No side can claim victory in Syrian civil war: UN
GENEVA/BEIRUTNone of the sides can claim victory in the Syrian civil war, U.N. peace talks mediator Staffan de Mistura said on Sept. 6, adding that Syria's opposition must accept that they have not won the six-and-a-half year war against President Bashar al-Assad.
De Mistura suggested the war was almost over because many countries had got involved principally to defeat Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) in Syria, and a national ceasefire should follow soon after.
The two main ISIL forces - in the city of Raqqa and around the city of Deir al-Zor - were facing imminent defeat, which would lead to "the moment of truth", he said.
"The fact is that Deir al-Zor is almost liberated, in fact it is as far as we are concerned liberated, it's a matter now of a few hours."
Raqqa's fall would follow within days or weeks, leading to the time to negotiate.
"The issue is: is the government, after the liberation of Deir al-Zor and Raqqa, ready and prepared to genuinely negotiate and not simply announce victory, which we all know, and they know too, cannot be annnouced because it won't be sustainable without a political process? Will the opposition be able to be unified and realistic enough to realise they did not win the war?"
Asked if he was implying that Assad had won, he said: "I am not the one to write the history of this conflict ... but at the current moment I don't think anyone can actually claim to have won the war."
Meanwhile, the commander of the Russian forces in Syria has said that Russian jets have carried out more than 2,600 airstrikes in the past two weeks to support the government’s efforts to drive ISIL out of Deir al-Zor.
Government troops on Sept. 5 broke the nearly three-year militant blockade of parts of the city of Deir al-Zor, marking a significant advance against the extremists.
In comments carried by Russian news agencies on Sept. 6, Col. Gen. Sergei Surovikin said Russian jets made nearly 1,500 flights from a Syrian base in the past two weeks.
Surovikin said the Russian airstrikes killed an estimated 1,200 militants and destroyed an unspecified number of armored vehicles, ammunition depots and artillery.
According to the British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, ISIL counter-attacks lasted through the night, as the jihadists tried to repel the army.
Parallel with their thrust towards Deir al-Zor, the Syrian army and its allies have been fighting ISIL in its last pocket of ground in central Syria, near the town of al-Salamiya on the Homs-Aleppo highway.
On Sept. 6, army advances gained control of four villages there, further tightening the pocket, a military media unit run by Assad’s ally Hezbollah reported. A Syrian military source said warplanes struck ISIL targets in that area, destroying a command centre.