Peace Talks Between Syrian Rebels & Russia About Southwest Syria Fail

Nabaa MediaAP Images

Syrian rebels met with Russia in Bosra Al Sham Saturday to negotiate a peace deal, but Ibrahim Jabawi, a spokesman for the Free Syrian Army, announced that they were unable to reach an agreement because rebels were unwilling to accept Russia’s demand for surrender. Haaretz quotes him as saying the following.

“The meeting ended in failure. The Russians were not ready to listen to our demands. They offered one option, to accept their humiliating demand to surrender, which was rejected.”

Gulf News explains that in the Jordan-facilitated talks about the future of the southwestern region of Syria in and around the Russians asked that the opposition either flee with their families to the area around the Idlib province, the other remaining opposition territory, or stay and accept state rule. The Idlib province lies in northwest Syria along the Turkey border. Rebels asked for the return of civil institutions in the opposition areas and for Russian military police to be in place in the region instead of Syrian forces.

In the last two weeks, the Syrian government has taken much of the Daraa region. The United Nations (U.N.) estimates that fighting has forced 160,000 from their homes, a number that is three times higher than a previous estimate by the U.N. according to Al Jazeera. Many of these people have tried to enter Jordan as refugees but are being turned away. Jordan’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Ayman Safadi explained Thursday that “Jordan already has 1.3 million Syrians. Our country has reached its maximum capacity. Jordan has been shouldering this responsibility, and I must say, we’ve been doing so alone.”

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Hezbollah media has broadcast victories of Syrian forces including street celebrations in Dael, Al Gariya Al Gabiya, and Ibta that feature residents holding signs of support for Syrian President Bashar al-Asaad and chanting his name. Areas that have recently surrendered include the area surrounding Homs and Damascus. Eastern Ghouta is in that region and was taken by an assault that killed over 1,000 civilians and decimated several towns.

Russia’s airpower has been a critical piece of Syria’s successful takeover since 2015. In just one night, 32 airstrikes took place, hitting nine towns in the Daraa province. About 100 civilians have been killed in the area since fighting began on June 19. Many of the opposition areas that have been taken by state forces in recent days were taken as a result of local groups negotiating their own deals with the state with no involvement from rebel forces.

The southwest region of Syria that is currently being fought over is part a “de-escalation” zone agreed to by Russia, the United States, and Jordan last year. As part of that agreement, the U.S. committed to responding if the ceasefire arrangement in the area was breached. So far, the U.S. has remained silent in the face of a breach, and rebels are accusing them of making a “malicious deal” to remain silent.

Ibrahim Jabawi clarified in his statement following the failed talks with Russia that rebel territory next to the Quneitra province, bordering the Golan Heights that is held by Israel, is not part of their discussions. There is a fear that ongoing violence so near the Golan Heights will result in further escalation of violence.