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Opposition members accept Syria’s UN ceasefire conditionally

Members of the Syrian National Coalition accept UN ceasefire proposal under the condition the freeze in fighting extends to all cities
Hadi al-Bahra (C) former head of the Syrian National Coalition takes part in a meeting of Arab states' foreign ministers at the headquarters of the Arab League in Cairo on 8 September, 2014 (AFP)

The ceasefire proposal by the UN envoy to Syria Staffan De Mistura has elicited a mixed response from the Syrian government, the opposition coalition and the fighters.

The proposal calls for a freeze on fighting in the city of Aleppo by both sides, and to pave the way for the deliverance of humanitarian aid. De Mistura is hopeful that, should this be implemented, the proposal will be the first step towards a political solution.

After addressing the UN Security Council on Tuesday, de Mistura told reporters that President Bashar al-Assad’s government has assured him they are ready to adhere to the freeze.

“The government of Syria has indicated to me its willingness to halt all aerial bombing and artillery shelling for a period of six weeks all over the city of Aleppo from a date we’ll announce from Damascus,” de Mistura said.

However, the announcement was made as Assad’s army troops and their allies launched an offensive in the north of Aleppo, aiming to retake control of two villages held by opposition fighters and to take over the rebel’s main supply route that extends from Turkey. In the fighting that ensued, more than 150 were killed, and the rebels managed to hold the government forces at bay.

Khaled Khoja, the president of the Syrian National Coalition, has expressed his support for the UN’s “action plan” in Syria but insisted that the halt in Syrian government air strikes should be extended to all cities within the country.

“We welcome any effort aimed at stopping the bloodshed in Syria and this has been the position of the Syrian coalition since it was established,” Khoja said in an interview published on the website of the National Coalition for Syrian Revolution and Opposition Forces.

“De Mistura informed me about the ideas in his initiative during a telephone conversation two days ago and I told him that this requires a careful and detailed study and that stopping aerial bombardment must include all Syrian cities and that there must also be an end to killing on the ground,” he continued.

“For a solution to be comprehensive, de Mistura’s proposal must ensure stopping other means of killing and fighting terrorism, including state terrorism practiced by the Assad regime.”

Yet the fighters in the opposition groups battling in Aleppo said they were more apprehensive regarding the advantages a ceasefire would present to Assad, mainly freeing up government forces to fight elsewhere.

Adel Nasir, the military commander of the Islamic Front, told the Wall Street Journal that if the opposition fighters lays down their arms, Assad’s army will simply move to another part of the country where the freeze does not apply.

“If we agree to a truce in Aleppo, he will just withdraw all of his forces and take them to Deraa,” he said, referring to the southern province where Hezbollah, Iranian forces, and the Syrian army are fighting opposition fighters. “We aren’t willing to let those in Deraa be killed just so that we can relax.”

Aburrahman Saleh, a spokesman with the Islam Army (Jaysh al-Islam), said he did not believe that the government forces will suspend its fighting.

“The regime won’t stop shelling not even for a minute,” he said. “Supposedly the international community is fulfilling its responsibility, but in reality it’s all talk that is not worth anything.”

Hadi Al Bahra, the former president of the SNC and member, echoed Khoja’s sentiment and added that the Syrian government is not a partner in the war on terror.

“The regime is the real source of terrorism in Syria,” he said. “The Assad government’s actions during the past four years has violated all the truces and agreements the rebels agreed to. This is so that the government can buy time to prepare itself for an even more brutal escalation."

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