Syria Daily: Southern Rebels Resume Surrender Talks With Russia

People fleeing pro-Assad attacks on Daraa Province in southern Syria arrive near the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights, June 29, 2018 (Reuters)

Rebels in southern Syria have confirmed the renewal of surrender talks with Russian military officers.

A rebel spokesman said on Tuesday that the discussions are about a rebel handover of weapons in return for Russian military police, rather than regime forces, enter opposition areas in Daraa Province along the Jordanian border.

The talks broke down last Saturday over those conditions, but by Monday sources said Jordanian mediation had brought a resumption.

“Today [rebels] are carrying their response to the terms presented by the Russian officers,” spokesman Ibrahim Jabawi said. He said talks will also cover neighboring Quneitra Province, near the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights.

Pro-Assad air and ground forces launched an offensive on June 19 to regain territory including Daraa city, where the Syrian uprising began in March 2011. Russia, breaking a de-escalation zone it declared alongside the US last July, began bombing a few days later to enable advances in eastern Daraa Province. Other towns in the west of the province have signed capitulation agreements.

More than 270,000 people — one-third of the province’s population — have been displaced, moving to the Jordanian border or near the Golan Heights. More than 200 people have been killed.

See Syria Daily, July 3: 270,000 Displaced in 2 Weeks from Daraa Province in South

Jordan’s Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi will speak with Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov in Moscow on Wednesday about implementation of the surrender.

Sweden and Kuwait have requested that the UN Security Council is briefed on Thursday on the “deteriorating humanitarian situation in South West Syria”.

The US, which had issued four warnings from late May that it would take “firm” steps in response to a pro-Assad offensive, has said nothing this week about the defiance of the de-escalation zone.

Meanwhile, the pro-Assad blog Al Masdar is complaining that the surrender talks have led to a suspension of bombing, “As long as the Russian and Syrian air forces are inactive, the government troops on the ground will likely find it difficult to crack the lines of the well-armed Free Syrian Army forces.”

The site, an outlet for the regime’s military, admits the dependence of Assad’s force on the Russian attacks, “Much of the Syrian Arab Army’s recent gains in east Daraa have come as a result of reconciliation deals. They have not really scored any major military advances against the enemy forces.”

Scott Lucas is Professor of International Politics at the University of Birmingham and editor-in-chief of EA WorldView. He is a specialist in US and British foreign policy and international relations, especially the Middle East and Iran. Formerly he worked as a journalist in the US, writing for newspapers including the Guardian and The Independent and was an essayist for The New Statesman before he founded EA WorldView in November 2008.

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