|Date: Jul 5, 2018|
|Source: The Daily Star|
|Talks fail, strikes resume in southwest Syria|
|AMMAN/BEIRUT: Russian airstrikes against insurgents in southwest Syria resumed Wednesday, residents and a war monitor said, after a rebel said talks to restore government rule there peacefully had failed.|
The airstrikes targeted the towns of Tafas, northwest of the provincial capital Deraa, and Saida, to its east, said the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
Syrian President Bashar Assad is waging a campaign in the southwest with Russian air support to recapture the region from rebel groups, and has seized a large chunk of their territory.
Russian airstrikes had paused on Saturday evening, the Observatory said. The group, along with residents and rebels in Saida, said barrel bombs were also dropped on Saida Wednesday evening.
Rebels have been negotiating with Russia since Saturday, seeking a deal to end fighting by accepting the return of state sovereignty, but they have not been able to agree terms.
“The talks with the Russian enemy in Busra al-Sham have failed because of their insistence on handing over heavy weapons,” Abu Shaima, a spokesman of the central operations room representing main Free Syrian Army factions negotiating with the Russians told Reuters.
Another rebel spokesman, Ibrahim al-Jabawi, said the talks did not reach any conclusion. Russia wanted heavy weapons handed over in one go. The opposition wanted to surrender them in stages after tens of thousands of displaced people returned home, he said.
The first round of talks Saturday prompted rebels to walk out, saying
Russian terms amounted to a humiliating surrender but they were persuaded by Jordan to return to the negotiating table, official sources said.The opposition had demanded safe passage to opposition-held northern Syria, a request denied by Russia, according to other activists. Numerous towns in the southwest had already struck their own surrender deals with the government independently of the main rebel factions.