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Syria rebels snub Astana peace-talks to protest 'Russian complicity'

Agreement reached to evacuate rebel families from Homs after a string of airstrikes [Getty]

Date of publication: 13 March, 2017

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Syrian rebel factions will not attend a new round of negotiations with government figures in the Kazakh capital, citing distrust of Russian motives as reason

Syrian rebel factions will not attend a new round of negotiations with regime figures in the Kazakh capital, an opposition delegation spokesman told AFP Monday.

"Rebel groups have decided not to participate in Astana," said Osama Abu Zeid, saying one reason for the boycott was "unfulfilled pledges related to the cessation of hostilities."

Earlier, Abu Zeid told The New Arab that there is growing distrust of Russia, a key sponsor of the talks, citing its failure to act as a faithful guarrantor of the ceasefire, and its alleged push for the eviction of rebels from al-Waer district of Homs.

This comes as reports have emerged an agreement had been reached over the rebel-held al-Waer district that would involve rebel fighters leaving with their families in coming weeks. Many in the Syrian opposition view this as a cynical demographic rearrangement of Syrian cities.

According to Reuters, The opposition-affiliated Orient News reported that negotiators from al-Waer had signed an agreement for rebel factions and their families to depart for north Syria, following intense airstrikes on the district.

"The Russians are trying to promote the idea that they are a guarrantor of the ceasefire, but facts have proven that they are...complicit in the regime's crimes," Said Nuqrush, member of the rebel delegation, told The New Arab.

The third round of talks in Astana, brokered by government ally Russia and rebel backer Turkey, was scheduled to begin on Tuesday.

Earlier Monday, Russia, Turkey and Iran were pressing ahead with a fresh round of Syria talks in Kazakhstan, Kazakh Foreign Minister Kairat Abdrakhmanov said.

"We are awaiting confirmations from the other parties to the meeting," Abdrakhmanov told Parliament, adding that delegations had already started arriving in the Kazakh capital, Astana.

The third round of talks in Astana, brokered by government ally Russia and rebel backer Turkey, was scheduled to begin on Tuesday

Six years of war

Syrian rebels groups on Saturday had called for the upcoming Russian-backed peace talks in the Kazakh capital to be postponed, saying their participation would depend on the implementation of a newly agreed ceasefire.

The rebels called for “the complete implementation of the ceasefire” in rebel-held territories before engaging in any new round of peace talks.

“Rebel factions have chosen the date of March 20 to resume talks, because it is the date on which the de-escalation announced by Moscow expires,” said the rebel statement.

The Syrian conflict began when the Baath regime, in power since 1963 and led by President Bashar al-Assad, responded with military force to peaceful protests demanding democratic reforms during the Arab Spring wave of uprisings, triggering an armed rebellion fueled by mass defections from the Syrian army.

According to independent monitors, hundreds of thousands of civilians have been killed in the war, mostly by the regime and its powerful allies, and millions have been displaced both inside and outside of Syria.

The brutal tactics pursued mainly by the regime, which have included the use of chemical weapons, sieges, mass executions and torture against civilians have led to war crimes investigations.

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