June 9, 2014
By Osama Abu Zeid and Elizabeth Parker-Magyar
Negotiations between rebels and the regime in the encircled Homs district of al-Waer, the last remaining opposition-held neighborhood of Homs, have been suspended, even as both sides advance proposals to lift the regime blockade on the neighborhood.
“Negotiations with the regime are currently suspended after the [rebel] proposal was submitted to the regime and rejected,” Hassan Abu al-Zein, a spokesperson for the al-Waer Operations Room, negotiating on behalf of the rebels, told Syria Direct on Monday.
Al-Waer, the last rebel-held district in Homs. Photo courtesy of Wikimapia.
“The regime put forth a second proposal that would be executed this month, but an agreement has not been reached,” he added.
On Monday, the al-Waer Operations Room, a group of coordinated rebel battalions, published a “working paper” detailing rebel demands for a settlement.
The proposed settlement is comprised of eight demands, including a surrender of rebel weapons, a release of female prisoners held by the regime, an amnesty for those wanted by the regime, the opening of all roads into al-Waer and the return of displaced families into regime-controlled Old Homs, with guarantees of their safety.
“An Iranian mediator” has opened an office in a nearby neighborhood, to “deal with any breach of an agreement,” the group said in its statement, a claim that could not be independently verified.
Homs Governor Talal al-Barazi, who acts as a de facto regime spokesperson in Homs, denied reports that negotiation between the two sides had broken down, in comments to pro-government newspaper al-Watan Sunday.
“We are optimistic [a settlement will be reached], as long as the atmosphere of calm is preserved,” al-Barazi said.
But on Sunday, a “heavy exchange of fire” broke the ceasefire in the district, as pro-opposition media blamed “regime troops positioned on the outskirts of the district.”
Reports are conflicting about how long a ceasefire had held in al-Waer, ranging from two days to two weeks.
In May, the Syrian government reached a wide-ranging agreement with rebel troops to surrender the 13 rebel-held neighborhoods of Old Homs, encircled by Syrian forces for nearly two years, in exchange for safe passage to the northern rebel-held suburb of Dar al-Kabira.
Following the truce, the Syrian government turned its attention to al-Waer, beginning an intense shelling campaign on the district as al-Barazi cited hopes for a similar truce in the neighborhood.
After the surrender of Old Homs in early May, al-Waer, home to at least tens of thousands of internally displaced Syrians, is the last remaining rebel-held district in Homs, Syria’s third largest city.
Government troops surrounded the neighborhood on October 10, 2013, blocking all supply routes of food, medicine and ammunition until last month.
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