Final decision on Syrian ceasefire to be given today

Thu, Oct 25, 2012, 01:00

UN-ARAB LEAGUE envoy Lakhdar Brahimi said yesterday that the Syrian government had agreed to a ceasefire but shortly after his announcement Damascus said the army command is still studying the proposal and the final decision will be taken today.

“After the visit I made to Damascus, there is Syrian government agreement for a ceasefire during the Eid,” said Mr Brahimi, referring to the Muslim Feast of Sacrifice which begins on Friday. He said “most” rebel leaders contacted also said they would agree to a truce.

He was speaking at the Arab League headquarters in Cairo, flanked by former Irish president Mary Robinson, former US president Jimmy Carter and former Norwegian premier Gro Harlem Brundtland, other members of the Elders group who leant weight to Mr Brahimi’s effort.

Over video link he told the Security Council that a truce would represent “a small step” toward a settlement and warned that the failure of the council to give him unanimous support could mean spillover from Syria to neighbouring states.

Gen Mustafa al-Sheikh, head of the command council of the rebel Free Syrian Army (FSA), said from his base in Turkey, “The FSA will stop firing if the regime stops.” However, he added, “The regime has lied many times before. It is impossible that the regime will implement the truce, even if it says it will.”

While the FSA can speak for some of the hundreds of armed groups fighting in Syria, it cannot commit all to a ceasefire.

Rebel commander Abdel Jaber Akidi told al-Jazeera that the regime will have to agree to release all prisoners, grant access for humanitarian aid and observe the military status quo on the ground during the truce before insurgent forces will ceasefire.

Sunni jihadi group Jabhat al-Nusra rejected the truce. As clashes raged around Damascus, Aleppo and the strategic town of Maaret al-Numan, a car bomb killed six people in Damascus and the regime and rebels accused each other over a massacre of 25 civilians in the town of Douma north of the city.

Russia’s chief of staff Gen Nikolai Makarov said: “Militants fighting Syrian government forces have portable missile launchers from various states, including American-made Stingers. Who supplied them must still be determined.”

Stingers are in service with the Saudi armed forces which, along with Qatar, has been supplying the rebels with weapons. It was previously reported that rebels had British surface-to-air missiles.

However, US defence secretary Leon Panetta said he had no knowledge of the US supplying Stinger missiles to Syrian rebel forces.

Asked about reports that the rebels had such weapons, Panetta said: “I don’t know what the reports are – and I certainly don’t know of us providing any such missiles in that area.”