Thomson ReutersA damaged tank is pictured in the rebel-controlled area of Jobar, a suburb of DamascusLONDON (Reuters) – European leaders told Russian President Vladimir Putin on Friday that a fragile truce in Syria must be used to try to secure a lasting peace without President Bashar al-Assad, the spokeswoman for British Prime Minister David Cameron said.
Rebels now say they’re convinced the US, Russia, and the Assad government are all plotting against them, and after previously making their participation in peace talks conditional on a ceasefire, they are hunting for a new excuse to keep the war going.
“We wish for rapid resumption of negotiations in Geneva”.
Eastern Ghouta had been regularly bombarded by government forces, but has been relatively calm since the ceasefire brokered by the United States and Russian Federation.
The group also met with Riad Hijab, head of Syria’s main opposition body, the High Negotiations Committee which has expressed skepticism that the regime will stick to the truce.
“I would like to stress one more time that the commitment to hold the ceasefire was confirmed as a key message by the Russian president: only attacks on Daesh [ISIL] and al-Nusra Front”, Merkel said during a news conference with French President Francois Hollande.
The US and its allies struck 12 Islamic State targets in Iraq and two in Syria on Friday, the US military reported on Saturday as human rights group reports civilians killed in ceasefire violations.
A fragile truce came into force last week, brokered by Russian Federation and the United States.
France, Britain and Germany called on the opposition to attend the talks, but warned that the negotiations would only succeed if humanitarian access were granted and the ceasefire respected.
Hijab also reiterated the opposition’s stand – that there should be no political role for Syrian President Bashar Assad and in the future or during the transitional period for Syria.
The fall-off in violence has made aid deliveries easier in some areas of the country, but de Mistura said the Syrian government should be processing aid faster.
High-level global discussions about Syria have intensified since the cease-fire went into effect, although the truce does not encompass the whole of the country.
According to a February report by the Syrian Center for Policy Research, the conflict in Syria has claimed the lives of over 470,000 people and displaced almost half of the country’s pre-war population of about 23 million within or beyond its borders since March 2011. Because the cease-fire agreement excludes areas held by the Islamic State group and the Nusra Front, some of the continuing violence is not technically a breach of the truce.