Syrian rebels threaten to boycott peace talks

Syria's main rebel groups say they are suspending participation in preliminary Russia-brokered peace talks later this month in Kazakhstan's capital, Astana, in protest of frequent violations by the regime of a days-old truce.

"The rebels say they signed the ceasefire in good faith but that the Syrian regime and its ally Russian Federation have failed to live up to their end of the deal", he 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.

Following the signing last week of a ceasefire deal brokered by Turkey and Russian Federation, the two countries had called for a meeting in Kazakh capital Astana aimed at kick-starting Syria's moribund political process.

"The regime and its allies have continued firing and committed many and large violations", a statement released Monday by the 10 moderate rebel factions said.

On Saturday, the UN Security Council unanimously approved a resolution that endorses a nationwide ceasefire in Syria. The statement also said the opposition will consider any military changes on the ground to be a serious violation of the ceasefire agreement "that renders it null".

The force has been using Free Syrian Army fighters supported by Turkish warplanes and artillery.

That truce declaration excluded the Barada Valley, where al-Qaida-linked jihadists from the former al-Nusra Front are reported interspersed with rebels seeking to topple the government of President Bashar al-Assad.

On Monday (Jan 2 ) the rebel-held area of Rastan in Homs province was hit by shell and missile fire.

Wu Haitao, China's deputy permanent representative to the United Nations, said the unanimous adoption of the resolution reflects the support of the United Nations and the worldwide community for a comprehensive ceasefire in Syria and a political settlement of the Syrian issue. Ryan Lock, who had no previous military experience, joined the Kurdish militia, the People's Protection Units (YPG), last August, telling his family that he was going on vacation to Turkey.

A Lebanese commentator told Al-Arab that a withdrawal of Hezbollah forces from Syria would have unsafe consequences, because - he claimed - it will make it hard for Iran to prove that it is still a strong player in the region.

The almost six-year-old civil war in Syria has killed more than 300,000 people and displaced almost 11 million others.

  • Jon Douglas