Russia Pressures Rebels in Northern Homs to Join Sochi Congress

Moscow has alerted the opposition that the de-escalation zone agreement will end in the middle of next month, Zaman al-Wasl reports

The negotiation committee in the opposition-held countryside of Hama and Homs provinces said the Russians are pressuring Syrian rebel factions to participate in the National Dialogue Congress in Sochi at the end of January.

Bassam Sawah, spokesman for the local negotiation committee, said the Russian air base at Hmeimeem had informed the committee that the de-escalation zone agreement will end in the middle of February. According to Sawah, the message suggests new rounds of deadly airstrikes are to be expected on the besieged northern countryside of Homs and the southern countryside of Hama.

The spokesman said that Russia is using the de-escalation zone agreement as a tool to pressure the opposition after a return to normal life was seen in some areas Homs over the past six months.

On Tuesday, two children were killed and dozens more wounded in regime artillery on northern Homs countryside, a local reporter said.

The artillery bombardment targeted the town of Kafr Laha, the largest town in the Houla region, which hosts an array opposition-held villages and towns.

Northern Homs was the third de-escalation zone agreed by sponsors Iran, Turkey and Russia in Astana last August.

Turkish Foreign Ministry sources said Tuesday that Ankara had summoned the ambassadors of Russia and Iran to complain about what it said was a violation by regime forces of the borders of the Idleb de-escalation zone.

Turkey asked the envoys to urge the Syrian government in Damascus to end the border violations, the sources said.

Russia and Iran strongly support Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime, while Turkey backs some of the groups opposed to him.

This article was edited by The Syrian Observer. Responsibility for the information and views set out in this article lies entirely with the author.


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