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Syrian rebels criticize loophole in US, Russia ceasefire

Following the announcement of an imminent ceasefire in Syria, rebels have criticized an exception on bombing jihadi targets. The Free Syrian Army says this will provide cover, enabling Russia to bomb rebels. The US and Russia announced on Monday that a "cessation of hostilities" would take effect this coming Saturday. US President Barack Obama and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin reportedly discussed the accord by phone. While the Kremlin leader said it could "radically transform the crisis situation in Syria," the White House said it could help advance talks on bringing about political change in the country. The Syrian government and opposition groups must indicate their willingness to abide by the ceasefire agreement by midday on Friday. Loophole criticized In order for the deal to succeed, both the US and Russia will have to persuade their allies on the ground to lay down their weapons. But the ceasefire excludes attacks on terrorist targets, such as those belonging to the so-called "Islamic State" (IS), the al-Qaeda-linked Nusra Front or other al-Qaeda jihadi groups - a loophole which rebel forces have already highlighted as a problem. Bashar al Zoubi, head of the political office of the Yarmouk Army, part of the rebel Free Syrian Army, argued that the ceasefire's exception for jihadi targets would provide cover for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and his Russian allies, enabling them to continue attacking opposition-held territory, where rebel and militant factions are tightly packed. "Russia and the regime will target the areas of the revolutionaries on the pretext of the Nusra Front's presence, and you know how mixed those areas are, and if this happens, the truce will collapse," he said. Conditional support The Syrian opposition's Higher Negotiations Committee welcomed the ceasefire late Monday, confirming that it had agreed to "respond" to international moves for a truce. The committee added, however, that its support would only remain in place if international guarantees ensured that Russian and Iranian forces respected the truce. Agreement from the opposition also depends on the implementation of humanitarian measures, including an end to sieges, artillery shelling and air raids. Turkey's deputy Prime Minister Numan Kurtulmus said his country welcomed the ceasefire plan and hoped that it would be implemented as planned on Saturday. Speaking after a Cabinet meeting on Monday, Kurtulmus said Ankara also anticipated that Russia would end its air campaign in northern Syria, which Moscow began in support of Assad in September. The airstrikes kill "innocent civilians under the guise of the struggle against" IS, Kurtulmus said. Despite supporting the ceasefire, Kurtulmus reiterated Turkey's position toward the Syrian president on Monday, calling on Assad to step down. "Our wish is that those who have committed crimes against their people are not given a say over Syria's future," he said. Monitoring taskforce UN special envoy for Syria, Staffan de Mistura, said he will summon a task force with the aim of monitoring the planned ceasefire agreement as soon as it comes into effect on Saturday. If successfully implemented, the ceasefire could see the end of Syria's five-year civil war that has killed more than 260,000 people and forced millions to flee. At a meeting in Vienna in November, world powers also agreed on an ambitious but yet-to-be implemented plan that envisages six months of intra-Syrian talks, leading to a new constitution and free elections within 18 months. Shortly after Washington and Moscow announced the impending ceasefire on Monday, Assad said Syria's parliamentary elections would be held on April 13.

Following the announcement of an imminent ceasefire in Syria, rebels have criticized an exception on bombing jihadi targets. The Free Syrian Army says this will provide cover, enabling Russia to bomb rebels. The US and Russia announced on Monday that a “cessation of hostilities” would take effect this coming Saturday. US President Barack Obama and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin ... Read More »

Syrian ceasefire would be announced ‘in the coming hours’

