World

Syria: Opposition Proposes Month-Long Nationwide Truce for Ramadan

People walk towards the last checkpoint, which is controlled by Syrian government forces, while waiting for permission to leave the besieged area of Moudamiya Al Sham, in the suburbs of Damascus, Syria June 1, 2016. Credit: Reuters/Omar Sanadiki

People walk towards the last checkpoint, which is controlled by Syrian government forces, while waiting for permission to leave the besieged area of Moudamiya Al Sham, in the suburbs of Damascus, Syria June 1, 2016. Credit: Reuters/Omar Sanadiki

Geneva: Syria’s main opposition has proposed a nationwide Ramadan truceopposition delegate Basma Kodmani said on Wednesday.

The proposal was made in a letter from Riad Hijab, the coordinator of the opposition High Negotiations Committee, to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, Kodmani said.

“The letter to Ban Ki-moon suggests a truce, we know there should be one, full respect of the truce across the country, nationwide, for the full month of Ramadan,” she said.

Ramadan being next week, that would start creating the right conditions, the right atmosphere, for us to return to (peace talks in) Geneva. This is the intention of the HNC.”

Kodmani said opposition armed groups were backing the proposal, which would revive the “cessation of hostilities” that began at the end of February and applied to all groups except for Islamic State and the al Qaeda-linked Nusra Front.

“If the regime abides by it, the opposition and the armed groups will do so as well,” she said.

A spokeswoman for Staffan de Mistura, the UN diplomat mediating the peace talks, confirmed that the proposal had been put to the International Syrian Support Group, the group of countries led by the US and Russia which is overseeing the peace process.

“We are aware of this proposal, which is also being discussed between the co-chairs of the ISSG in the larger framework of consolidating the cessation of hostilities,” she said.

“Any consideration to de-escalate the fighting on the ground is most welcome, especially during the Holy Month of Ramadan.”

US State Department spokesman John Kirby told a briefing that the US believes any cease-fire is a good thing, but Washington would like to see the cease-fires become “longer and larger.”

“What we really want to see happen, the best thing that can happen for the Syrian people, is an enduring nationwide cessation of hostilities,” Kirby said.

De Mistura has said he wants to see improvement in humanitarian aid access and a lessening of the violence before launching a new round of peace talks.

On Wednesday, UN aid convoys entered the besieged towns of Daraya and Mouadamiya. Kodmani said that was a first step but much more needed to be done, and the international community should keep the pressure on the government of President Bashar al-Assad.

“There is no indication that there is a true move towards loosening the sieges and allowing an end to the starvation strategy. That’s what we need to see,” she said.

(Reuters)