Syrian rebels threaten to boycott peace talks

Syrian rebels threaten to boycott peace talksSyrian rebel groups say they are suspending participation in the preparations for peace talks planned by Russia and Turkey for later this month, BBC said on Tuesday.

A statement, signed by a number of groups, cited "many and large violations" of the ceasefire by the Syrian government as the reason.

Turkey and Russia brokered the ceasefire deal last Thursday, and it has mostly held since then. The peace talks are due to be held in Astana, Kazakhstan.

"The regime and its allies have continued firing and committed many and large violations," the statement issued on Monday said.

"As these violations are continuing, the rebel factions announce... the freezing of all discussion linked to the Astana negotiations," it said.

The groups highlighted fighting in the rebel-held region of Wadi Barada, north-west of Damascus, which they say has been subjected to almost-daily bombing raids and bombardment by Syrian forces and their Hezbollah allies. The area does not fall under the ceasefire agreement, given the presence of Jabhat Fateh al-Sham (JFS), a jihadist group which was excluded from the deal.

While the rebels "respected the ceasefire across the whole of Syria... the regime and its allies have not stopped shooting", the rebels' statement said.

The Syrian military has denied the allegations.

On New Year's Eve, the UN Security Council unanimously backed Russian-Turkish efforts to end the fighting in Syria and to organise peace talks.

The ceasefire deal excludes the jihadists of so-called Islamic State (IS) and JFS, and the Kurdish YPG militia.
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