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights has said a 15-day ceasefire near Syria's capital Damascus could be announced soon. The truce comes days after diplomats met in Vienna to seek an end to Syria's civil war. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said on Wednesday a 15-day ceasefire between Syrian rebels and government forces in Eastern Ghouta, an area near Syria's capital Damascus, would be announced "in the coming hours." If agreed, the ceasefire would take place early on Thursday as a "test period" and could be extended if further agreements are made, the British-based Observatory said. However, no agreement was made for the precise time for the start of the ceasefire, and an agreement has yet to be finalized, the Observatory said. Observatory head Rami Abdel Rahman told the French news agency AFP, if an agreement is reached "a ceasefire in Eastern Ghouta would begin at 6:00 a.m. (0400 UTC) Thursday and will last 15 days." Abdel Rahman added that the most powerful rebel group in Eastern Ghouta, Jaish al-Islam, was the main negotiator on the rebel side. However, a spokesperson for the rebel group could not be reached for comment. Days after Vienna meeting The human rights group said that talks are likely being brokered by Russian or Iranian mediators. A Syrian security source added that "our Russian allies are playing a direct role in contacting those that support the armed groups." He added that "talks are ongoing between the government and a number of armed groups in Eastern Ghouta…to stop military operations." The talks come just days after top diplomats from 17 countries met in Vienna to seek an end to the civil war in Syria which began in 2011, which has left more than 250,000 people dead and forced millions to flee. Fighting in the country remains ongoing. News of the potential ceasefire spread quickly among the locals in Douma, one of the largest towns in Eastern Ghouta, where regime air strikes killed 117 people on October 30 and at least 70 others in another government attack.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights has said a 15-day ceasefire near Syria’s capital Damascus could be announced soon. The truce comes days after diplomats met in Vienna to seek an end to Syria’s civil war. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said on Wednesday a 15-day ceasefire between Syrian rebels and government forces in Eastern Ghouta, an area near ... Read More »

Riek Machar: ‘South Sudanese ceasefire in danger’

While South Sudanese rebel leader Riek Machar says attacks by government troops on rebel-held areas could endanger the latest signed truce, relief agencies warn of an increasing humanitarian crisis. As the humanitarian situation keeps deteriorating in South Sudan, peace is far from near. According to humanitarian agencies there, hundreds of thousands of people continue to be displaced within Unity state while Upper Nile state is becoming the worst place to live. "The needs are great. We are talking about basic needs here for all these people, in terms of food, clean drinking water and access to health care, these are humanitarian concerns in South Sudan," Layal Horanieh, spokesperson for the International Committee of the Red Cross in Juba, told DW in an interview. According to Horanieh, since the conflict errupted, South Sudanese people have always been on the run and unable to go back to their daily lives. "We hear reports of extreme levels of violence, either sexual violence or other forms of violence. Not to count the dire economic situation that is a major concern," Horanieh added. Many had thought that the latest ceasefire would ease South Sudan's misery and that peace would finally be restored. But reports of the violation of the ceasefire deal have made citizens and some experts to question whether the two rival leaders are really working on behalf of the people of South Sudan as they always claim. "The peace agreement is a big challenge. This is the time for the leaders to rise above their narrow interests. Our people have suffered enough," said the leader of the opposition party, Sudan People’s Liberation Movement for Democratic Change, SPLM-DC, Lam Akol. Counter accusations Speaking at a press conference in Addis Ababa – Ethiopia on Monday, rebel leader Riek Machar said he is concerned that President Kiir's government is not respecting the latest signed peace deal. "We have concerns that the ceasefire is not holding and this is because the government is unable to control its own troops. First, the ground troops have been continuing fighting, particularly in Unity state," Machar said. Fresh fighting erupted in Malakal, the capital of the oil-rich South Sudan region of Upper Nile state just hours after a new peace deal was brokered by the regional bloc IGAD, the United Nations, African Union, China, Britain, Norway and the United States. Both the government of Salva Kiir and the rebel leader Rieck Machar have been accusing each other of violating the truce. Colonel Philip Panyang Aguer, Spokesman for South Sudan Army said "The rebels of Riek Machar violated ceasefire. They have been shelling [us], using artillery." The rebel leader Riek Machar hit back. "There was fighting. We definitely blame the government troops. This is a violation of the cessation of hostilities agreement," Machar said. But army’s spokesman Philip Panyang Aguer denied the accusation. "First of all, there is no (army) force operating in that area." Aguer also accused the rebels of giving false statements. "We want IGAD to station monitors in all the counties so as to monitor and see who is violating the ceasefire instead of us answering to the international media on fabrications by the rebels," Aguer said. The newest nation was plunged into a civil war in 2013 when President Kiir sacked his deputy Riek Machar, accusing him of planning a coup against him. Since then about two million people have been displaced and thousands have been killed. Under enormous international community’s pressure, On Wednesday President Kiir signed a peace agreement together with the cease-fire but also indicated that he has some reservations on the agreement. Rebel leader Riek Machar signed the very document a week before in Ethiopia. James Shimanyula contributed to this report.

