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Syria Opposition Open To ‘Possibility' Of Truce

By RFE/RL

Syria’s main opposition group says it is open to the possibility of a truce, even as it slammed Russia and the Syrian regime after a deadline for a cessation of hostilities passed. 

The group, known as the High Negotiations Committee, said on February 20 that any potential truce would require the Syrian government to first lift blockades from rebel-held communities. 

The Saudi-backed group also said the Syrian government must release thousands of detainees.

Eighteen countries supporting opposing sides in Syria's five-year civil war agreed to a cessation of hostilities that was supposed to take effect on February 19. 

But the truce never took hold amid intense fighting, which included a massive Russian-backed government offensive near the Turkish border.

Salem al-Meslet, a spokesman for the group, said the deadline “has passed without response from Russia or the regime, who show disdain for the international community and disregard for the lives of Syrians.”

Meanwhile, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad also said he was ready for a cease-fire, on condition that "terrorists" did not use a lull in fighting to their advantage.

"We have said that we are ready to stop military operations, but the issue relates to more important factors...such as preventing terrorists from using it to improve their positions," Assad was quoted as saying by an official online media outlet.

Any truce must ensure that "other countries, especially Turkey, are prevented from sending more terrorists and weapons, or any kind of logistical support,” he said. 

Since Russia launched its military campaign in support of its longtime ally in September, Assad’s forces have gradually advanced across multiple fronts in Syria.

With reporting by AP, Reuters, AFP

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