Syria to Propose Cease-fire at Peace Conference
September 20, 2013
by VOA News
Syria's government has said it will call for a cease-fire at a proposed United Nations-backed peace conference aimed at ending the country's civil war.
Deputy Prime Minister Qadri Jamil told The Guardian the conflict has reached a stalemate, saying neither the government nor the rebels are strong enough to defeat each other.
He told the British paper the Syrian government would also propose an "end to external intervention" and the start of a "peaceful political process" at the long-delayed conference in Geneva.
The United States and Russia have been trying for months to bring together members of Syria's government and rebel forces to the so-called Geneva Two talks.
An earlier round of talks last year ended in failure with neither side represented. Syria's divided opposition has boycotted the talks until President Bashar al-Assad resigns.
International efforts to come up with a political solution to the conflict have been revived following a U.S.-Russian deal that requires Assad to give up his chemical weapons.
Before the deal emerged, the U.S. had threatened to carry out limited military strikes to punish the government for allegedly making an attack using chemical weapons that killed hundreds in a rebel-held suburb of Damascus last month.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said on Thursday that the U.N. Security Council should move quickly to formalize the proposal. It has already been tentatively agreed to by Russia and Syria.
Kerry also said a U.N. report released earlier this week shows overwhelming evidence that President Assad's forces carried out the attack, which the U.S. says killed more than 1,400 people.
"Sarin was used. Sarin killed. The world can decide whether it was used by the regime which has used chemical weapons before, the regime which had the rockets and the weapons, or whether the opposition secretly went unnoticed into territory they don't control to fire rockets they don't have containing sarin that they don't possess to kill their own people. And that without even being noticed, they just dissembled it all and packed up and got out of the center of Damascus controlled by Assad. Please," said Kerry.
President Assad denied his forces launched the poison gas attack. He says it was instead carried out by rebels who have been infiltrated by al-Qaida-linked fighters that he says make up the majority of the opposition against him.
Meanwhile on Friday, Rebels of the Free Syrian Army have reached a cease-fire with fighters from an al-Qaida-linked group after clashes over control of a northern Syrian town, an activist group says. The Northern Storm Brigade, loyal to the Free Syrian Army, and the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) agreed to an immediate ceasefire in Azaz, near the Turkish border, and an exchange of prisoners, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.
Syria's main Western-backed opposition coalition condemned Islamist extremists within the rebel ranks on Friday. The Syrian National Coalition said Friday the behavior of the al-Qaida-linked fighters is "contrary to the Syrian revolution."
The statement said the ISIL has "foreign agendas" and has carried out "repeated repressive practices of civilians, doctors, journalists and political activists in recent months."
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