Turkey says it took part in brokering rare truce in Syria
Sevil Erkuş – ANKARA
REUTERS photoAnkara contributed to the declaration of a recent 48-hour cease-fire among Syria’s warring parties in a frontline area, Turkish officials have claimed.
“Turkey made an indirect contribution in providing the truce,” sources from the Foreign Ministry told the Hürriyet Daily News on Aug. 12, noting that Ankara would continue any efforts for truce in Syria.
The cease-fire halted fighting between insurgents on the one hand and the army and its Hezbollah allies on the other, in the rebel-held town of Zabadani and in a pair of Shiite villages in Syria’s Idlib province. The two areas are strongholds of each side under ferocious attack by the other, meaning both could benefit from a cease-fire by evacuating civilians or combatants.
Officials close to Damascus described the truce as the result of mediation by Turkey, which backs rebels fighting against President Bashar al-Assad, and Iran, whose support has been vital to his survival, Reuters reported earlier on Aug. 12.
Sources on both sides of the civil war told Reuters earlier on Aug. 12 that the truce was to begin at 6 a.m. and that negotiations would continue. The rebel group Ahrar al-Sham had led the talks on the insurgents’ side.
“A cease-fire began at 6 a.m. today for 48 hours to halt military operations in Zabadani,” Hezbollah’s al-Manar TV reported. “It also includes the two villages of al-Foua and Kefraya in the Idlib countryside.”
Zabadani, has been the focus of a weeks-long offensive by the army and Hezbollah aimed at wresting control of the town from rebels.
The two Shiite villages of al-Foua and Kefraya, meanwhile, have been targeted in a parallel offensive by an insurgent alliance that includes the Ahrar al-Sham and the al-Qaeda-linked al-Nusra Front, both of which are extremist jihadist organizations.
A source close to the negotiations from the insurgents’ side earlier told Reuters: “The cease-fire has been agreed on but there are other points and negotiations are continuing on them.” The source added that ongoing talks were focused on an evacuation of rebel fighters from Zabadani, and an evacuation of civilians from the two villages.
No engagement with Iran
Iran also took part in mediation efforts for the 48-hour cease-fire in Syria.
But the Turkish official underlined that these mediation efforts were not carried out in “engagement” with Iran.
“This should not be perceived as if the move was carried out hand-in-hand with Iran. There was no engagement with Iran but we had an interest in these efforts for truce,” the Turkish source said.
Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif was due in Damascus on Aug. 12 and expected to discuss a new peace plan for Syria. An Iranian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman said details of a new plan for the Syria crisis would be revealed after Zarif held talks with Damascus and other players.