Syrian rebels put peace negotiations with regime on hold

Syrian rebels put peace negotiations with regime on hold
Around ten Syrian rebel groups say they have frozen talks on planned peace negotiations following ongoing regime raids on territories it holds.
2 min read
03 January, 2017
Syria's rebels have come under repeated attack by Syrian war planes [AFP]

Syrian rebel groups signed up to a Russian-Turkish brokered ceasefire have announced they were suspending talks about planned peace negotiations.

Opposition areas - particularly a small rebel enclave near Damascus - have come under repeated attack during the past four days of the truce, which has led the armed groups to put peace talks on hold.

"As these violations are continuing, the rebel factions announce... the freezing of all discussion linked to the Astana negotiations," they said in a joint statement.

"[We have] respected the ceasefire across the whole of Syria... but the regime and its allies have not stopped shooting and have launched major and frequent violations, notably in the (rebel) regions of Wadi Barada and Eastern Ghouta," the rebels said, referring to two besieged rebel areas of Damscus' outskirts.

"Despite repeated questions put to the regime's backer [Russia] these violations continue, threatening the lives of hundreds of thousands of people."

Wadi Barada, a rebel enclave north-west of Damscus, has come under sustained attack by the Syrian regime since Thursday night's ceasefire.

The area is home to a spring which feeds Damascus' with much of its water supplies, and has seen mostly Hizballah fighters attempt to win the valley for the regime.

Barrel bombs, shelling, and ground offensives by pro-regime forces have shattered the ceasefire in the pristine valley, while the rest of the country has remained largely peaceful.

The Free Syrian Army, one of the main armed groups in Wadi Barada, threatened to cancel the ceasefire if the bombing continued.

Despite this, Russia - which backs Damascus and Turkey - who support the rebels - have planned talks for later this month in the Kazakh capital Astana.

But the move has been highly controversial, as it was initially planned without consulting the UN.

Syrians in opposition areas have held protests this week against the planned talks which they believe favour the regime and justify Damascus' "ethnic cleansing" of opposition areas in East Aleppo and near Damascus.

Agencies contributed to this story.