Syrian opposition says government wrecking truce deal

France says there are reports of attacks on opposition forces

UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon said the pause in the fighting was largely holding, despite some incidents that he hoped would be contained. Photograph: Sandro Campardo/EPA

UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon said the pause in the fighting was largely holding, despite some incidents that he hoped would be contained. Photograph: Sandro Campardo/EPA

 

A senior official from Syria’s main opposition group said yesterday the first major attempt to halt the fighting after nearly five years of war was in danger of total collapse because of attacks by government forces.

The cessation of hostilities drawn up by Washington and Moscow faced “complete nullification” because Syrian government attacks were violating the agreement, the official of the Saudi-backed opposition high negotiations committee (HNC) said.

France said there were reports of attacks on opposition forces in breach of the deal, which came into force on Saturday, and countries backing the Syria peace process met to try to clarify the situation.

UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon said the pause in the fighting was largely holding, despite some incidents that he hoped would be contained. The Kremlin said the process was under way, although it had always been clear it would not be easy.

The British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the cessation was largely holding, with casualties greatly reduced compared to before the agreement took effect.

Aid trucks

Aid trucks carrying non- food items such as blankets yesterday entered Mouadamiya, a suburb of Damascus under siege by government forces, the Syrian Arab Red Crescent said.

The United Nations and other agencies hope to deliver aid to more than 150,000 people in besieged areas over the next five days.

Asaad al-Zoubi, head of the HNC’s delegation to the peace talks, gave a gloomy assessment of the truce. “We are not facing a violation of the truce . . . we are facing a complete nullification,” he said on Al Arabiya al Hadath TV.

“I believe the international community has totally failed in all its experiments, and must take real, practical measures towards the [Syrian] regime,” Mr al-Zoubi said

Peace talks

Talks in Geneva in early February collapsed before they started, with rebels saying they could not negotiate while they were being bombed.

The Syrian government, whose forces are backed by Russian air power, has said it is abiding by the agreement.

However, a Syrian foreign ministry official accused Saudi Arabia of trying to undermine the cessation of hostilities agreement by saying there would be a “Plan B” if it failed.

He did not give details of the plan, which is believed to include military action.

Yesterday, Russia also rejected any suggestion of a plan B, which has been alluded to by US secretary of state John Kerry.

The agreement does not include jihadist groups such as Islamic State and the Al-Nusra Front, and Russia has made clear it intends to keep bombing them.

But rebels regarded as “moderate” by the West fear they will also be targeted as they operate in areas where Al-Nusra is also present. – (Reuters)