ment to the agree­ment, Rashed said.

Rebel fac­tions hold a small pocket of ter­ri­tory south of Da­m­as­cus, bor­dered to the west by a Daesh en­clave and sur­rounded from the other sides by Syr­ian govern­ment troops and al­lied forces.

Through a se­ries of mil­i­tary of­fen­sives and evac­u­a­tion deals, the govern­ment has cleared out sev­eral op­po­si­tion pock­ets around the cap­i­tal.

Thou­sands of rebels and civil­ians have poured into rebel-held Idlib prov­ince in north­west Syria, trans­ferred out of ar­eas cap­tured by govern­ment forces.

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