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Syria Rebels Suspend Participation in Talks on ‘De-escalation Zones’ | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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An image grab shows people gathering amidst the debris at the site of a car bomb attack in the rebel-held town of Azaz in northern Syria in January 2017. (AFP Photo)

Syrian rebels on Wednesday suspended their participation in talks in Kazakhstan on a Russian plan for “de-escalation zones,” demanding an end to regime bombardment of the areas under their control, an opposition official said.

“The delegation has suspended its participation after presenting a memorandum for a total commitment to stopping (regime) bombardments,” said political opposition SNC spokesman Ahmad Ramadan.

A rebel source in the Kazakh capital Astana also told AFP that “the rebel delegation is suspending the meetings because of the violent air strikes on civilians. The suspension will continue until shelling stops across all Syria.”

A Kazakh Foreign Ministry official expected the Syrian armed opposition to return to the table on Thursday.

“I hope that tomorrow the opposition will again take part (in the talks),” Aidarbek Tumatov, a department chief at the ministry, told reporters in Astana.

Russia’s proposal calls for the creation of “de-escalation zones” in rebel-held territory in the northwestern province of Idlib, in parts of Homs province in the center, in the south, and in the opposition enclave of Eastern Ghouta near Damascus.

The aim is to “put an immediate end to the violence” and “provide the conditions for the safe, voluntary return of refugees”.

The designated zones would also see the immediate delivery of relief supplies and medical assistance.

Also Wednesday, a car bomb explosion killed at least five people in the rebel-held Syrian town of Azaz along the border with Turkey, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

The dead were four civilians and a police officer, the Britain-based monitor said, adding that the toll could rise because a number of those wounded were in serious condition.

The blast hit near a mosque and the headquarters of the opposition’s provisional government, formed in November 2013, which administers some areas under rebel control.

A video of the aftermath of the explosion posted online by the Azaz Media Center showed burnt-out cars and firefighters struggling to put out a blaze. Gunfire rang out as people gathered at the scene and ambulances arrived.

The Turkish Dogan news agency said some of the wounded were taken to the state hospital in the Turkish border town of Kilis for treatment.