x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Syria agrees to Eid ceasefire, says peace envoy Brahimi

The Syrian government has agreed to a ceasefire during Eid Al Adha starting on Friday, the international peace envoy Lakhdar Brahimi said in Cairo today.

CAIRO // The Syrian government and some rebel leaders have agreed to a ceasefire during Eid Al Adha starting on Friday, the international peace envoy Lakhdar Brahimi said in Cairo today.

Mr Brahimi said Damascus will issue a statement on accepting the truce for the holiday later "today or tomorrow".

Brahimi's announcement came as government forces intensified airstrikes on rebel-held area near the besieged city of Aleppo.

The fighting in Syria has killed more than 34,000 people since March last year, according to activists.

Mr Brahimi didn't elaborate on how such a truce would be monitored. The envoy met Mr Al Assad in Damascus on Sunday as part of his push for a ceasefire between rebels and government forces. He also held talks last week with opposition groups inside and outside Syria and earlier received "promises" but not a "commitment" from them to honour the ceasefire.

In Damascus, the foreign ministry spokesman Jihad Makdessi stressed today that the cessation of military operations during Eid Al Adha is still "being studied" by the General Command of the Army and the Syrian armed forces, and that "the final position on this matter will be issued on Thursday".

Abdelbaset Sieda, the head of the Syrian National Council, the main opposition group in exile, said he had little hope the truce would take hold. He said opposition fighters have told him they are willing to adhere to it, but will respond if attacked by regime forces.

"This regime, we don't trust it, because it is saying something and doing something else on the ground," Mr Sieda said from Stockholm, Sweden.

Mr Brahimi's proposal is far more modest than a six-point plan by his predecessor as Syrian envoy, Kofi Annan. A ceasefire was the centrepiece of Annan's proposal and was to lead to talks on a peaceful transition.

However, a truce never took hold and both sides violated their commitments, though Mr Annan said at the time the regime was the main aggressor because it refused to withdraw troops and heavy weapons from population centres.

In Syria, regime warplanes struck the village of Mar Shureen near a strategic rebel-held town in the country's north today, killing five members of an extended family, activists said.