Syria rebels mull tough Russian ceasefire terms for Daraa

Syria rebels mull tough Russian ceasefire terms for Daraa
Regime backer Russia is brokering the talks, which along with military operations have been used to recapture 60 percent of the southern Syrian province.
2 min read
04 July, 2018
Syrian rebel fighter walks past a tank near frontline in Daraa [Getty]

Syrian rebels in Daraa on Wednesday discussed a Russian proposal to hand over their remaining territory in exchange for the regime halting its southern offensive.

It was their last day to consider the terms, a spokesman for the rebels' southern operations said, before meeting the Russian delegation on Wednesday afternoon. 

"We hope to reach an agreement so that the displaced can return home and the fighting can stop," said Ibrahim Jabbawi. 

Moscow, a key ally of the Syrian regime, has backed President Bashar al-Assad's forces during its two-week onslaught of rebels in the south. 

However, it is simultaneously brokering talks with opposition fighters that have seen more than 30 towns agree to fall back under regime control so that bombing stops.

Through military operations and those deals, Syrian troops are now in control of more than 60 percent of the southern province of Daraa.

Current talks are over remaining rebel territory, including Daraa's western countryside and the southern half of the city. 

According to a source close to the talks, rebels presented a proposal to Moscow during a tense, hours-long meeting on Tuesday. 

It included a ceasefire, the regime's withdrawal from towns it had already taken, and safe passage to other opposition territory for rebels or civilians who did not want to live under its control.

Rebels would hand over heavy weapons but would keep the rest until a "real political process" had begun. 

But Moscow roundly rejected the terms, the source said.

It told negotiators that population transfers were not on the table in the south, although it had agreed to them in other areas like Eastern Ghouta and Aleppo. 

Russia insisted the army would return to its pre-2011 positions, and local police would take over towns in coordination with Russian military police. 

The Russian delegation warned opposition factions to submit their final answer during Wednesday's meeting. "Today will be the last round -- either the rebels agree to these terms, or the military operations resume," the source said.

Regime airstrikes had stopped for several days to allow for negotiations, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported. 

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