Six-month truce agreed in Syria's Zabadani, Kefraya, and Fuaa
A six month truce has been agreed between the Syrian regime and rebel factions to bring peace to the besieged rebel-held town of Zabadani and two Shia-majority towns in Idlib province, sources said on Thursday.
"Representatives of the Islamist movement Ahrar al-Sham and representatives of Iran have reached this [Thursday] evening - under the sponsorship of UN intermediaries - an agreement on the terms of a truce in Zabadani, which contains fighters loyal to the opposition, and in the villages of Kefraya and Fuaa, which are loyal to the regime," Ibrahim Idlbi, a media activist, told al-Araby al-Jadeed.
A UN spokeswoman, Jessy Chahine, also confirmed that there were "positive developments" in the UN brokered talks, but up was up to the warring parties to announce if a deal had been reached.
Pro-government forces launched an offensive to try to recapture Zabadani on the border with Lebanon in July.
This prompted a rebel alliance, including Syria's al-Qaeda affiliate, to besiege the Idlib province villages of Fuaa and Kefraya, whose residents mostly Shia.
"The agreement for a six-month truce was reached between rebel fighters including Islamist group Ahrar al-Sham and pro-regime forces and their allies, the Lebanese Shia Hizballah movement," Rami Abdel Rahman of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights told AFP.
Short truces agreed previously between the warring parties were often broken.
A Syrian source close to the talks told AFP that after a ceasefire began last Sunday, the accord will see the evacuation of some 10,000 civilians from besieged Fuaa and Kefraya on Saturday and Sunday.
They will be driven out in Red Cross vehicles to regime-controlled areas. In exchange, some 500 rebels will withdraw from Zabadani and head for Idlib province.
Meanwhile, Russia's President Vladimir Putin said the only way to end the war in Syria is to support its existing government in the fight against terrorism, in remarks released Thursday.
In an interview with CBS News "60 Minutes," the Russian leader repeated his view that only the Syrian people can decide if and when to replace President Bashar al-Assad.
Putin is due to meet US President Barack Obama on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly next week.