Bid for ceasefire near Syrian capital collapses

2015-11-19 21:04
A hand-out image Syrian President Bashar Assad in Damascus. (AFP Photo)

A hand-out image Syrian President Bashar Assad in Damascus. (AFP Photo)

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Beirut - The Syrian regime and opposition rebels on Thursday failed in a bid to reach a ceasefire near the capital Damascus, a monitoring group reported, as President Bashar Assad said ending Syria's conflict hinges on "defeating terrorism".

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said that negotiations, mediated by an unspecified international partner, failed to initiate a 15-day truce in the area of Eastern Ghouta on the outskirts of Damascus. 

A Syrian source close to the regime told dpa that Russia, an ally of Assad, had been involved in the negotiations.

The head of the Britain-based Observatory, Rami Abdel-Rahman, said that the ceasefire was originally expected to start on Thursday and that Jaish al-Islam, the most powerful rebel group in Eastern Ghouta, represented the opposition in the negotiations.

Eastern Ghouta has been the target of government airstrikes by barrel bombs in recent months.  

Last week, top diplomats from the United States, Russia and several other countries reached an agreement on a political transition in Syria to end the country's five-year civil war.

Representatives from Assad's regime and the opposition should meet by the end of the year to initiate the process.

Under the roadmap laid out by the envoys following talks in Vienna, a transitional government is to be set up within six months and new elections with 18 months.

In remarks aired on Thursday, Assad sounded sceptical about the timetable.

"I can tell you that nothing will start before having defeated terrorism. Nothing can start until a large part of Syria is occupied by terrorists," Assad said in an interview with Italian TV Rai Uno, referring to rebels fighting to oust him.

"The main point of the Vienna meeting is that all that will happen to the political process will depend on what the Syrians decide. So the most important thing is that we sit together also with the opposition ... if the Syrians want presidential elections, there will be no red line against it."

Assad has been in power since 2000.

Western powers, backing rebels in Syria, have repeatedly demanded Assad step down to end the conflict, a position Russia has in the past resisted.

Recent deadly attacks claimed by the Islamic State extremist militia, which controls large areas in Syria, have prompted the West and Russia to jointly intensify efforts for a political solution to the Syrian conflict.

More than 250 000 people are estimated to have been killed in the conflict since it started in 2011.

Read more on:    isis  |  bashar assad  |  syria

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