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Waer rebels divided over peace talks

July 2, 2014 Since embattled rebel fighters negotiated a settlement […]

2 July 2014

July 2, 2014

Since embattled rebel fighters negotiated a settlement with the Syrian regime in early May that guaranteed safe passage out of Old Homs, negotiations have been ongoing to reach a similar deal in the last rebel holdout in the city, the district of Waer.

Those efforts appear to have come to fruition as regime and rebels recently signed an agreement, a copy of which was obtained and released by pro-opposition All4Syria over the weekend.

The text of the agreement stipulates that a settlement will take place in three stages, including a “total and continuous ceasefire,” the release of prisoners, and the handover of rebel weapons, in two stages.

Embedded image permalinkHumanitarian and food aid enters Waer last weekend. Photo courtesy of Al Jadeed News.

Yet “no one has handed over or received anything” a resident of Waer and member of Homs Media Center tells Syria Direct’s Osama Abu Zeid.

Whereas some combatants “wish to hand over their weapons to protect the civilians,” a citizen journalist named Mohammed said, others “see that move as weakness, prostration to the regime and treason to the revolution.”

Q: Up until now we’ve heard about rebels beginning to hand over their weapons, while some are refusing – what’s going on?

It’s not true; no one has handed over or received anything. Only food aid has entered the district.

I haven’t looked in detail and behind the scenes at what’s happened, but there are fighters who wish to hand over their weapons to protect the civilians, and there are some who see that move as weakness, prostration to the regime and treason to the revolution.

Q: Who represents the people of al-Waer, and to what extent do civilians, combatants and activists accept these representatives?

There’s more than one organization speaking in the name of civilians and combatants in the neighborhood of al-Waer. But the negotiating council is made up of the neighborhood’s sheikhs and prominent figures who are well known. Some are the leaders who fled from Old Homs, men who know how to negotiate with the regime concerning any truce or agreement.

There’s another group which was formed recently, called the Waer operations room. It’s made up of a coalition of military leaders, and was able to sign more than one ceasefire and forcibly put itself on the map.

Q: Have any guarantees of good faith been presented, especially after accusations of regime trickery towards those who negotiated the settlement in Old Homs?

No guarantees of UN oversight, or oversight by another body were presented. This raised the doubts of the combatants, who refused to sign the agreement almost categorically.

Q: If the rebels are able to sign a truce where will they go?

The regime suggested that [those who oppose the truce head to] the northern outskirts of Homs; [civilians who carried arms] reconcile with the regime; [and defectors] be forgiven and dismissed from the army.

Q: Some say that there is an Iranian mediator involved in the negotiations, is that true?

The regime proposed having an office for an Iranian mediator in Waer, but it was a proposal, not an essential item in the negotiations. All of the opposition parties categorically opposed it, and negotiations continued.

There is in fact an Iranian mediator in the negotiations, but as far as opening an office for him in Waer, that was refused.

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