Iran, Syrian rebel groups fail to renew 3-town truce
Talks between Iranians, Syrian opposition groups aimed at extending truce in three Syrian towns have reportedly failed
Negotiations between an Iranian delegation and Syrian opposition groups aimed at extending a two-day ceasefire in three strategic Syrian towns – which expired on Friday – have failed, according to an Islamist opposition group that participated in the talks.
The 48-hour ceasefire between the Syrian regime and opposition forces first went into effect on Wednesday morning in three towns – two predominantly Shia towns in the Idlib province and one predominantly Sunni town in the Damascus province.
Iran, representing the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, had sought to extend the truce by an additional several days.
However, according to Abu al-Yazid Taftanaz, a spokesman for the Ahrar ash-Sham Islamic Movement (a coalition of Islamic-leaning groups opposed to the Assad regime), talks broke down because Iranian representatives insisted that Sunni residents of Zabadani – a town located northwest of Damascus on the border with Lebanon – should be transferred to another location.
"It [the forced transfer of Sunni residents from Zabadani] is not acceptable,” Taftanaz told Anadolu Agency. "This would only result in more conflict.”
The initial 48-hour truce had been intended to be a first step towards larger peace negotiations and ending the fighting in the three towns in which it was applied.
Following the breakdown of talks, the Syrian regime began carrying out attacks on majority-Sunni Zabadani, while opposition forces launched a fresh offensive against the regime-held Shia villages of Fua and Kefraya, both of which are located in the Idlib province.
Since early July, pro-Assad forces have carried out repeated attacks on Zabadani, which lies some 45 kilometers northwest of capital Damascus.
Syria’s ongoing conflict, which has left the country divided between several warring factions, began in early 2011 when the Assad regime responded with unexpected ferocity to protests that erupted as part of the "Arab Spring” uprisings.
Since then, roughly half of the country’s population has been displaced by the violence, with nearly four million Syrians now seeking refuge in neighboring countries, especially Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan and Iraq.
Last Modified: 2015-08-16 13:03:13
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