The Syrian Army announced on Monday that it had temporarily halted combat operations in the south of the country, ahead of a Kremlin-sponsored peace conference.
An accompanying statement said that fighting would stop in the Deraa, Quneitra and Sweida Governorates. “In order to support the peace process and national reconciliation, a cessation of hostilities … will last until midnight on July 6.”
The unilateral freeze was not expected to apply to the Islamic State (ISIS) which is not a party to the talks that will commence in Kazakhstan. It is also unclear whether it would apply to the large rebel factions which are boycotting the conference.
Some rebel groups have dismissed that talks, saying that they would not attend the July round of talks while the government was actively violating previous agreements. A ceasefire was declared in May; built around so-called ‘de-escalation zones.’ It has been repeatedly violated.
The two sides have held four rounds of talks in Kazakhstan, running in parallel to the UN-brokered peace talks in Geneva. Neither process has made significant progress.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a UK-based monitor, confirmed that fighting had “almost completely stopped” in the three Governorates.
A spokesman for the Southern Front, a coalition of Free Syrian Army groups, cast doubt on whether the Syrian Army and its Iranian allies would halt attacks on the front lines in Deraa and Quneitra.
“The Free Syrian Army is very distrustful of the regime’s intentions in abiding by the ceasefire,” Major Issam al-Rayes told the Reuters news agency. “[This ceasefire] will end like the previous one.”
The Syrian civil war has killed hundreds of thousands of people and forced millions from their homes since it began in March 2011.
Agencies and ARA Staff
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