MON 16 - 7 - 2018
Date: Jul 4, 2018
Source: The Daily Star
Syria rebels begin new talks with Russia over peace deal
AMMAN: Syrian rebel negotiators began a new round of talks with Russian officers Tuesday over a peace deal in southern Syria under which they would hand over weapons and allow Russian military police to enter rebel-held towns, an opposition spokesman said.

Accompanied by a major Russian aerial bombing campaign that has led to some of the fastest mass displacements of the war, Syrian pro-government forces have marched swiftly into rebel territory in Deraa province over the past two weeks.

Spokesman Ibrahim al Jabawi said the rebels had carried to the negotiating table their “response to a list of Russian demands” that include settling the status of rebels in a deal that ends the fighting.

“Today they are carrying their response to the terms presented by the Russian officers,” Jabawi said.

The Russian demands, handed to rebels in a meeting in a town in southern Syria Saturday, had prompted a walkout by the rebels, who said the terms amounted to a humiliating surrender. The opposition team was then persuaded by Jordan to return to the negotiating table, diplomatic sources said.

The arrival of thousands of uprooted Syrians among the tens of thousands near Jordan’s border has created new security challenges and a humanitarian nightmare for the authorities. The opposition negotiators have returned to the table with an expanded 12-strong delegation that will now also tackle the fate of rebel factions in the Qunaitra province further west near the Israeli occupied Golan Heights, Jabawi said.

Previously they were negotiating for Deraa province to the east.

“A new expanded negotiating committee that represents all the south has been formed to reach an agreement,” said a statement by the central operations room in the

south, representing the key rebel factions in that region.The United Nations said Monday the number of Syrians displaced by the ongoing fighting had already exceeded 270,000, with 70,000 people seeking shelter along the closed Jordanian border. U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights spokeswoman Liz Throssel urged Jordan to open its border to the “thousands of refugees stranded without adequate shelter.”

However, the opening of the border seemed unlikely as the Jordanian army reiterated later Tuesday that it will maintain the closure. The commander of the kingdom’s northern military region, Gen. Khaled al-Massaid, said authorities are being cautious, fearing the presence of “infiltrators among the displaced.”

Separately, the Syrian government called on refugees to return, saying it has successfully cleared large areas of “terrorists.” The rare appeal reflects the government’s growing confidence after more than seven years of war. While officials usually appeal to Syrians abroad to return during television appearances, this is the first formal appeal broadcast on official media.

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