Cracks in Syrian ceasefire
New talks launched
THE UN launched new Syrian peace talks in Geneva yesterday just as the first cracks appeared in a regional ceasefire that came into effect at the weekend.
The truce in the south-west of the country was brokered by the US, which backs armed rebels, and Russia, which provides military support to President Bashar al-Assad’s troops.
Similar agreements have been reached in the past with the aim of creating the right setting for peace talks in Geneva, but none lasted long.
Since the beginning of the ceasefire on Sunday shells have fallen on the city of Daraa and some clashes were registered in the area, although there were no casualties, according to the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
The watchdog added that some shells also fell in the eastern countryside of the Daraa Governorate, wounding one person.
Issam al-Rayess, who heads the southern front for the Free Syrian Army, said that there had been many breaches of the ceasefire, including one that killed six of his rebel fighters in the Sweida region.
“The Syrian army at dawn today launched an attack on areas manned by the Free Syrian Army – not as they claimed against the Islamic State,” he told dpa from Geneva.
At the Swiss UN seat, UN mediator Staffan de Mistura started the new negotiations by meeting representatives of the Syrian government, according to a UN spokesman.
Previous rounds involving Assad’s government and the opposition have not yielded any tangible results, as the parties could not even agree to sit at the same table.
As De Mistura started a new week of shuttle diplomacy between the two sides, the partial ceasefire that started on Sunday offered at least a glimpse of hope.
The deal covers the provinces of Daraa, Sweida and Quneitra, which have been the scene of fighting between government forces and rebels in recent weeks.
Details of the truce have not been made public, but the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights has said the pact foresees aid deliveries and sets the scene for gradual repatriation of refugees from neighbouring Jordan.
Ahmed Ramadan, the spokesperson of the opposition Syrian National Coalition, told dpa that his delegation would hand De Mistura a memorandum discussing the fate of Syrian refugees in Lebanon’s Arsal area.
The opposition is accusing the Lebanese army of trying to displace Syrian refugees on the premise of fighting terrorists.
During a Lebanese army raid in a refugee camp last week, five suicide bombers blew themselves up, wounding seven troops and killing a toddler.
Lebanese President Michel Aoun has warned that Syrian refugee camps are turning into safe havens for militants.
In this undated frame grab from a video posted online on May 29 by the Aamaq News Agency, a media arm of the Islamic State group, people inspect damage from airstrikes and artillery shelling in the northern city of Raqqa, Syria.