CAIRO- 5 July 2017: After agreeing on ceasefires in eastern Ghouta and Homs between the Syrian regime and opposition following Egyptian mediation during the past couple weeks, Syria’s “Al-Ghad” (Tomorrow) opposition movement chairperson, Ahmed Jarba, announced holding a press conference in Cairo to explain more details regarding agreements.
During the conference, Jarba explained the details behind both of the ceasefires, the reasons behind choosing Egypt as a sponsor country, Russia’s role, and the signing parties, as well as those excluded from the agreements.
“All of the decisions we made and will make are based only on the principles of Syria’s interests,” Jarba said starting his speech in the press conference held in Cairo on Saturday, adding that those principals include “preserving the Syrian revolution gains, protecting civilians and revolutionaries from al-Assad’s regime, achieving all of the Syrian revolution demands and finally continuing communication with the Syrian parties and civilians.”
Head of Tomorrow Movement Ahmed Jarba gives a speech in a press conference in Cairo - Aya Samir/Egypt Today
Jarba affirmed that choosing Egypt as a sponsor in the ceasefires didn’t come out of nowhere, and he mentioned three reasons for the choice. “First, Egypt has not been involved in any conflict with Syrian parties, which are main factors in the ceasefire agreements, and it has not backed any armed Syrian faction. Second, Egypt has good relations with Russia (co-sponsor of the ceasefire). Third, Egypt’s role is confined to only mediation,” he said.
“Egypt’s brokerage is essential,” Jarba added, praising the Egyptian role in reaching the ceasefire in the eastern Ghouta region in Damascus, which was announced on July 23.
“We previously had reservations over the Arabs’ complete absence from the Syrian negotiations that have been hosted by Astana. So Egypt’s role in the negotiations for the Ghouta and Homs ceasefires was essential, as it was the only Arab country to play a role,” Jarba said in the conference.
He has consistently thanked President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi and the Egyptian government for their mediation efforts, which include hosting the negotiations and the signing of the agreement.
Jarba denied asking Egypt to deploy any troops to eastern Ghouta and Homs in order to guarantee the ceasefires. “If it was either necessary or required, we would’ve asked the Egyptian government to do so (deploy troops); but it’s not,” Jarba said, adding that Egypt has the final decision in this regard.
Who is violating ceasefires?
“All the parties are invited and welcomed to sign the ceasefires, except for Al-Nusra Front, which is affiliated with al-Qaeda and ISIS. Syria, along with the sponsoring countries (Egypt and Russia), refuses to deal with any terrorist entity,” Jarba said, explaining more about the details of the ceasefires and the signing parties.
He added that many opposition parties decided to sign the eastern Ghouta and Homs ceasefire deals, including Al-Tawhid Brigade, which is affiliated with the Free Syrian Army. “We have to thank Al-Tawhid Brigade for choosing to support and protect the Syrian revolution,” he stated.
Jarba, however, accused al-Rahman Corps, who still hasn’t signed the ceasefire agreements, of violating the truce, saying, “We are still waiting for them to join the agreement so that the suffering of the Syrian people would stop. Until then, they are responsible for all the violations in eastern Ghouta and Homs.”
He denied that any of the brokering countries (Egypt and Russia) would be responsible for any acts of violence or violations of the deal.
“Any party or entity that refuses our efforts and solutions, and seeks to see us as prisoners all the time, is considered to be a partner of al-Assad’s regime in killing us, regardless of their names or slogans,” Jarba said.
He affirmed that all international governments and parties, with no exceptions, are welcome to participate in the political negotiations to end the Syrian war.
Russia and USA stance
Commenting on the accusations Russia has faced regarding being loyal to Assad’s regime, Jarba said the existence of Russian troops in eastern Ghouta and Homs is the only available solution currently available, especially since Ghouta and Homs are among the most difficult and complex regions inside Syria.
“Their existence is an important guarantee for the ceasefires, and any accusations regarding their loyalty to the Syrian regime is something we cannot fully accept or understand,” Jarba said.
He added that the most important thing about these agreements is not to allow any violations, especially as Homs has been besieged for three consecutive years without allowing any humanitarian aids to enter.
Regarding the United States’ stance regarding the ceasefires, Jarba affirmed that Trump’s administration says that these agreements are “enhancing the international war against terrorism.”
Russian troop’s role
In statements following the conference, prominent member of Syria’s “Al-Ghad” (Tomorrow) opposition movement, Qasem Al Khatib told Egypt Today that the Russian troops in eastern Ghouta and Homs are not military troops and don’t engage with any of the militants.
“They are not meant to interfere militarily; they are Russian police forces only guaranteeing that the humanitarian aids can arrive to the civilians,” Al Khatib stated, denying that they have any other role.
Egypt and Russia have brokered two ceasefire agreements between Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s forces and armed opposition fighters in certain areas in northern Syria.
On July 23, the first ceasefire was announced in the Ghouta region in Damascus, while the second de-escalation deal was announced in an area in the northern Homs countryside on August 3.
Syria's Al-Ghad opposition movement was founded in March 2016 by Syrian National Council member Ahmed Jarba. Recently, the movement signed a ceasefire agreement in eastern Ghouta with the Syrian regime.
The Syrian political situation has been deteriorating since the protests that emerged with the Arab Spring revolutions in 2011, when the opposition created the “Free Syrian Army” to face Assad’s forces. The situation worsened when the Islamic State (IS) terrorist group began interfering in the country in 2014.
About 470,000 people have been killed since the beginning of the war as of February 2016, according to latest data from the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Some 1.6 million Syrians have been domestically displaced, while the number of refugees has reached 4.8 million people, the data added.
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