While South Sudanese rebel leader Riek Machar says attacks by government troops on rebel-held areas could endanger the latest signed truce, relief agencies warn of an increasing humanitarian crisis. As the humanitarian situation keeps deteriorating in South Sudan, peace is far from near. According to humanitarian agencies there, hundreds of thousands of people continue to be displaced within Unity state ... Read More »

South Sudan’s shaky ceasefire in doubt

The South Sudan army has continued its campaign against insurgents despite a new truce, a rebel group says. The government in turn accuses the rebels of trying to sway the global media with falsehoods. South Sudan's rebels and government traded accusations on Sunday just hours after a ceasefire between the two came into affect. Rebels said the army had fired on some of their positions along the White Nile river, which the South Sudanese military dismissed as "mere fabrications" intended to hoodwink the international media. "A military convoy - two barges, seven gunboats - has been moving…Whenever they see our positions on the banks, they shell," said rebel spokesman Dickson Gatluak. "The cessation of hostilities started at midnight on Saturday but the government has broken it. They are not committed to it," Gatluak added, saying that they would report the attack to IGAD, the eight-nation regional bloc who helped engineer the truce. The military wasted no time refuting the accusations. Army spokesman Philip Aguer told the press that "there is no force operating in that area," before adding that the stories of bombardments were "mere fabrications by the rebels. We don't have any report of clashes in that area as of today." "As we said, we want IGAD to station monitors in all the counties so as to monitor and see who is violating the ceasefire instead of us answering to the international media on fabrications by the rebels," he said. For their part, IGAD said they had been unable to independently verify the claims of either side. After initially wavering, South Sudan's President Salva Kiir signed the peace accord on Wednesday, which had already been approved by rebel leader Riek Machar. The truce was aimed at ending a brutal civil war in the country that began in December 2013 when Kiir accused Machar, his one-time deputy, of planning to overthrow him. The ensuing conflict has seen 2 million people displaced, and atrocities such as ethnic cleansing, gang rape, and the use of child soldiers.

The South Sudan army has continued its campaign against insurgents despite a new truce, a rebel group says. The government in turn accuses the rebels of trying to sway the global media with falsehoods. South Sudan’s rebels and government traded accusations on Sunday just hours after a ceasefire between the two came into affect. Rebels said the army had fired ... Read More »

Colombia’s FARC rebels announce one-month ceasefire

Rebel group FARC has said it will call a month-long ceasefire in an effort to boost ongoing peace talks with the Colombian government. It comes after calls for a de-escalation in the violent conflict. Chief rebel negotiator Ivan Marquez announced on Wednesday that the group will observe the truce for one month, with the long term goal of coming to a more permanent solution. Marquez said the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) hopes to "create favorable conditions in order to advance with the opposing side toward a bilateral and definitive ceasefire." The guerrilla army says it is calling for a pause in fighting after appeals from international mediators Cuba, Norway, Chile and Venezuela to "de-escalate" intensifying fighting. On Tuesday the four nations issued calls for "confidence-building measures" between the opposing sides, in an effort to "create a climate conducive to achieving [an] agreement" and end Latin America's longest running war. FARC says it is seeking a mutual ceasefire. The government has previously criticized this, saying the rebels have used these opportunities in the past to rearm and re-group. On Twitter, Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos spoke positively about the offer, but cautioned that more "concrete commitments" were needed to speed up negotiations. Talks have been in progress since November 2012 in the Cuban capital, Havana. Although FARC called a previous unilateral truce in December last year, skirmishes continued to break out between government troops and rebel soldiers. This culminated in the president ordering renewed air strikes on FARC sites in April, with both sides blaming each other for the continuing escalation in violence. Since then, the rebels have resumed their military operations, as well as sabotaging and disrupting utilities. On Tuesday officials accused FARC of attacking a military convoy carrying oil in the southwestern state of Putumayo, killing three soldiers and injuring several others. Attacks in the south of the country were also attributed to the guerrillas. The ceasefire is scheduled to begin on July 20.

Rebel group FARC has said it will call a month-long ceasefire in an effort to boost ongoing peace talks with the Colombian government. It comes after calls for a de-escalation in the violent conflict. Chief rebel negotiator Ivan Marquez announced on Wednesday that the group will observe the truce for one month, with the long term goal of coming to ... Read More »

Colombia’s FARC rebels suspend ceasefire after government ambush

The Colombian Marxist rebel group FARC has suspended a unilateral ceasefire after a deadly ambush by government troops. The move will strain peace talks trying to end five decades of war in the country. In a statement released on Friday, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) said it was outraged at the attack, in which 26 of its fighters were killed at a jungle campsite. "We deplore the attack by the air force, army and police," the statement said, with a rebel fighter on Twitter saying that members were "murdered in the deep of night … without a chance to fight back." Thursday's incident, which took place in the province of Cauca known for drug trafficking activity, was one of the deadliest confrontations since discussions began between the two. It came on the same day as the opening of a new round of negotiations. The ceasefire, which had been in place since late December last year, was viewed skeptically by most Colombians. But many hoped it signaled a move towards ending the half-century-old conflict. In a televised address, Colombia's President Juan Manuel Santos called for an end to the "spiral of violence, hate and vengeance." "The rebels will be thinking about retaliation," he said. "What we have to do is stop; stop and transform it into a spiral of forgiveness and reconciliation." A Twitter post echoed those words, urging the group to step up talks and asking "how many more deaths are needed to understand that now is the time for peace!" He also praised the armed forces for their hard work, calling it a significant blow to FARC. Santos announced they had seized a stockpile of weapons during the raid, including assault rifles and a machine gun. Since 2012 negotiations to end the conflict, that has seen more than 200,000 people killed, have so far seen mixed results. Three points out of a five-point agenda have been agreed upon by both sides, however the FARC continues to call for the government to announce its own ceasefire. President Santos has rejected the idea of stopping military operations against the rebels before a final peace agreement is settled. FARC described Santos' refusal as "incoherence," but said that talks would continue "against our will." This latest incident comes a month after the government resumed bombing raids on FARC camps, prompted by the guerilla group's killing of 11 soldiers in the same region. FARC said it was a case of self defense against an attack. The group recently met with leftist rebels the National Liberation Army (ELN) over the possibility of joining the peace process.

The Colombian Marxist rebel group FARC has suspended a unilateral ceasefire after a deadly ambush by government troops. The move will strain peace talks trying to end five decades of war in the country. In a statement released on Friday, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) said it was outraged at the attack, in which 26 of its fighters ... Read More »

Kerry meets Putin in ‘critical moment’ for Ukraine conflict

روسی صدر ولادیمیر پوٹن نے جنوبی شہر سوچی میں امریکی وزیرخارجہ جان کیری سے ملاقات کی ہے۔ صدر پوٹن سے ملاقات سے قبل جان کیری نے اپنے روسی ہم منصب سیرگئی لاوروف سے بھی چار گھنٹے طویل ملاقات کی۔ امریکی وزارت خارجہ کی جانب سے جاری کردہ ایک بیان میں کہا گیا ہے کہ یوکرائن کے لیے ایک انتہائی نازک وقت میں واشنگٹن کی کوشش ہے کہ امن معاہدے پر مکمل طور پر عمل درآمد کے لیے ٹھوس اقدامات کی جانب بڑھا جائے۔ یوکرائن تنازعے کے تناظر میں امریکا اور روس کے درمیان تعلقات سرد جنگ کے خاتمے کے بعد سے اپنی انتہائی نچلی سطح پر ہیں، تاہم ایک برس سے زائد عرصے تک رہنے والی اس کشیدگی کے بعد اب تناؤ میں کمی کے اشارے مل رہے ہیں۔

US Secretary of State John Kerry has met with Russian President Vladimir Putin at his summer residence in Sochi. The US diplomat aims to push the Russian leader to fully implement the fragile Ukraine ceasefire. A top US official said Kerry’s meeting with Putin was “a critical moment” for Ukraine, with Washington looking to ensure the “next steps in concrete ... Read More »

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